When it comes to disclosing student educational records, Temple has the right to remain silent.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act makes Temple and other colleges around the country legally responsible for protecting all confirmed students’ rights to have educational records remain private from parents, guardians, and third parties. Established in 1974, FERPA protects records such as academic grades, disciplinary records and transcripts from being disclosed to any recipients without student consent.
Recently, the issue of student privacy has received more attention following the shootings at Virgina Tech and Delaware State University.
Tyler Deane, a junior accounting major, said he is worried about student privacy on campus because of a recent security breach that released the private information of 90 former students. The leaked information included student’s first and last names, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and some grade information.
“When I heard about the students’ Social Security numbers being released, I was shocked,” Deane said. “That’s crazy that Temple could allow its students to be at risk of identity theft.”
At Temple, students who wish to share their educational records with others can do so at their student orientations, where they are offered the option to sign a FERPA waiver. By signing the waiver, students allow others to view their private student information. Temple also offers students the option to sign the waiver online via OWLnet under the Additional Services tab.
Josh McCrohan, a sophomore secondary education major, said student academic information should remain private.
“We talk about FERPA a lot in my classes because it is also very important to teachers as well as students,” McCrohan said.
“Grade confidentiality is a big part of it and it should be because it’s really important that academic grades are only between the students and the teachers along with other personal matters,” he added.
Dr. Andrew Isenberg, chair of the history department and a history professor at Temple, said the student privacy law is essential.
“I think it is common courtesy and common sense not to discuss student academic information with anyone,” Isenberg said.
Political science professor Dr. Conrad Weiler said he remembered a time when student privacy wasn’t as strictly monitored.
“We used to always post grades with students names and now we can’t do that anymore,” he said. “I remember when teachers used to post grade sheets outside of classrooms in grade school.
“I think the federal law has made a great improvement with protecting student’s rights but I also believe that it must remain tempered and balanced with safeguards to truly remain effective,” Weiler said.
Temple’s policy does have certain exceptions to FERPA that allows undisclosed recipients to view student’s transcripts. The university may release students’ education records and other private information in an emergency to protect the health or safety of a student, to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena, or to any parent or guardian who the student is dependent on.
Some students, were unaware of the university’s exceptions to FERPA.
“Last year as a freshman, my roommates and I got caught sneaking in beer to our residence hall, and we thought it would just be kept to ourselves and we would pay the fine, said sophomore business major Matt Amato. “But a few months later our parent’s found out about it.
“I was surprised when I got a phone call from my mom saying she received a letter from the school because I was never made clear of that exception,” he said.
Kelsey Jones, an undeclared freshman, said he immediately signed the FERPA waiver when given the opportunity to do so at freshman orientation.
“My parents forced me to sign the waiver,” Jones said. “Even if they hadn’t made me sign the waiver, I felt like I was obligated to. It makes things easier for my parents when they need to go online and access my information to pay my tuition bill.”
Satia Koroma, a sophomore international real estate and business major, chose not to sign the FERPA waiver to maintain independence from her parents.
“I’m working on becoming a serious academic student who’s trying to become more independent by following my own good judgment,” she said.
Kelly R. Fields can be reached at email@example.com.