With personal information now accessible and readily available due to the technological advances via the Internet, many students do not know their educational privacy rights.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 grants students rights concerning their educational records. Students have the right to request a confidential hold on their records to prohibit the release of directory information. The right to inspect, review and challenge information in their educational records can be requested by students 45 days in advance, according to CSUN policy.
Eric Forbes, director of Admissions and Records at CSUN, said students should have access to any record that is maintained on them, whether the information is from an insurance company or employment agency.
“We are the custodians of information, but not the owners,” Forbes said. “Students have a right to inspect and know what’s in their records.”
Directory information released by CSUN includes names, addresses, phone numbers, date of births, photographs and enrollment status. The height and weight of athletes are also released, Forbes said.
“Directory information is a public record,” he said. “These things are out in the public already. The height and weight of athletes relate to their public performance.”
Most records are on a retention schedule and are frequently discarded. Grades, however, are kept for 75 years, Forbes said.
“We only hold information that is relevant to a student’s academic experience,” he said. “Medical records are not mingled with academic records.”
Personal information, such as medical history, class schedule and grades, is not included in directory information. The Student Affairs office often evaluates and handles third-party requests for information, Forbes said.
“Individuals are not allowed to just walk up and request information on a student,” he said. “There is a process.”
When a student requests a confidential hold through Admission and Records, their information remains private until the student has the restriction removed, Forbes said.
When it comes to the privacy of educational records, however, many students are unaware of their rights.
David Goodman, junior pre-cinema and television arts major, didn’t know he could place a confidential hold on his records.
“I want to keep my records private, but it’s not something that’s important to me at the moment,” he said. “Unless there’s a problem, I don’t see a need to request confidentiality.”
Chisom Unaka, senior sociology major, wasn’t aware of the amount of information the University had on her, but said she was sure it was not too personal.
“I probably know everything in (my records) since the information is given by the students when they apply to CSUN,” Unaka said.
Much of the information contained in student records can be accessed through SOLAR, Forbes said.
“We don’t get many requests (to review records) because the information is already available,” he said. “Grades are immediately posted after finals.”
Sasha Martinez, senior liberal studies major, said she was not concerned with the type of records kept on her, but was alarmed by the fact that a third-party could request her information possibly without her knowledge.
“I wouldn’t want my records given out without my consent first,” she said. “They’re my records and my accomplishments so I should know who’s accessing them.”
Martinez has only recently found out she could restrict access to her records and plans to fill out a Request for Confidential Hold on Student Records form, she said.
“I want to do it as a precautionary measure,” she said. “There is a lot of information floating around and that can lead to identity theft.”
Goodman, on the other hand, wishes to keep his records open for parties wishing to grant him educational opportunities.
“I don’t want every Tom, Dick or Harry looking at my records,” Goodman said. “A professor or someone in an important field can review my records because that might benefit me for my major.”