FERPA for School Officials
All Mason faculty and staff are considered school officials, as are all persons performing institutional services for the University. This includes all contractors and consultants, students workers, anyone on official committees, volunteers, and everyone doing any work for Mason. All school officials are required by law to maintain the confidentiality of student records. Any school official who maintains specific records is considered a record custodian. The Office of the University Registrar is the official custodian for academic records.
The release of any non-directory information about a student to any person without a legitimate educational interest violates federal and state law, as well as University regulations.
FAQs on Student Privacy for Faculty and Staff
All faculty must utilize reasonable measures to preserve the confidentiality, security and integrity of the George Mason University information systems and the information contained therein. All teaching staff should practice appropriate security measures:
- Never disclose, share or loan your username(s) and password(s) to anyone (e.g., another employee, faculty member, supervisor, student assistant, etc.). Department staff or supervising faculty should obtain individual log-on information for graduate/teaching assistants.
- Ensure that remote access to, retrieval and transmission of confidential academic record information is accomplished through a secure and encrypted connection.
- In addition, faculty should take reasonable measures to restrict unauthorized persons from viewing confidential academic record information. For example, you should:
- Never leave your computer workstation unattended while signed on without appropriate screen locking (e.g., a password-protected screen saver).
- Never leave personal logon information (e.g., username, password, network mapping, etc.) in view of unauthorized persons.
- Never program (or ‘hot-key’) automatic access to confidential academic record systems.
Faculty should discuss a student’s academic record only with that student or with university employees in the performance of official duties.
Faculty may access a student’s record only in their capacity as the student’s advisor. At Mason, faculty may not access the academic records of students in their classes.
Once you have determined students’ final grades, enter them immediately using Patriot Web. Your deadline is 48 hours after the scheduled final examination period for the class (see Schedule of Classes). Instruct students to check their grades by accessing their transcript on Patriot Web.
Graded work during the semester must be returned personally to the student. Do not leave a stack of graded work for the class and expect students to retrieve their own; this would violate their right to privacy.
All employees within the Office of the University Registrar who work with student records must sign the Confidentiality of Student Records statement. This document explains that academic records may only be disclosed to or discussed with individuals with legitimate educational interest. After signing this statement, it becomes part of the employee’s file.
All university offices should consider developing a procedure for handling confidential academic records and ensuring that all staff are educated in these procedures.
FERPA violations may result in the loss of federal funding for the university. Any breach of confidentiality could lead to disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination of employment.
You may share graded papers and exams only with the student, with others upon receiving the student’s consent, or with university officials in performance of official duties. Student papers or exams should not be left outside an office door where students must look through all the papers to find their own; students should not have access to other students’ grades. While you may return papers and/or examinations by mail, the safest practice is to return papers personally to the student.
FERPA allows students to elect an even higher level of privacy for their education records. You will see the designation “confidential” on class rosters for such students. This status in no way precludes you from contacting the student regarding class business. It does, however, mean that sending a group e-mail to your class in a system that lists the e-mails of all recipients would result in a violation of their privacy rights. For these students, you will need to send individual messages or a blind copy. If your course requires that students communicate with each other via e-mail. you must include this information prominently in the syllabus. Students with a confidentiality indicator may choose not to take the course.
George Mason University designates the following as public or “Directory Information.” Such information may be disclosed by the University without the student’s prior consent under the conditions set forth in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).
Directory Information includes:
- student name
- telephone numbers(s)
- e-mail address
- birthdate and place of birth
- dates of attendance
- enrollment status (full-time, part-time)
- previous institutions
- major field of study
- honors (including Dean’s List)
- degrees conferred including dates
- past and present participation in officially recognized sports and activities
- physical factors (height and weight of athletes)
Note: Mason does not disclose non-directory information unless the student has signed a consent form or the disclosure meets a qualified exception under FERPA.
Currently enrolled students may withhold disclosure of directory information under FERPA.
To withhold disclosure, students must present a photo ID in person at the Office of the University Registrar at Student Union I, Room 2101 and complete the Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information Form. The form may be submitted at any time throughout the year and will immediately affect prospective disclosures. George Mason University assumes that failure on the part of any student to specifically request the withholding of a category of directory information indicates individual approval for disclosure. Former students may not place a new request for nondisclosure of directory information on their education records; however, they may request its removal. For more information, please Contact Us.
The following two categories of directory information may be withheld for current students, upon receipt of the Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information Form.
- Telephone Directory* – prevents the listing of student name, address, telephone number, major, and e-mail address in the George Mason University Telephone Directory.
- Confidential hold** – prevents the disclosure of all Directory Information including name, address, telephone number(s), e-mail address, date and place of birth, major, dates of attendance, enrollment status (full-time, part-time), class, previous institutions, major field of study, awards, honors (including Dean’s List), degrees conferred including dates, past and present participation in officially recognized sports and activities, and physical factors (height and weight of athletes).
*Requests to withhold your information from the campus directory must be submitted to the Office of the University Registrar by 5:00 pm on Friday of the first week of classes of the fall semester to have information withheld in time for the publication of that academic year’s George Mason University Telephone Directory.
**Students who elect this category must conduct all university business either in person with a photo ID card or from a remote location with an original notarized request. Such students’ names will be published in the commencement program unless the students request exclusion in writing. Students in this category are eligible to use interactive web and other electronic systems, such as Patriot Web, for transactions including registration which are protected by a netID and password.
Per the Solomon Amendment, institutions of higher education are required to provide “student recruiting information” for all students who are at least seventeen (17) years of age and enrolled for at least one credit hour at their institution to military recruiters. Please note that the Solomon Amendment supersedes FERPA and even if a university has a policy of not releasing “directory information” it must comply with requests for “student recruiting information”.
At Mason Student Recruiting Information includes the following:
- Address (permanent)
- Telephone (permanent)
- Level or UG Class (GR, Senior, Junior, ND, etc.)
Information released will be for the current semester. If the request is received between semesters, the information will be for the upcoming semester. Further, any student who has placed a “confidential hold” on their record will be excluded under FERPA.
Procedure for Requesting Student Recruiting Information
Requests for “student recruiting information” can be made online using our Solomon Amendment Request Form.
If you prefer, you may send requests via fax or postal mail, on military letterhead which clearly identifies the military recruiting branch or office.
Office of the University Registrar
4400 University Drive, MSN 3D1
Fairfax, VA 22030