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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act - FERPA

The Buckley Amendment, also called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), and related federal regulations establish guidelines protecting the privacy of student records and give a college student the right (subject to certain exceptions) to review their “educational records,” and, within forty-five (45) days of formally requesting to do so, to challenge and/or seek to amend the contents if the student believes the records are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights. FERPA also gives students the right to consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that the law authorizes disclosure without consent. FERPA provides students the right to file a complaint with the Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the Act. Written complaints should be directed to the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C., 20202.

The procedure to inspect and review records, or to request amendment of education records is the same: the student should write and sign a letter clearly stating their request and submit the letter to the Registrar.

Grades are available online to students through a password-protected website. They are not routinely sent to parents or guardians, except that parents or guardians of students are normally informed of grades in cases of important changes of status, such as probation or requirement to withdraw. However, grades may be released when students request it. Swarthmore has traditionally been very open with students relative to the content of their records, but has followed a conservative policy regarding disclosure of personally identifiable information to outside persons or organizations.

Education records may be disclosed to school officials with a legitimate educational interest without prior written consent of the student. School officials include persons employed by the College in administrative, supervisory, academic, or research, or support staff positions; persons serving on College governing bodies; or persons employed by or under contract to the College to perform special tasks, such as attorneys, insurers, and auditors. A school official is determined to have legitimate educational interest if the information requested is necessary to perform tasks appropriate to her/his position or contract agreement, perform tasks related to the student’s education, perform tasks related to the discipline of a student, or provide a service such as health care, counseling, institutional research, job placement, or financial aid.

The College will release information in education records, including disciplinary actions or unsatisfactory academic progress records (generally probations, suspensions, or expulsions), to educational institutions to which the student seeks or intends to enroll or is already enrolled, for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer including medical and law schools.

Except as stated above, personal information, other than “directory information” or matters of public record, is not normally released to anyone outside the College without a student’s prior consent unless otherwise permitted or required by law.

There are two categories of directory information at Swarthmore.

1. Published student “directories” include the following:

  • a campus-network-only photo directory contains a student’s name, photo, class year, and email address;
  • a campus-network-only portal directory contains a student’s name, class year, room number, room phone, and email address; 
  • each spring semester, the year’s expected degree candidates are posted on a list outside the Registrar’s Office;
  • the commencement program listing the Bachelor of Arts candidates, the Bachelor of Science candidates, honors students, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, fellowships and prizes, and Pennsylvania Teacher Certification.

2. Other “directory (public) information” includes the following: home address, phone numbers, email address, date and place of birth, photographs, major(s), minor(s), dates of enrollment at Swarthmore, date of graduation or anticipated graduation, degree and honors or awards received, and participation in extracurricular activities including sports, and other similar information. Weight and height of athletic teams are also considered matters of public record.

According to the law and Swarthmore College policy, any item of directory information may be released at any time unless the student has filed a written request that specific directory information not be released, although normally most directory information is not released outside the College community without the student’s request. Students have the right to request that directory information be withheld from disclosure, except as otherwise provided by law. Students who wish to have certain directory items withheld from any release should file their request with the Registrar’s Office, where questions concerning the College policy or this notice should also be directed. Students may file this request at any time, and the Registrar’s Office will work to place this restriction on the student’s record within two (2) weeks time.

Students also have the option to file an internal complaint with Swarthmore College. To do so, notify the Registrar of any alleged failures by the College to comply with the Act. In the event that the Registrar is the subject of the complaint, notify the Dean of Students of your complaint and the Dean will appoint a designee to address the complaint. Upon hearing the FERPA complaint, the Registrar or designee will organize a working group to investigate the allegation(s), assess whether modifications or improvements to the College’s FERPA compliance protocols might be appropriate as a result of the complaint, respond to the student normally within ten (10) business days, organize implementation of any change as appropriate, and keep a record of the complaint and the institutional response in accordance with the College’s record retention practices. 

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