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Privacy of Records/FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, sets forth requirements regarding the privacy of student records. The act gives students and former students access to their official records at the college, to provide an opportunity to correct inaccurate or misleading statements and to ensure that records are not released to unauthorized persons without the consent of the student.

Questions concerning the Family Rights and Privacy Act may be referred to the Office of the Registrar, College Hall, 102.

Notification of Rights

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights are:

  1. The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days of the day the institution receives the request for access.
    Students should submit to the appropriate college official (registrar, director of career development, director of health service) written requests which identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The college official will notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
  2. The right to request the amendment of the student's education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading.
    Students may ask the college to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the college official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading.If the college decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the college will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her 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.
  3. The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
    One exception which permits disclosure without consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the institution in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the institution has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); 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 school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities.
  4. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Smith College to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA are:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
600 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-4605

Access To And Privacy Of Records

This statement is issued by Smith College in accordance with the United States Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) as amended. The purpose of the act is to give students and former students access to their official records at the college, to provide an opportunity to correct inaccurate or misleading statements and to ensure that records are not released to unauthorized persons without the consent of the student.

According to the terms of the act, access may be provided to administrative officers and members of the faculty who have legitimate educationalinterest, including outside contractors, consultants, volunteers or other parties to whom the college has outsourced instituional services or funcations; to certain specified agents of the government for the purposes of enforcement and study; to accrediting organizations; to military personnel for recruitment purposes; to other educational agents and institutions in connection with applications for admission and requests for financial aid; to organizations conducting studies for or on beahlf of the college; and to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena.  All authorized persons outside the college who request access will be required to file a written, signed statement of purpose; this statement will be kept on file and will be made available for inspection only to the student upon request.

Records may be released in certain cases of health or safety emergency. They may be sent to parents of a dependent student of such parents as defined in section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. It is the policy of the college to notify both the student and her parents in writing of probationary status, dismissal and certain academic warnings.

In communications with parents concerning other matters, it is normally college policy to respect the privacy of the student and not to disclose information from student education records without the prior consent of the student. At the request of the student, such information will be provided to parents and guardians.

Transcripts of or information concerning student records will be released to other persons outside the college only with the written consent of the student or upon subpoena, in which case the student will be notified. The act stipulates that the student's written consent indicate which records are to be released, the reasons for such release and to whom the copies are to be released. A copy of the material to be released may be requested by the student.

Certain information, designated as "directory information," may be released without consent.

At Smith College, this information includes the following: name, home address and telephone, college address and telephone, parents' names and addresses, e-mail address, photos and digital images, dates of attendance, majors/minors, degrees and awards, extracurricular activities (if known) and most recent previously attended institution (i.e., preparatory school or college). A student or former student who is unwilling to have this information given to inquirers without consent should notify the Office of the Registrar in writing. In the case of former students, the college reserves the right to verify degrees. Students may authorize the release of information from their education records to their parents by completing the appropriate form at the registrar's office.

Students' official records include records, files, documents and other materials containing information directly related to a student that are maintained by the college. They do not include notes kept by instructors, advisers or deans for their own use and available to them only; such notes are maintained by individual administrators and are destroyed when no longer relevant or useful.

Records maintained by the Health Services to provide treatment to the student are not available to anyone other than the persons providing the treatment, but such records can be reviewed by a physician or other appropriate professional with the written consent of the student.

Confidential letters and statements of recommendation placed in the record prior to January 1, 1975, are not accessible to students. Students may waive their right of access to statements written after that date provided such waiver is not required by the institution and the statements are used for no purpose other than that for which they were written.

Student records at Smith are described in the academic life section of the student handbook. Procedures for students who wish to consult their records are as follows:

  • Obtain an "access request" form at the Office of the Registrar. Complete the form and give it to one of the members of the registrar's staff. The record will be available for inspection in the class deans' office one week after the date of the request.
  • Requests to see records in the Career Development Office should be made to that office.
  • Students who have questions about their medical records and the use of them are referred directly to the Health Services.

Questions concerning the files or requests for correction should be made in writing and left with the registrar or the director of the Career Development Office to be brought to the attention of the official in charge of the particular record. If the official in charge is not able or willing to make the correction requested, the case shall be brought to the registrar, the dean of the college and the president.

Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information

The items listed below are designated as "directory information" and may be released for any purpose at the discretion of the institution.

  • Name
  • Home address (while in college)
  • College address and telephone
  • E-mail address
  • Dates of attendance
  • Major, degree (including dates), awards
  • Extracurricular activities (if known)
  • Previously attended institutions
  • Pictures

Under the provision of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, students have the right to withhold the disclosure of directory information. Requests must be filed with the Office of the Registrar within five days of the start of the fall semester.

Smith Online Directory

Student pictures are available through the Smith online directory. As is the case with faculty and staff photos, the photos are accessible to campus users only. If you have a concern and wish to block the display of your picture from the online directory, you may do so by completing the necessary form in the registrar's office.

Students should consider very carefully the consequences of any decision to withhold directory information. Should you decide to inform the institution not to release directory information, any future requests for such information from non-institutional persons or organizations will be refused.

The college will honor requests to withhold the above items but cannot assume responsibility to contact students for subsequent permission to release them. Regardless of the effect upon the student, the college assumes no liability for honoring instructions that such information be withheld.