The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the confidentiality of student education records. To implement FERPA, the University has formulated and adopted a written institutional policy governing the handling of these records. Copies of this policy document are available to students in Charger Central, Room 118, University Center, and it should be referred to for a more comprehensive treatment of this subject.
The term "education records" under FERPA includes, generally, any record, whether in a printed, handwritten, audio, video, or computer media format, maintained by the University and containing information directly related to a student in his/her role as a student. Certain records are, however, excluded by FERPA from this broad definition, such as those made by instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel and kept in their sole possession, those made by campus police, and those made by a physician or other professional medical personnel in connection with treatment of the student.
Under FERPA and University policy, a student has a right of access to his/her education records and may inspect and review the information contained in them. To exercise this right, the student should present a request to the University office where the record is located, and a response will be made no later than 45 days later. In certain cases, a copy of the record may be provided, with a copying fee, as an alternative to actual inspection. Some records are not within this right of review, such as financial information from the student's parents and confidential letters or statements of recommendation where the student has waived the right of access.
A student who believes his/her education records contain information that is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of his/her privacy rights may bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate records official. If by informal discussion with this official the student does not obtain the corrective action desired, the student will then be entitled to a hearing at which he/she may challenge the objectionable item. Additional information about hearing procedures will be given to the student at that time. The decision of the hearing official or panel shall be final. If the decisionis adverse to the student, he/she may insert in the educational record an explanatory statement relating to the disputed item.
A student's privacy interest in the education record is further protected by the rule against unauthorized disclosure. Generally, the University may not, without the student's consent, release the education record or any personally identifiable information in it to other individuals or entities.
Disclosure in certain circumstances, however, is specifically excepted by FERPA from the foregoing rule. These circumstances include disclosure to certain parties - University officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the information, officials of institutions where the student is seeking to enroll, parties to which the student is applying for financial aid, the parent of a dependent student; etc, disclosure to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena; disclosure in connection with a health or safety emergency involving the student or other individuals; or disclosure, with limitations as to the information and the recipients thereof, of the results of certain disciplinary proceedings, under the University's Code of Student Conduct. Under the first exception, "University official" includes any UAHuntsville employee; any member of The Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama; any student carrying out an official institutional function, such as service on a University committee, board, etc.; or any person or entity that is, by contract, performing an institutional service or function for which an employee would otherwise be used. A "legitimate educational interest" means that the official has a need for access to the record to perform appropriate tasks clearly within the area of responsibility of the official, to perform a task related to the education or discipline of the student, or to provide a benefit or service relating to the student. Personally identifiable information will be transmitted by the University under these exceptions only upon the condition that the recipient not permit any non-University party to have access to it without the student's consent.
The University may also release what is called "directory information" without obtaining the student's consent. Directory information is limited to the following: the student's name, address (local and permanent), telephone number (local and permanent), e-mail address, date and place of birth, enrollment status (full-time or part-time), class standing (freshman,
sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate student), major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height statistics of athletic team members, dates of attendance, degrees and awards/honors received, the previous educational institution most recently attended, and a photograph of the student. However, a student may prevent the release of even this information, if he/she wishes, by so indicating at the time of registration on a form provided for this purpose. A request for nondisclosure of directory information must be renewed each semester.
Any student who believes that his/her rights under FERPA have been violated by the University may notify and request assistance from the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The student may also file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C., 20202-5920.