Associated Students of Madison welcomed two officials from the Office of the Registrar to discuss how new changes to procedures on handling student information will better communicate to students about their privacy rights.
The Office of the Registrar is responsible for collecting student information and giving out that information dutifully, University Registrar Scott Owczarek said. They are also responsible for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act matters, which handles the privacy of student information.
Jeff Armstrong, the interim assistant of the registrar, said under FERPA, academic institutions can release directory information, such as date of birth and contact information, without student consent. However, students have the right to restrict the release of any information.
“We live in an open record state, so that makes it more likely that information like [contact information] is expected to be released to anyone who asks for it,” Armstrong said.
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The Office of the Registrar implemented changes that looked at a new definition of directory and made it clear to students what is and isn’t releasable to third parties.
Date of birth is on the list of things the office may release to anybody who requests it, Armstrong said.
“Anybody can get a list of any student on campus’s names, addresses plus dates of birth,” Armstrong said. “Which, if you stop and think about identity theft, is not the best idea.”
There are reasons one would want third parties to have this information, Armstrong said. For example, employers could want to confirm that graduates actually graduated from the college they say they did.
Under these new changes, date of birth will still be a part of the directory information, but only for the limited purpose of an employer confirming student or graduate information, Armstrong said.
Armstrong said the other major change is the availability of graduation date, which is also for the benefit of maintaining a student to employer relationship.
These changes will be implemented in how the office gives out student information to registered student organizations as well, Armstrong said.
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“Under FERPA, student organizations don’t have what’s called ‘an educational need to know,’” Armstrong said. “So, registered student organizations are treated like [people who want to market information to students].”
The current process of giving third parties student emails is manual and “inefficient,” Armstrong said. The new process would be automatic and less time consuming.
Armstrong said the proposed changes would streamline the processes of fulfilling requests for directory information and increase efforts to communicate with students about their rights under FERPA to withhold any information and any consequences of withholding information, Armstrong said.
The Office of the Registrar is open to further conversation to benefit current students and graduates, Owczarek said.