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Responding to Requests for Information About Members of the University Community

University faculty and staff must take great care when responding to requests for information about members of the university community. This document outlines an appropriate response in some specific situations and discusses general guidelines on information access and privacy.

1. Privacy of educational records

The Family Educational Rights And Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA, also known as the Buckley Amendment) as amended, sets forth requirements regarding the privacy of student records. FERPA governs:

  1. release of these records (known as Education Records) maintained by an educational institution and
  2. access to these records. As an education institution receiving funds under programs administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education, the University of Richmond is required to comply with FERPA.

Education Records are records (in handwriting, print, tapes, film, or other medium) that are:

  1. directly related to a student, and
  2. maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.

Records not included are:

  1. records in the sole possession of the record-maker which are not accessible to others;
  2. records maintained by a campus law enforcement unit;
  3. employment records;
  4. medical records; or
  5. post-attendance records.

School officials determined by the University to have a legitimate educational interest, do have access to a student's Education Records without the student's written consent. School officials are those members of an institution who act in the student's educational interest within the limitations of their "need to know."

Some information about students is considered "directory information." Directory information may be publicly shared by the institution unless the student has taken formal action to restrict its release.

Directory information at the University of Richmond includes:

  • Name
  • Addresses: permanent, campus, local (off-campus), e-mail and campus computer network (IP) address
  • Associated telephone numbers
  • Date and place of birth
  • School or college
  • Major and/or minor fields of study
  • Degree sought
  • Expected date of completion of degree requirements and graduation
  • Degrees conferred
  • Awards and Honors (e.g. Dean's list)
  • Full or part time enrollment status
  • Dates of attendance
  • Previous institutions attended
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic team members
  • Photograph

Not included as directory information are: student schedule, race, gender, citizenship, religious preference, grades, class rank, GPA, and names of parents. This non-directory information must not be given out without the student's consent, which unless specified elsewhere in this policy, may only be obtained by the Office of the University Registrar.

As a rule you may verify directory information about students to individuals outside the university community, but you should not give out such information.

All requests for non-directory information must be referred to the Office of the University Registrar 289-8639. For more information please see the University of Richmond's FERPA Policy Statement (available at http://oncampus.richmond.edu/academics/registrar/policy/ferpaact.html).

2. Responding to requests from law enforcement officers, subpoenas, and search warrants

If a law enforcement officer or agent approaches a university faculty or staff member requesting information, the university representative should first request and review the individual's badge or other official identification. The university faculty or staff member should then inform the officer or agent that he or she is going to refer them to the appropriate university administrator.

For inquiries relating to current students:

All requests for information regarding current students should be referred to the University Registrar 289-8639. If a law enforcement officer needs to locate a student immediately, refer them to Campus Police 289-8718.

For inquiries relating to faculty, trustees, or staff:

If the law enforcement official does not have a court order, you should explain that the university has policies regarding confidential information and privacy and that these types of requests must be cleared through the university administration. Refer the officer or agent to the Associate Vice President for Human Resources 289-8166.

If the law enforcement official presents a search warrant the agent or officer may begin a search as soon as the order is served. The university staff or faculty member on whom the order is served should ask if they might contact the appropriate administrator for service before the search begins. Immediately contact one of the following individuals depending on availability to inform them that a court ordered search has been requested or initiated:

  1. Associate Vice President for Human Resources 289-8166
  2. Vice President for Business & Finance 289-8150

University faculty and staff should cooperate with the search when a search order is served. If computers, e-mail, phone records, or electronic information sources are involved in the search contact the Vice-President for Information Services (289-8771) or the Information Services Security Administrator (289-8655).

Unlike search warrants, subpoenas do not require an immediate response. Subpoenas are usually delivered by the Sheriff's Office and allow 10 days for response. If the law enforcement official presents a subpoena contact one of the following individuals depending on availability:

  1. Associate Vice President for Human Resources 289-8166
  2. Vice President for Business & Finance 289-8150

The university administrator will contact university counsel and review the information that should be produced in response to the subpoena. Only requested information will be released. If computers, e-mail, phone records, or electronic information sources are involved in the search contact the Vice President for Information Services (289-8771) or the Information Services Security Administrator (289-8655).

Special considerations regarding the "USA Patriot Act"

The "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act," Pub. L. No. 107- 56, 115 Stat. 272-402 (2001) (codified in various titles and sections of U.S.C.) also known as the "USA Patriot Act" was signed into law on October 26, 2001. Its purpose is "to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement and investigatory tools..." If law enforcement officials present an order under this act or FISA ("Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act") the university's Information Services staff may be required to install activity logging devices or software and/or preserve and present existing network or system logs.

If under this act a law enforcement official requests that you provide electronic records or information or content related to electronic or phone communications on the university network refer them to one of the following individuals:

  • Vice President for Information Services 289-8771
  • Information Services Security Administrator 289-8655
  • Vice President for Business & Finance 289-8150
  • Associate Vice President for Human Resources 289-8166

A search warrant issued under the "USA Patriot Act" may contain the stipulation that the institution does not disclose that the warrant has been served or that information has been provided pursuant to the warrant. You should not inform anyone other than the administrators listed above about this action.

3. Providing personally identifiable information to business partners, vendors, outside agencies and individuals

The university has business relationships with various outside companies and business partners. These relationships may require that these outside entities obtain information about university community members or that the university provides data files containing that information. Information may not be provided to outside entities or individuals unless a verified business relationship exists. If you support one of these outside relationships be aware that in most cases university ID numbers or social security numbers should not be provided to external entities. If data files must be interfaced, consult with Information Services staff about alternative record identifiers. Only provide the vendor with the information they require for the business relationship or transaction. Work with university Information Services staff to develop any data extracts or reports to ensure that they comply with specifications and with the External Party Data Transfer Policy. Review the information or report before submission to the external agency to ensure that only necessary information is included and that there are no SSNs or credit card numbers included in the file or report.

4. Employment Verifications Requests and Background Checks

For inquiries relating to current or former students:

All requests for employment information regarding current or former students should be referred to the University Registrar 289-8639. The University Registrar will verify the request and waiver and refer the requestor as necessary. Do not respond to these requests for information about students unless the Registrar has referred the requestor to you.

For inquiries relating to faculty or staff:

University community members may occasionally have a need to have employment and/or salary information confirmed as part of a job interview, loan application, real estate transaction, etc.

All requests for employment verification or background checks should be referred first to Human Resource Services 289-8704. Human Resources staff will review the request and refer the requestor to members of the university community as necessary. Do not respond to these requests unless they come through Human Resources.

5. Job references

For inquiries relating to current or former students:

Requests for verification of enrollment or degrees should be referred to the Office of the University Registrar 289-8639.

When asked to write letters of recommendation for students or former students, faculty and staff should not share information from student Educational Records, including grades or grade point averages, with others outside the institution without written permission from the student.

To release information relating to Education Records (non-directory information), faculty and staff are authorized to obtain written consent from the student for such disclosure. Consent for the disclosure of a student's Education Records must be in writing, signed and dated by the student.

For inquiries relating to faculty or staff:

Job reference checks should be referred to Human Resources unless you have been asked and agreed to serve as a reference for a colleague.

6. Request for Information about University Trustees

The President's Office website publishes basic information about trustees; including name, city, state, and committee assignments. Individuals who seek additional information should be referred to one of the following individuals:

  • Executive Assistant to the President 289-8088
  • Vice President for Advancement 289-8053

Revision History

Version Revised Date Author/Editor Comments
1.0 July 18, 2009 Chris Faigle Initial policy created.
1.1 May 18, 2010 Melody Kimball Revision history added.