The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) commonly known as the “Buckley Amendment” affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. They are:
- The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the University receives a written request for access.
“Education records” is a defined term in the federal regulations implementing FERPA. Among the documents it does not include are:
- Personal files of members of the faculty and administration;
- Treatment records;
- Security files not available for review by individuals other than security officers and other local law enforcement officials;
- Employment records that relate exclusively to the individual’s capacity as an employee;
- Records containing only information concerning a person’s activities after graduation or withdrawal from the University;
- Material relating to the financial status of parents which is contained in any record maintained by the University;
- Confidential letters of recommendation placed in a student’s education record prior to January 1975; and
- Confidential letters of recommendation to which a student has waived right of access.
Student education records are located primarily in the Offices of the Dean of the College, the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Dean of the Graduate School, Student Accounts, the Registrar, and the various academic departments. A student may request access to personal education records by filing a written request with the person who is responsible for maintaining the record which the student wants to review. The request must identify the particular record(s) which the student wishes to inspect. The University official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the University official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading.
Students may ask the University to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the University official responsible for the record, clearly identifying the part of the record they want changed and specifying why it is inaccurate or misleading.
If the University decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the University will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of the right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosures without consent.
FERPA contains various exceptions to the general rule that the University shall not disclose personally identifiable information contained in a student’s education records without seeking the prior written consent of the student. The following circumstances are representative of those in which such information may be disclosed without the student’s prior written consent:
- The University may disclose the following types of “directory information” without restriction unless the student otherwise requests: name; address; telephone number; email address; photograph; student identification number; dates of attendance; major field of study; participation in officially recognized activities, organizations, and athletic teams; weight and height of members of athletic teams; degrees and awards; academic institution attended immediately prior to Princeton University. A student requesting that some or all directory information be restricted from disclosure must make a written request to the Office of the Registrar specifying which information should be restricted.
- Faculty members and other officials of the University who have a legitimate educational interest in a student’s education record may be permitted to review it. A University official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or research or support staff position (including law enforcement personnel, health staff, and alumni and development staff); a person or company with whom the University has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or consultant); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another University official in performing tasks. A University official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill a professional responsibility.
- The University will disclose information to government agencies entitled to it by law.
- The University may disclose information to the parent(s) or guardian(s) of a student unless the student has filed a statement certifying that the student is not financially dependent as defined by the federal income tax laws.
- The University will disclose information in response to a lawfully issued subpoena, and will ordinarily provide notice to the student involved in advance of complying with the subpoena.
- The University may disclose information when necessary to determine the student’s eligibility for financial aid or to enforce the terms or conditions of financial aid which a student has received.
- The University may disclose information to an organization conducting a study if the organization certifies that the study will not be conducted in a way which will permit the personal identification of the students and that personally identifying information will be destroyed when the study is completed.
- The University has the right to disclose education records without a student’s prior consent to officials of another institution in which a student seeks or intends to enroll or where the student has enrolled if the disclosure is for purposes related to the enrollment or transfer. However, the University encourages its departments and offices, at the minimum, to make a reasonable attempt to advise the student of the disclosure either before or after it occurs.
- The University will disclose information to a third party that has been granted permission by the student to request such information. When the student has given written permission for disclosure of information to a third party and subsequent events materially affect the accuracy of the University’s original reporting, permission for the reporting of such additional information is understood in order to make the original reporting accurate.
- The University will disclose information to a third party, consistent with federal and state law, in the context of student disciplinary proceedings.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures of the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.