male and female student seated on the floor, reading, in a library

Student Privacy Rights - FERPA

This FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) summary is based on a document produced by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. These guidelines are not intended to be legal advice and are informational only. They have been revised to reflect Oakland University's FERPA policy, but do not take precedence over any Oakland policy or procedure. This information may be reproduced.

If you have questions about OU's FERPA policy, please call us at (248) 370-3352.
FERPA Description

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, also known as the Buckley Amendment, provides an OU student with the right to inspect and review his/her educational record and, with certain exceptions, to limit disclosure of information from that record.

Who it Protects

FERPA protects students who are currently enrolled at OU or were formerly enrolled, regardless of their age or status in regard to parental dependency. Students who have applied but never attended OU are not protected under FERPA.

Educational Records

Educational records are broadly defined and include those records directly related to a student and maintained by OU or a person acting for OU, such as a faculty member or other employee. FERPA covers records, files, documents, student papers and tests, and data directly related to students and maintained in any medium, except as may be specifically excluded by law. FERPA does not require OU to keep or maintain any particular record.

The following are not included in an educational record:

  • sole possession records or private notes held by educational personnel that are not accessible or released to  any other person
  • law enforcement or campus security records used solely for law enforcement purposes  
  • employment records relating to students who are employed by the institution (unless employed because they are students)
  • medical and counseling records used in treatment and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment
  • OU records containing only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student at the institution (e.g., alumni records)
  • student theses and dissertations

The following documents can be removed from an educational record prior to student review:

  • any information pertaining to another student
  • financial records of the student's parents
  • confidential letters and statements of recommendation when the student has waived in writing the right to see them

The following people may be provided with a student’s educational records:

  • the student and any party who has the student's written consent  
  • school officials who have legitimate educational interests as defined in FERPA
  • the court, in response to a judicial order or subpoena; however, a reasonable effort must be made to notify the student before complying with the order 
Directory Information

OU may disclose the following information about a student, unless the student has specified that directory information not be released. Designated directory information includes:

  • name
  • OU email address
  • degrees, honors and awards received, including scholarships and eligibility for inclusion in national honor societies
  • degrees for which the student has applied
  • major field of study
  • enrollment status
  • dates of attendance
  • class code
  • most recent educational agency or institution attended
  • participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • photographic and electronic images
  • date and place of birth

Except for specific exceptions (listed in number 10 below), a signed and dated consent must be obtained from a student for the release of information from education records, specifying what is to be released, the reasons for release, and to whom, with a copy of the record sent to the student if he or she desires. OU may not require a written consent as a condition of providing a service or program.

A student’s consent is not required to disclose information in the following instances:

  1. To school officials (defined in policy)
  2. To schools in which a student seeks to enroll
  3. To federal, state and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs
  4. In connection with financial aid
  5. To state and local authorities pursuant to a state law adopted before November 1974 requiring the disclosure
  6. To organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational institutions if the students identity will be closely held and destroyed when no longer needed
  7. To accrediting organizations
  8. To comply with a judicial order or subpoena when the student has advance notice
  9. For a health or safety emergency
  10. For directory information requests
  11. For the results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence  
  12. To parents or legal guardians of a student, information regarding any violation of federal, state or local law, or any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the student is under the age of 21
  13. To the U.S. attorney general in connection with the investigation or prosecution of terrorism crimes
Personally Identifiable Information

Personally identifiable information includes:

  • the student's name
  • name of the student's parents or other family members
  • address of the student or student's family
  • a personal identifier, such as a social security number or student number
  • a list of personal characteristics
FERPA and Technology

Each OU department should establish appropriate procedures to protect the confidentiality of its electronic and paper records, educate faculty and administrators about the procedures, and make sure the procedures are enforced. The same principles of confidentiality that apply to paper documents apply to electronic data.