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The College maintains, for each student, educational records that are open to inspection by that student in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Section 438 of Public Laws 90–247, Title IV, amended 88 Stat. 571–574, and with federal and state regulations. College policy permits the student to have specified information released to other people, but it otherwise restricts disclosure to include only College personnel who have a legitimate educational interest in the contents of the record, officers of the U.S. Department of Education and their state counterparts who supervise enforcement and authorized educational agencies who monitor institutional educational enterprise. Such recipients are bound not to disclose any personally identifiable information from the records to unauthorized third parties.
Generally, all educational records are available for inspection by students. Excepted are confidential recommendations filed before January 1975 or written after the student has waived his or her right to see the recommendation; medical and psychological counseling records; parents’ financial statements (when submitted in confidence); personal faculty and staff files (available only to the authors); certain law-enforcement records; and current (postgraduate) employment records of former students. Where a record contains information concerning more than one student, the student wishing to see the file may see only that section relating to him- or herself.
Offices maintaining portions of each student’s educational record are the Office of Student Affairs, Financial Aid, the Registrar, Controller, the Counseling Center, Student Health Service, Physical Education, Information Technology, Communications, Amherst College Police and (for records of non-current students) Archives. Information Technology and Archives do not release information of record directly but only through the office responsible for transmitting data to them. Students who have questions about information in any of these files should see the directors of the offices involved.
To examine his or her record, a student should make an appointment with the appropriate officer. Official academic records are available for inspection in the Registrar’s Office. The general file, which is in the Office of Student Affairs, may be examined in the presence of a dean or dean’s designee. Any student who, upon reviewing any file, believes a portion of it to be inaccurate or inappropriate may either enter a statement of correction or seek to have the file emended. Should no informal agreement be reached by the student and the dean (or other officer) on the emendation, the student may submit a written request for a hearing in accordance with the procedures described in the section on Student Conduct and the Resolution of Grievances.
A student may, of course, add to his or her general file at any time, and students are encouraged to do so, because comprehensive information can assist the deans in their capacity as advisors and in preparing recommendations for students when required.
Any student who believes that his or her right to privacy or access to personal records has been in some way infringed upon may seek to have the situation redressed through the Office of Student Affairs and through the grievance procedure, but also may seek redress through the office of the U.S. Department of Education designated to review such cases. The Department has the authority to conduct a hearing where appropriate. Information on the act and these procedures is available in the Office Student Affairs and from FERPA, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202.
A record is kept of material requested or disclosed from the file other than that requested by the student or authorized College personnel. As in the past, officers, faculty and staff of the College shall have access to those portions of a student’s record that are necessary for them to perform their advisory, administrative or instructional functions. (This does not include access to medical or counseling records.) Information for other individuals or organizations will not be released without the express written permission of the student, except as allowed by FERPA. Although the act does provide that parents of dependent students may be permitted to inspect student files, Amherst College does not normally report academic information and grades to parents, and students have online access to copies of such material to forward.
Students are welcome to seek further information about their records from the dean. The College looks upon effective communication on these matters as an integral part of the educational process, and past conferences to review individual student records have proven worthwhile.
Certain information, classified as “directory information,” is available for public consumption unless the student specifically directs that it be withheld. (The student should direct the Office of Student Affairs not to disclose such information prior to the 14th calendar day of each semester. Former students should contact the Office of Communications.) Directory information includes the student’s name; telephone numbers; local, home and email addresses; date and place of birth; major field of study; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams; dates of attendance; degree and awards received; most recent educational institution attended; anticipated degree and degree date; and photograph.