The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of a student’s education records. In compliance with FERPA, Boston University does not disclose personally identifiable information contained in student education records, except as authorized by law.
Student Rights Under FERPA
In general, students have the right to:
- Inspect their education records
- Require that the University obtain their consent before releasing personally identifiable information from education records
- Request that corrections be made to education records if they believe those records are inaccurate or misleading, or in violation of their privacy rights under FERPA
Boston University may disclose Directory Information without a student’s consent. Students may restrict the disclosure of any item of Directory Information via the Student Link (Personal tab, Directory Information option).
The right to restrict disclosure of Directory Information does not include the right to remain anonymous in class and may not be used to impede classroom communication.
Please Note: Even after graduation, privacy preferences remain in effect. For example, if a student has restricted the disclosure of degrees, honors and awards, the University will not confirm degrees earned to prospective employers or any other party without the student’s permission.
BU students can grant secure internet access to certain education records to parents or other third parties via the Student Link (Personal tab, ShareLink Access option). Access can be for as little as one day or for as much as one year, at the student’s discretion.
Access can be granted to view:
- Student Account & e-Billing
Designated ShareLink viewers can access student account invoices and make electronic payments. Viewers have access to the same student account detail and status information that the student sees on the Student Link (Money Matter tab, Student Account Inquiry option). Viewers will be sent e-bill notifications, and may also be sent email communication about student account status.
- Proof of Enrollment
Designated viewers can access and print a Proof of Enrollment statement for the student.
- Transcript Preview
Designated viewers can access academic information (courses, grades, GPA, etc.).
Consent to Disclosure
If a student has provided consent to the disclosure of information from his or her education records to a parent, guardian or other third party (via the Student Link, Personal tab, Consent-to-Disclosure option), the University will communicate with the parent or guardian in the following situations:
- The student voluntarily withdraws or takes a leave of absence
- The student is suspended or dismissed from the University
- The student is required to leave University housing
In addition, the University will inform the parent if the parent’s loan or financial obligation has been cancelled for any reason.
Even without consent, the University will communicate with parents, guardians or other third parties in the event of an emergency that poses a threat to the health or safety of the student. The University will also communicate with parents if their son or daughter under the age of twenty-one is found to have violated laws or rules pertaining to alcohol or controlled substances.
Inspection of Educational Records
To inspect education records, a student must submit an Access Form identifying the records to be inspected to the appropriate University official. The form is available in the Office of the Dean of all schools and colleges, and in the Office of the University Registrar.
Requests to access records will receive a response within forty-five days of submission. A University official will arrange for access and will notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. The University may charge a fee for copies of requested education records.
If the student does not know the specific location of the record, the Access Form may be submitted to:
Office of the University Registrar
881 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts, 02215
Information Which Students Do Not Have the Right to Inspect
Students do not have a right under FERPA to inspect information that is not an education record, such as:
- Medical treatment records
- Law enforcement records
- Employment records (where employment is unrelated to student status)
- Records created or received after the individual is no longer a student and which are not directly related to attendance at the University
- Records of instructional, supervisory, administrative or educational personnel that are kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record
- Peer-graded papers before they are collected and recorded by an instructor
Note: Students may have rights to inspect such records under other laws.
In addition, students do not have the right to access certain education records, such as:
- Confidential letters of recommendation, if the student has waived right of access in writing
- Parents’ financial records
- Admissions records for a program of admission which was not officially attended. Students who complete a course at the University but never officially attend as a degree candidate in their program of admission have FERPA rights with respect to that course but not with respect to the admissions records for that program.
- Records that also contain information on other students. Students may inspect, review or be informed of only the specific information about themselves.
Authorizing Another Person to Inspect or Receive Copies of Your Records
Current or former students who wish to permit another person to inspect or receive copies of their education records must provide signed and dated written consent which must:
- Specify the records that may be disclosed
- State the purpose of the disclosure
- Identify the person or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made
When Disclosure is Permitted Without Prior Consent of the Student
In general, the University may not disclose personal information from a student’s education records without the student’s prior consent. In compliance with the law, however, the University may disclose such information under the following conditions:
A. To University officials, staff, and others engaged in activities on behalf of the University with a legitimate educational interest
Someone has a legitimate educational interest if the information in an education record is necessary to fulfilling his or her professional responsibilities to the University. Such individuals may include University officers, faculty and administrative staff; law enforcement, medical and legal personnel; and contractors, consultants and other professionals engaged by the University. In addition, access to education records may be granted to Boston University students, persons from outside the University, and volunteers, who are requested to serve on an authorized committee or board of the University (such as a disciplinary committee or the Board of Trustees) or to otherwise perform authorized tasks for the University.
B. If the information has been designated as directory information
C. In health or safety emergency situations
In an emergency, the University discloses information from education records to the appropriate parties, including parents, if the University deems the information necessary to protect the health, safety or well-being of the student or other individuals. Such disclosure may include any disciplinary action previously taken for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety and well-being of that student, other students or members of the University community.
D. In compliance with a subpoena
The University will make a reasonable effort to notify the student of any subpoena before complying. However, in the case of a subpoena issued for law enforcement purposes or an ex parte order under the USA Patriot Act, the University is not required to notify the student of the existence or the contents of the subpoena, or of the information furnished in response to the subpoena, if the Court or other issuing agency has ordered that such information not be disclosed.
E. If the information is a record of a campus disciplinary proceeding
Federal law requires the University to disclose, to both the accuser and the accused student, the outcome of all student disciplinary proceedings that involve a charge of sexual assault. In addition, the University may disclose the final results of student disciplinary proceedings regarding a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense in which a student has been found to have committed a violation of the University’s policies. Final results include the name of the offender, the violation, and any sanction imposed. The University can also inform parents about violations of the University’s drug and alcohol policy by a student under the age of twenty-one.
F. To officials of other institutions or organizations:
- To which the student seeks or intends to transfer, or in which the student is already enrolled, provided the disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s transfer or enrollment. The University has a policy of forwarding records to requesting institutions in these circumstances.
- In connection with the student’s placement or participation in internships, practica, affiliations or other programs related to the student’s courses or programs at the University
- To which a student has applied for or from which he or she has received financial aid, in cases where the information is related to (1) determining the eligibility for, amount of, or conditions of the aid, or (2) enforcing the terms and conditions of the aid
- To send corrections of records previously sent to another institution or organization in which the student has enrolled, has been placed, or has sought financial aid.
G. To the parents of dependent students
In rare circumstances, the University may disclose information from education records to a student’s parents without the student’s prior consent, if the student meets the criteria of dependency as defined by Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. In cases of divorce or separation, when relying on dependency as the basis for communication, the University reserves the right to communicate with both parents unless provided with evidence that one parent’s rights have been legally revoked or otherwise limited.
H. To authorized representatives of certain government offices
The University will release information to authorized representatives of the US Comptroller General’s Office, the US Attorney General, the US Department of Education, and state and local education authorities in connection with an audit or an evaluation of federal- or state-supported programs and to assure enforcement of or compliance with legal requirements related to these programs.
I. In compliance with the Solomon Amendment
The University will release student information for the purposes of military recruitment to the Department of Defense. Released information is limited to student name, address, telephone listing, age or year of birth, place of birth, levels of education and degrees received, academic major, and the most recent previous educational institution in which the student was enrolled.
J. In response to complaints and legal actions involving the student and the University
If a student or parent initiates legal action or brings a complaint against the University, the University may disclose education records relevant to its response to the complaint without a court order or subpoena. In addition, in the event that the University initiates legal action against a parent or student, the University may disclose education records relevant to the action without a court order or subpoena.
K. To authorized representatives of state and local government
The University may disclose information to these authorized representatives if disclosure is allowed in accordance with a state statute concerning the juvenile justice system.
L. To accrediting organizations
The University may release information to organizations that accredit colleges and universities for the purpose of assisting their accrediting functions.
M. To organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of the University
The University may disclose information to organizations seeking to improve education for or on behalf of the University (e.g. developing predictive tests or administering student aid programs).
N. In connection with notifications received under a state community notification program
The University will disclose information in connection with notifications received under a state community notification program about a student who is required to register as a sex offender.
O. To parties who provided or created a record
The University may send an education record (such as a transcript or letter) back to its creator or sender for confirmation of its authenticity.
P. After removal of all personally identifiable information
The University may release information concerning a student if all personally identifiable information has been removed from the record and the University has made a reasonable determination that a student’s identity is not discernible.
Limitations of Redisclosures
Under FERPA, information disclosed by the University may be subject to restrictions against redisclosure.
Amending Educational Records
Students have the right to have their education records maintained accurately and may request amendment of records that they believe are inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of their rights under FERPA. If the normal channels for amending education records within the University do not result in the desired corrections, students should submit a Request to Amend Education Records form, available from the Office of the University Registrar, to the designated records keeper. The University Access Officer will inform the student of the University’s decision concerning the requested amendment within forty-five (45) days of the date of receipt of the amendment form.
If the University decides not to amend the record as requested, it will:
- Inform the student of the decision
- Advise the student of his or her right to a hearing to challenge the content of the record on the grounds that the information contained in the record is either:
- Inaccurate or misleading (i.e., that the information in the records has been recorded incorrectly)
- In violation of the student’s rights under FERPA
- Explain the procedures to request such a hearing
If, after the hearing, the University decides that the information contained in the record is not inaccurate or misleading, it will inform the student of the right to place a statement in the record commenting on the contested information or stating why the student disagrees with the University’s decision.
Note: The process of amending records or requesting hearings regards only information that has been recorded inaccurately or incorrectly or that violates the student’s rights under FERPA. It is not a process to appeal grades, disciplinary decisions or other University decisions with which the student disagrees but which have been recorded accurately. Students who wish to dispute the decision itself, rather than the accuracy with which it has been recorded, must use normal review and appeal channels.
FERPA Complaint Procedure
Students have the right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA. Complaints must be submitted within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the student knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation, and must contain specific factual allegations giving reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the Act has occurred. Send complaints to:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-4605
EU Data Privacy
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protects the privacy of individuals in the European Economic Area in certain circumstances. BU’s Privacy Notice for prospective students, applicants and enrolled students in BU’s US programs is available.
Questions Regarding Privacy and Education Records
Questions about the University’s policies and practices or about specific education records should be addressed to:
Office of the University Registrar
881 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02215