Annual Notification of Rights under FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that protects student privacy. Under FERPA, eligible students are granted certain rights with regards to educational records:

  1. Inspect and review their educational records
  2. Seek amendment to their educational records
  3. Require consent to disclose their educational records
  4. File a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office in the Department of Education for alleged violations of their rights

Disclosing Educational Records

In general, Mason will not disclose a student’s educational records without that student’s consent. However, one exception is when disclosure is made to a Mason School Official with a Legitimate Educational Interest. Mason defines these as:

Mason School Official: Any person employed by or otherwise affiliated with Mason who is performing institutional services. Mason School Officials include, but are not limited to, faculty, staff, consultants, contractors, any person serving on an official committee, student workers, and volunteers.

Legitimate Educational Interest: Exists when it falls within the scope of an employee’s employment and/or job description, it is part of their job role to have access to that information, or it is necessary to access the information in order to perform a job task or fulfill their professional responsibility at Mason.

Students may give written consent to release their protected educational records to a third party by filling out a Consent to Release Student Information Form and submitting it to the Office of the University Registrar. Students can rescind their consent at any time, which will prevent the release of that information from that point forward. However, it is important to note that under FERPA, Mason is only required to release educational records to the student and has the right to decline the release of educational records to any third party.

Directory Information

FERPA authorizes the release of Directory Information without a student’s consent. Mason has defined its Directory Information in accordance with what is allowable under FERPA, and it includes:

Student name, address, date and place of birth, telephone number(s), email address, major and field of study, class (FR, SO, JR, SR, Graduate), enrollment status (undergraduate or graduate; full or part time), dates of attendance, degrees conferred (including dates), awards and honors, previous institutions, photographs, participation in officially recognizes sports and activities and physical characteristics of athletes

Mason assumes that students who do not request to withhold disclosure of their directory information consent to the release of this information.

Withholding Disclosure of Student Information

Currently enrolled students may withhold disclosure of their student information by completing a Request to Prevent Disclosure of Student Information Form and submitting it to Office of the University Registrar by 5:00pm on the Friday of the first week of the semester. A student may rescind his or her request to prevent disclosure at any time. Former students may not place a new request for nondisclosure on their educational records.

Students may choose between two holds. The first is a limited restriction; the second is more comprehensive:

  1. People Finder Hold: Prevents a student’s information from appearing in People Finder. People Finder is Mason’s online faculty, staff and student directory. Directory information may still be released over the phone.
  2. Confidential: Prevents disclosure of all student information. Students who elect this hold must conduct all university business in person with a photo ID or via their official Mason email address. No student information will be released over the phone. The student’s name will not appear in any convocation or commencement program.

Procedure to Request to Inspect an Educational Record:

(1) Students must complete a Request to Inspect Educational Records Form and indicate which type of educational records they want to inspect and the location of those records. A separate form must be completed for each location of records.

(2) Students must submit the Request to Inspect Educational Records Form to the FERPA Compliance Specialist in the Office of the University Registrar. The FERPA Compliance Specialist will contact the custodian of the educational records to be inspected and oversee the inspection process.

(3) Students will be able to review the requested educational records within 45 days of submitting the Request to Inspect Educational Records Form to the FERPA Compliance Specialist.

(4) The custodian will contact the student to arrange a day and time for the inspection to take place and supervise the inspection.

(5) The student will be able to make notes during the inspection, but are not permitted to remove any records or documents at the time of the inspection.

(6) Following the inspection, both custodian and student will sign the Request to Inspect Educational Records Form and note the date, time and location the inspection took place. A copy should be retained by the custodian and the original forwarded to the FERPA Compliance Specialist.

Procedure to Request to Amend an Educational Record:

(1) Students must complete a Request to Amend Educational Records Form and indicate what record they are requesting to be amended and why they believe the record is inaccurate or misleading. A separate form must be completed for each amendment requested.

(2) Students must submit the Request to Amend Educational Records Form to the FERPA Compliance Specialist in the Office of the University Registrar.

(3) The FERPA Compliance Specialist will forward the request for amendment to the custodian of the record and, in cases when they are not the same individual, the director of the department, college or school who has the authority to amend the record.

(4) The review and decision will take place within 30 days and the student will be informed in writing no later than the 30th day of the decision.

(5) If the department has concluded no amendment will occur, the student may then request a hearing or to place a document in the record which explains why they believe the educational record to be wrong or misleading.

(6) If the student requests a hearing, a hearing will take place within 30 days of the decision, and the student will be informed of the date and time of the hearing.

Contact the FERPA Compliance Office at ferpa@gmu.edu if you have additional questions.