COVID-19: Essential Information

Student Privacy Rights under U.S. Federal Law (FERPA)

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) ensures students can have access to education records maintained by Middlebury and defines conditions under which those records may be disclosed to others.

1. Definitions

a. "Students." "Students" are defined as those individuals who have applied for admission to Middlebury, were admitted, and are or have been enrolled in classes for credit in a Middlebury program. FERPA does not apply to records of applicants for admission who are denied acceptance or, if accepted, do not enroll in classes for credit. In addition, rights are not given by FERPA to students enrolled in one component of Middlebury who seek to be admitted in another component (e.g., a student who is enrolled in the undergraduate College, but is denied admission to one of the graduate programs, has education records at the College but not the graduate program).

b. "Education Records." "Education records" are those records, in hard copy or digital form, that are directly related to a student and that are maintained by Middlebury or by an official who serves Middlebury in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research,  support staff or other position.

"Education records" do not include:

i. Records of personnel that are in the sole possession of the maker, e.g., a faculty member's grade book, or a dean's advising notes, or a temporary substitute. Shared information within an office or unit will be considered an "education record" subject to FERPA.

ii. Records relating to individuals who are employed by Middlebury that are made and maintained in the normal course of business and relate exclusively to individuals in their capacity as employees, and are not available for any other purpose.

iii. Records relating to a student that are (1) created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional acting in his or her professional capacity or assisting in a paraprofessional capacity; (2) used solely in connection with the provision of treatment to the student; and (3) not disclosed to anyone other than individuals providing such treatment (or to a physician or other appropriate professional of the student's choice).

iv. Records that contain only information relating to a person after that person is no longer a student at Middlebury (e.g., information gathered on the accomplishments of alumni).

v. Records created and maintained by the Middlebury College Department of Public Safety or the Middlebury Institute’s Campus Security Department for law enforcement purposes.

vi. Attorney-client privileged records, such as communications for the purpose of seeking or receiving legal advice on behalf of Middlebury.

vii. Any other records excluded from the definition of Education Records in FERPA.

c. "Directory Information." Middlebury determines the following to be student "directory information," which may be available to the public if the student has not restricted its release:

Home address (while enrolled at Middlebury) 
Campus address (if applicable)
E-mail address
Dates of attendance and graduation
Class standing, e.g., first-year student, sophomore, junior, or senior
Major field(s) of study
Degrees received 
Honors and awards received

"Directory information" for purposes of FERPA is not the same as the information that is available in on-line Middlebury directories.

Students may opt out of any or all elements of “directory information” identified above, by contacting the Registrar (Vermont) or Records Office (California).

2. General Principles

a. Confidentiality. FERPA provides that education records and personally identifiable information about a student may not be disclosed without the student's written consent unless disclosure is permitted by certain exceptions under FERPA.

The student's written, signed consent must:

-- Specify the records to be released;

-- Identify the party or class of parties to whom the records should be released;

-- Indicate the reason for the release.

b. Access. FERPA provides that students are permitted to inspect their own education records. A student has the right to:

-- Inspect and review his or her education records;

-- Request an amendment to an education record if the student believes there is an inaccuracy;

-- Restrict the release of his or her "directory information" from public access;

-- File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if he or she feels Middlebury has failed to comply with FERPA.

c. Administering Office. The Office of the Registrar is responsible for the administration of this policy for all Middlebury programs other than the Institute. The Records Office is responsible for the administration of this policy at the Middlebury Institute. Students and others who have questions regarding the treatment of specific information in a specific circumstance should contact a staff member in the appropriate Office.

3. Confidentiality

FERPA generally prohibits the release of confidential personally identifiable student data from education records, with limited exceptions that include "directory information" (see below), without the student's written, signed consent.

Personally identifiable student data, other than "directory information" for students who have not restricted its release, are confidential. Examples of confidential information include, but are not limited to, social security number, date of birth, ethnicity, gender, country of citizenship, class schedules (including meeting times and locations), grades, grade point averages, and parents' or guardians' names and addresses.

FERPA provides certain exceptions for the release of personally identifiable education record information without the student's written consent. These exceptions include:

Directory Information. “Directory information,” as defined in section 1.c. above, may be made available to the public if the student has not restricted its release.

Middlebury will honor requests to withhold any one or more elements of “directory information.”

Students should consider very carefully the consequences of any decision to withhold all “directory information.” When a student instructs Middlebury not to release any “directory information,” any future requests for such information from persons or organizations outside Middlebury will be refused, unless a legal exception applies, or unless the student subsequently revokes the restriction.

Requests for non-disclosure must be submitted in writing to the Office of the Registrar at Middlebury College or the Record Office at the Middlebury Institute. Forms for making such requests may be obtained from the appropriate Office.

Legitimate Educational Interest. Personally identifiable education record information may be disclosed without the student's written consent to a Middlebury official with a legitimate educational interest in the record. A Middlebury official is a person employed by Middlebury in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, support staff, or other position (including public safety and health staff at the College and Campus Security staff at the Institute); a person or company with whom Middlebury has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. An employee has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.

Other Exceptions. Education record information may be disclosed without the student's written consent in various instances, including:

a) To the student;

b) If it is "directory information" and the student has not restricted its release;

c) If properly subpoenaed pursuant to a judicial, legislative, or administrative proceeding, in which case Middlebury will make a reasonable attempt to notify the student of the subpoena, in cases where FERPA applies, prior to the release of the information, unless the subpoena specifically directs that the student is not to be notified;

d) In connection with the student's application or receipt of financial aid as necessary to determine the eligibility, amount or conditions of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms or conditions of the aid;

e) In connection with audits or evaluation of federal or state supported educational programs requiring disclosure of information;

f) To effect collection of past due financial obligations to Middlebury;

g) To authorized representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the Secretary of the Department of Education, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau of the Department of Homeland Security (with respect to international students), or state or local educational authorities;

h) To the Veterans Administration to determine compliance with educational assistance;

i) In connection with a health or safety emergency as determined by Middlebury;

j) In certain circumstances to parents of financially-dependent students, at Middlebury’s discretion;

k) To officials of another school or institution of postsecondary education where the student seeks or intends to enroll, or where the student is already enrolled provided the disclosure is for purposes related to the student's enrollment or transfer.

4. Access

A student has the right to inspect and review his or her education records within 45 days of submitting a written request to Middlebury for such access.

Middlebury College students wishing to review their records should submit to the Office of the Registrar a written notice to that effect. Registrar staff will notify the student of a convenient time for the review. Students at the Institute should submit to the Records Office a written notice to that effect. The Records Office will notify the student of a convenient time for the review.

FERPA does not provide the student with the right to access certain records, including:

-- Parents' financial records used for financial aid purposes.

-- Confidential letters and statements of recommendation placed in the student's education record prior to January 1, 1975, or confidential recommendations to which the student has given prior written waiver of access and which are used for job placement, admission, or award purposes.

-- Records that fall into one or more exclusion from the definition of “education records.” 

5. Amendment of Records

A student may request amendment of the student's education records that the student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's privacy rights.

A request for amendment of a student's education record should be submitted in writing by the student. The request should state what record the student believes is inaccurate or identify the part of a record the student wants changed, and should state why the student believes the record is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's privacy rights. If Middlebury decides not to amend a record as requested, Middlebury will notify the student of its decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the issue. Additional information regarding a hearing procedure will be provided to the student when notified of such decisions.

FERPA was not intended to provide a process to be used by students to question substantive judgments that are correctly recorded. The FERPA rights of challenge are not intended to allow a student to contest, for example, a grade in a course because he or she felt a higher grade should have been assigned. FERPA is intended to ensure the factual and accurate nature of the information in the student's education records and the student's right to verify that information.

If Middlebury decides, as a result of a hearing, not to amend the education record in accordance with the student's request, the student may place a written statement in the record commenting upon the information therein, and/or setting forth any reason for disagreement with the institutional decision not to amend the record. Such a statement will become part of the student's education record and will be disclosed with it.

6. Complaints

A student has the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is: Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202-5920.