Faculty and staff have access to a great deal of student information that is private and protected by federal laws, specifically the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known by the acronym FERPA.
This page provides a basic guide to how departments and individuals should handle student information in a manner that will be consistent with FERPA. The full Brandeis University Educational Records Policy may be found in the University Bulletin.
Please expand each of the sections below to learn more.
FERPA divides student information into two categories — directory and nondirectory — which are subject to different restrictions.
Brandeis University considers the following to be public directory information:
- Address (including electronic address).
- Telephone number.
- Date of birth.
- Year and registration type.
- Dates of attendance.
- Previous institutions attended.
- Awards and honors.
- Dates of attendance and field of concentration at Brandeis.
- Past and present participation in officially recognized sports and activities.
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams.
The university makes a small subset of student directory information (name, email, academic program) available electronically through the Brandeis Directory.
While this directory information may be disclosed by the university for any purpose at its discretion — unless the student has requested the information not be disclosed — faculty and staff should generally refrain from doing so. If directory information is to be released, then you must first check for restrictions preventing release (see Checking for Restrictions below).
All other information regarding a student is considered nondirectory information. This information cannot be released outside of Brandeis University unless there is prior, written permission from the student. Examples of nondirectory information include, but are not limited to, grades, GPA, class schedules, test scores, ID numbers, and financial, medical, and disciplinary records.
Checking for Privacy Restrictions
Students may use the personal privacy settings within Workday to restrict disclosure of directory information, all or in part, at any time. Faculty and staff may see whether students have placed FERPA restrictions on directory information by consulting Workday.
When you view a student's record in Workday, if you see "(Private)" after their name it signifies that the student has placed privacy restrictions on their information. Brandeis University assumes that failure on the part of any student to specifically request the withholding of public directory information indicates individual approval for disclosure.
Guideline 1: Do not disclose/release any student information to an individual or organization from outside Brandeis.
If you receive such a request, refer the requestor to the Registrar’s Office. Individually identifiable information contained in a student’s records may be disclosed to a third party outside of Brandeis University only with a student’s prior written consent. Departments should not disclose any information regarding a student record to a third party. All third-party related inquiries should be directed to the Registrar’s Office.
Guideline 2: Do not place or post student information in a public location (physical or virtual) without the consent of the student.
Note that this includes the web and print publications as well as hallways and lounges. Departments and programs that wish to post information about individual students must receive authorization from the student before posting.
Guideline 3: Sharing student information with Brandeis colleagues should be limited to legitimate educational purposes.
For example, a physical education instructor would likely have no educational purpose for getting a list of the students in the chemistry PhD program; however, an undergraduate advising head does have an educational reason for asking how majors are performing in courses in the major, and an adviser would have reason for asking about performance in all courses.
Guideline 4: Health and safety concerns override FERPA restrictions; you do not need to obtain prior consent when there are concerns regarding the health and safety of a student.
In the event that you are placed in such a situation, the safety and health of students and others is the priority. Offices that should be consulted, even after the fact, are Public Safety, the Dean of Students, Academic Services and the Registrar’s Office.
Guideline 5: Privacy and FERPA concerns apply to the coursework and tools used in the virtual classroom.
If you are using online tools that would expose student coursework to parties outside the class, then you must include a statement such as the following on your syllabus and provide appropriate safeguards:
This class requires the use of tools that may disclose your coursework and identity to parties outside the class. To protect your privacy you may choose to use a pseudonym/alias rather than your name in submitting such work. You must share the pseudonym/alias with me and any teaching assistants as needed. Alternatively, with prior consultation, you may submit such work directly to me.
What if a Brandeis parent calls to inquire about their child’s educational records?
When a student turns 18 or attends a postsecondary institution (regardless of their age), the rights associated with FERPA are transferred to the student. Therefore, a parent can find out information regarding their child only if the student has given the parent written consent. For students who are still claimed as dependents, FERPA allows the university to share information with parents/guardians without the student’s explicit permission. However, unless there are health and/or safety concerns, we strongly advise obtaining the student’s consent prior to speaking with the parent in any detail. In most cases, we need the student's assistance in confirming that the individual requesting information is indeed his/her parent or guardian. We cannot simply accept the word of the individual making the inquiry without some proof of relationship.
How are letters of recommendation handled under FERPA?
Information regarding a student’s academic career may be included in a recommendation; however, the student must provide the instructor with written consent, which would normally be part of the student making the request to the instructor in the first place.
Is it necessary to have students’ permission before posting pictures on a departmental website?
If the student has placed privacy restrictions in Workday, then yes, you must obtain the student’s permission. This means that you must check Workday to see if such a restriction has been placed. Courtesy would also suggest that you allow all students the choice of whether photos in which they appear are posted.
Are there special circumstances or legal concerns of privacy pertaining to international students?
FERPA does not distinguish between international and noninternational students; the confidentiality of all student records is protected.
Class lists? Where can you post them?
Nowhere. Class lists (enrollment information) are protected and confidential. Students enrolled in a particular class can have access to the names and email of their fellow students in the class; that information can be accessed via the online version of the class in LATTE.
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