What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (also known as the Buckley Amendment), passed in 1974, is a United States federal law that prevents the dissemination of student records to any third party. Unless a written waiver has been obtained and signed by the student, this prevents personal information from being transmitted to anyone, regardless of the student’s age or dependency status.
More information on the academic implications of FERPA can be found here, but this page is going to address FERPA’s relation to your student in University Housing.
Student assignment and housing records are also covered under FERPA. Because of this, we are limited in the methods of communication we can use to transmit information to a student, and also to whom that information can be transmitted. We are unable to send anything related to a student to anyone but that student.
FERPA protects all students equally. Therefore, we are unable to communicate information about a student’s roommate or suitemate as well. The exception, of course, is making the roommate and suitemate name and email address available with a student's housing assignment. Other information on a fellow student, including academic standing, GPA, age, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, if even reported, cannot be divulged.
Once the student lives with us in University Housing, we are still bound by FERPA. We cannot provide a student’s personal information, including room number, cell phone number, or emergency contact information to anyone. In fact, you’ll find that if you call our front desks and ask questions about your student, we won’t even confirm or deny that your student even lives in the building!
Why is FERPA a good thing?
Though FERPA may be a little perplexing at first (I pay the bills but can’t even know where my student is living?!), the legislation itself has provided many positive outcomes. First and foremost is your student’s protection and privacy. Let’s say that a random stranger calls the front desk and wants to know where your student lives. I don’t think anyone would want us to willingly give up that information! Now let’s say that this random stranger says that they are the parent of that student and can prove it! It doesn’t matter to us. We will still refuse to provide any personal information on your student because their privacy and safety means more to us than possibly upsetting the person on the other line.
A second positive outcome of FERPA is the fact that because third-parties representing their students need to jump through so many hoops, it has become far simpler for the student themselves to take ownership over their college experience and advocate for themselves. All offices on campus can provide much better and personal customer service if we work directly with your student. Sure, you could call and we’d provide you some general information, but we’re more than welcoming to any student that approaches us with the same question. Why do you think we went into working with students in the first place?
I understand FERPA but will still need to make sure my student is doing well. How can I do this?
FERPA is not intended to shut family or loved ones out of their student’s experience. We know that a student who has support from their family is far more likely to be successful – hence why we partner with parents as much as possible while still adhering to federal regulation. Below are some common areas of concern and some ways in which we best suggest your student address them.
My student is having a roommate problem. What is the best way for them to handle this?
Since no two roommate conflicts are exactly alike (but many have a similar root cause), we’ve created a whole page for you to check out! Please view our guide to roommate relations here.
I haven’t spoken to my student in a while and I’m worried about them. Can you check on them?
As mentioned previously, if you call our front desks, we won’t even be able to confirm or deny that your student lives in the building. We will gladly take a message for your student (if they do live in the building) but we cannot go to your student’s room, check on them, and call you back. Doing so would be a violation of FERPA (as we would have inadvertently disclosed your student’s building assignment) and is also not within the authority of Residence Life staff. If you are sincerely worried about your student, you may contact the Florida State University Police Department at (850) 644-1234. FSU PD officers are authorized to conduct welfare checks on students.
My student has run afoul of the Student Code of Conduct and is going through the conduct process. I would like information on this, as well as a description of what my student allegedly did.
Students can work with their Residence Coordinator to secure a FERPA waiver that allows the Coordinator to discuss the incident with an authorized contact. Please understand that the waiver only applies to the student who signed it; therefore, other students involved in a situation are still protected by FERPA. If your student is not comfortable signing this waiver, then we can still answer general questions about the conduct process, including what the process looks like, possible consequences, and can answer questions related to conduct charges. We are not authorized, unless a waiver has been signed and is still valid, to communicate the outcome of a conduct hearing and sanctions that have been imposed upon a student.
Would I still be contacted in the case of an emergency?
Of course! Though we are unable to release most of a student’s educational record, students are required to designate at least one emergency contact when they check-in to the residence halls. This emergency contact will be notified if a student has experienced a medical emergency (both physical and mental) that involves transport to a local hospital. If a student is physically arrested and taken to jail, an emergency notification would be made as well. Finally, if there is reason to suspect a student may be missing, an emergency contact may be made as well. All efforts are made to ensure these notifications ensure as soon as possible once Residence Life staff is made aware of the situation.