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Yale Will be Wiping Its Admission Records, Despite Student Protests
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Yale will shred all of its students' admission records, claiming it has the right to do so under FERPA.

Summary: Students at various institutions have been angered by their school’s deletion of student admission records. The schools claim that they are allowed to do so under federal law.

According to New Republic, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post gave his annual “State of the School” address last week. Post shocked most of the student body when he explained that those who have requested access to their educational records under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) would not be receiving a large file, as they expected. Instead, the school has decided to destroy its student admission evaluation records, as well as any notations that were made in student files by the career development office. Apparently, the school will be making the move to avoid having to fork over a tremendous amount of documents in response to the many requests it has received.

  
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Ironically, in destroying the records, Yale defeats the intentions of one of its notable alumni: James L. Buckley, Class of 1949, who drafted the FERPA clauses at issue.

Buckley (1981)

Buckley (1981)

According to FERPA’s own text, its purpose is to fulfill two goals: to allow students to access and correct errors in their records, and to prevent schools from publicly disclosing the identifying information of students. According to Wikipedia, students must consent to have their records disclosed to others under FERPA. There are several exceptions to this rule.

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Yale recently announced it would begin using a new grading system.

The decision to delete all of the admissions evaluation records is not the first, or even the most shocking instance of Yale’s construing the statute to serve its own needs. In 2010, Buckley sought the amendment of the statute after Yale’s athletic departments were hiding behind FERPA when some student athletes had committed sexual abuse, and when payoffs had been made to students in violation of NCAA regulations. Buckley commented, “Institutions are putting their own meaning into the law.” Buckley is a former federal judge on the D.C. Circuit, as well as a former U.S. senator.



Stanford pulled a similar move earlier this year. FountainHopper (FoHo), a student-managed email newsletter, delineated the steps students needed to take to access admission records. Last month, in response to the numerous requests that were received, a university official penned an email to students, telling them to ask themselves, “What benefit do I seek from reviewing these additional admissions records?” According to Stanford Daily, the school received close to 2,800 requests for records after the newsletter was published. The school met with outside counsel to discuss the situation, and then deleted its admissions files. The school will no longer maintain admissions records.

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Following Stanford’s example, a student at Yale Law emailed students in January, explaining how to request their information from the registrar’s office. However, without any notice to students, all admissions evaluation data in the students’ files was deleted on February 22, 2015. Extra information held by the career development office was wiped on March 3.

In the fall, Yale was ranked the top law school in the country.

Although there is disagreement as to whether students should be able to review sensitive information, such as their admissions scores, there is general agreement that schools should be careful in how they change their records retention policies. Currently, the language of FERPA does not prohibit the schools’ behavior.

Many feel that the problem with FERPA is not it says, but what it does not say. There is no notice requirement in the statute that obligates officials to inform the student body before changing their policies. In addition, there is no ceiling on the fees that schools may charge students for copies of their records, even if they have to travel to review these files at the school. Without a limit on fees, the right to one’s records could be useless.

Similarly, there are no requirements for the retention or destruction of student records. To many, this weakens the statute’s objectives of privacy and fairness. Enrolled students who want to make sure their records are accurate, as well as alumni who want to have some control over these records, will no doubt run into problems if schools are able to destroy records whenever they want.

With just a few changes, Congress could offer more protections to students, while limiting the power schools have to do as they wish with important admissions records.

Harvard Law’s new Title IX procedures are being reviewed by the federal government.

First, baseline record retention guidelines could be created under FERPA. As an example, Harvard keeps undergraduate records for the four years of enrollment, and students may monitor these records throughout their time at the school.

Additionally, FERPA could include notice requirements that increase transparency in these schools. The statute provides a 45-day window to respond to student requests. Therefore, many suggested 45 days of notice should be required if the school plans to change any records policies.

Finally, FERPA should note that schools may have strong arguments to withhold certain types of information from students. Some suggest that allowing access to the admissions process will affect its integrity. For example, since faculty members score applicants at Yale, the release of this information could damage faculty-student relationships. FERPA should also allow schools to provide certain types of information to third parties, such as law enforcement.

Change is clearly needed with FERPA requirements. It will be up to the students, universities, and members of Congress to bring about these changes. Until then, these incidents may lawfully continue.

Source: New Republic

Photo credit: dyscoshredding.com, flickr.com (Buckley)



 

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