Student Privacy Rights Policies

Federal legislation has established guidelines governing the way in which colleges maintain and supervise students’ educational records. This law requires that students be notified annually of Bowdoin’s pattern of compliance with its requirements.  The purpose of this legislation is to assure students access to their official records so that they may ascertain that the information contained in their files is accurate. Further, the legislation seeks to guarantee that these files are used only for legitimate educational purposes and are not released outside the College without the permission of the student.

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), each student has the right to:

  • inspect and review his/her education records within 45 days of the day the College receives a request for access;

  • request an amendment to his/her educational records if the student believes they are inaccurate,  misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA;

  • consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information from his/her education records; except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without the student’s consent;

  • file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Family Policy Compliance Office if the student believes his/her rights under FERPA have been violated.

1. Inspection
What are education records?
Education records are records maintained by the College or by a party acting for the College that are directly related to a student. Among the educational records maintained by Bowdoin for each student is a permanent file, which is located in the Office of the Dean of Students. The permanent file contains information such as the student’s application for admission to Bowdoin, and a copy of his/her high school transcript. In addition, some quantifiable information derived from the permanent file is stored in the College's electronic archives. As a student progresses through Bowdoin, his/her permanent file accumulates other documents such as the transcript, copies of applications for special programs (e.g., Twelve College Exchange) or special requests (e.g., leave of absence requests), and records of any academic or disciplinary action taken against the student. In addition, copies of correspondence with deans or other College administrators are placed in the student’s permanent file. The permanent file is maintained for six years after the date of graduation or resignation.

Students’ educational records are also kept in other College offices including, but not limited to, the following: the Career Planning Center, the office of the student’s pre-major academic advisor or major department, the student aid office, the controller’s office, the office of communications, the off-campus study office, and the office of the registrar.

Such records may include:

  • Written documents (including student advising folders);

  • Computer media;

  • Microfilm and microfiche;

  • Video or audio tapes or CDs;

  • Film;

  • Photographs.

A student’s “educational record” does not include:

  • information contained in the private files of instructors and administrators (including deans’ notes), used only as personal notes and not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record;

  • Campus Security records;

  • financial records of parents;

  • employment records other than work-study records;

  • Medical and psychological records used solely for treatment purposes (please refer to the section on page 92 for information on the maintenance of Health and Counseling Records);

  • records that contain information about former students (i.e. alumni records) collected after the students graduated;

  • any other records that do not meet the FERPA definition of education records.

How do I inspect and review my education records?

  • Students who wish to review their education records should submit to the appropriate official (e.g. dean, department head, registrar) a written request that identifies the record(s) he or she wishes to inspect.  The custodian of the education record the student wishes to inspect will contact the student to arrange a mutually convenient time for inspection, not more than forty-five days after his/her request. The custodian or designee will be present during his/her inspection.

  • In the event the records sought are not maintained by the particular College official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.

  • The student will not be permitted to review financial information, including his/her parents’ financial information; or confidential letters of recommendation, if the student has waived his/her right to inspect such letters. 

  • The student may have copies made of his/her educational records, except for a record for which a financial “hold” exists, a transcript which originated from an institution other than Bowdoin, and information and/or letters that have been solicited on a confidential basis.

2. Amendment
How do I amend my educational records?

  • A student who wishes to ask the College to amend a record should write to the College official responsible for the record ( e.g., department head, registrar, director of career planning), clearly identifying the part of the record the student wants changed, and specify why it should be changed. Disagreements about the accuracy of the file should be directed to the Dean of Students. The College will reply to the student no later than forty-five days after the student’s request. If the College decides not to amend the record as requested, the College will notify the student in writing of the decision and of the student’s right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment.  

How do I request a hearing?

  • Send a written, signed request for a hearing to the Dean of Students, Bowdoin College, 4600 College Station, Brunswick, ME 04011-8437. The College will schedule a hearing no later than forty-five days after the student’s  request.

How will the hearing be conducted?

  • Cases involving disagreements over College records will be heard by the Recording Committee of the faculty.

  • The student may bring another person to the hearing to assist the student. If the student’s attorney will be present, the student must notify the College ten days in advance of the hearing so that the College may arrange to have an attorney present, if desired.

  • The College will inform the student of its decision, in writing, including a summary of the evidence presented and the reasons for its decision, no later than forty-five days after the hearing.

3. Consent to Disclosure
Bowdoin College generally will not disclose personally identifiable information from a student’s education records without his/her consent; however, the College may make authorized disclosures without consent as specified under the law.

Under FERPA, Bowdoin College may, at the College’s discretion, release personally identifiable information from education records without the student’s prior consent in certain specified circumstances, including but not limited to:

  • Disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. “School officials” are Bowdoin College employees in administrative, supervisory, academic or support staff positions; Bowdoin College trustees; individuals and companies with whom the College has contracted to perform institutional services and functions, such as attorneys, auditors, consultants, volunteers, and collection agencies. School officials have a “legitimate educational interest” if they need to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities;

  • Disclosure to organizations involved in awarding financial aid;

  • Disclosure to parents of dependent students (as defined in section 152 of the Internal Revenue Service Code). [See Parental Notification Policy];

  • Disclosure to parents or legal guardians of students under twenty-one years of age regarding information about violations of college drug and alcohol policies;

  • Disclosure to comply with a judicial order or subpoena (after making a reasonable effort to notify the student in advance of compliance so that the student can take protective action).  An exception to this notification requirement exists if the subpoena is issued by a federal grand jury or for other law enforcement purposes and the requesting agency specifically ordered that the existence of the subpoena is not to be disclosed;

  • Disclosure to appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency, in order to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals; and

  • Disclosure of the results of final student disciplinary proceedings to victims of violent crimes or sexual offenses.

Note that, upon request, Bowdoin will disclose a student’s education records to officials of another school in which the student seeks or intends to enroll, as well as institutions where the student has already enrolled.

Directory Information – Public Notice

In addition, certain information known as “directory information” may be released without the student’s prior written consent unless the student requests that such directory information be withheld. 

What is directory information?

Directory information is personally identifiable information of a general nature that may be disclosed without a student’s consent, unless the student specifically requests that the College not do so. It is used for purposes including, but not limited to, compiling campus print and electronic directories. Please note that not all of the information that has been specified as directory information is included in the campus directories.

If the student does not want his/her directory information to be disclosed, either in the campus print or electronic directories or otherwise, the student must notify the Registrar, in writing, by the first day of classes of the fall semester. Notifying the Registrar covers only the disclosure of centralized records. Members of individual organizations (sports teams, student clubs and organizations, etc.) must also notify those organizations to restrict the disclosure of directory information.

Directory Information includes the following:

  • the student’s full name,

  • local/campus mailing address,

  • local/campus residence,

  • local/campus telephone number,

  • student ID number, user ID, or other unique personal identifier used to communicate in electronic systems that cannot be used to access education records without a PIN, password, etc.  NOTE: (1) a student's SSN, in whole or in part, cannot be used for this purpose; (2) user IDs cannot be completely suppressed from Bowdoin’s  electronic systems. While it may be possible to suppress the association of an individual’s name with their user ID, doing so may adversely impact the delivery of electronic mail or other electronic services.

  • class year,

  • major field(s) of study,

  • dates of attendance at Bowdoin College,

  • enrollment status,

  • date of graduation,

  • degree(s) awarded,

  • honors and awards received,

  • date of birth,

  • marital status,

  • participation in officially recognized activities, and

  • previous educational institution most recently attended.

  • For students participating in intercollegiate athletics, directory information also includes: height, weight, and sport(s) of participation.

4. Filing Complaints
As stated above, if the student believes the College has not complied with FERPA, he/she can file a complaint with the following:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U. S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202-4605

As noted above, FERPA regulations and state statutes assign students the right to release information contained in their educational records. Specifically, FERPA entrusts this right to students once they reach the age of eighteen or enroll in a postsecondary institution. Consistent with Bowdoin’s efforts to promote each student’s personal growth and autonomy, and to preserve a climate of trust with them, the College will not release any information contained within a student’s educational record to parents without the student’s consent. However, when appropriate and as allowed by FERPA, the College does permit the release of certain information of dependent students (as defined by the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, Section 152) to parents without the student’s consent. The specific instances in which Bowdoin will and will not notify parents warrant particular attention.

Note: The College reserves the right to notify a parent or guardian of their student’s status in situations not specifically listed below if the circumstances warrant and if it is in the best interest of the student and the College community.

Notice of a Student’s Academic Standing
The College believes that each student is ultimately responsible for his or her academic progress and performance. Therefore, Bowdoin communicates only with students regarding their academic performance. For instance, in an effort to foster students’ sense of responsibility for their academic endeavors, grades, comment cards, and failure cards are sent directly to students and are not released to parents or guardians unless a student specifically requests in writing to the Office of the Registrar that they be released. While students are encouraged to share information regarding their academic progress with their parents, Bowdoin does not mandate it. 

Academically, however, there are instances when the College will typically notify parents of a student’s academic performance with or without the student’s consent. Parents will be notified of a student’s academic standing regardless of consent when there is a change of status, i.e., when a student is placed on academic probation, when a student is academically suspended, or if a student is academically dismissed from Bowdoin.  In these cases, copies of correspondence with the student that outline the student’s academic standing will be sent to the student’s parents or guardian.

Notice of a Student’s Disciplinary/Conduct Standing
During a student’s tenure at Bowdoin, the College expects each student to take responsibility for his or her actions. Upon arrival at Bowdoin, each student reads and signs the Academic Honor Code and Social Code that serve as a standard and guide for students’ behavior. Signing the pledge implies a student’s commitment to uphold the principles and rules outlined in the Codes.

Since the Codes are meant to preserve the integrity and safety of the Bowdoin community, violations of either Code warrant a College response.  Generally, the College will communicate any disciplinary response to a Code violation directly with the student, and parents or guardians will not be notified, unless the student chooses to inform his or her parents. However, if the College response results in a change in the student’s status (i.e., dismissal, suspension, social probation, and in some cases, reprimand), copies of correspondence with the student that detail the resolution of the situation will be sent to the student’s parents or guardian. Likewise, Bowdoin reserves the right to inform the parents of any student if the student violates any Federal, State, or local law, or campus regulation governing the use or possession of alcohol or drugs.

Notice of a Student’s Health/Welfare Standing
Information regarding a student’s health and/or psychological welfare is protected by strict policies instituted to ensure the student’s confidentiality.  While students are encouraged to share information regarding their health and/or psychological welfare with their parents, without students’ informed consent (typically in writing), the College cannot share this type of information with their parents or guardian.

Bowdoin recognizes, however, that situations arise in which a student may be unable to give informed consent, e.g., accident or alcohol poisoning leading to unconsciousness, psychotic episode, etc. If a student is transported to the hospital in a critical situation, the parent or guardian of the student will be notified.  Where possible, the College will allow the individual student time to make direct notification to parent or guardian or explicitly identify a third party to make contact with the parent or guardian. In such instances when a student is being treated by an external healthcare provider, the College expects the external provider to determine the appropriateness of parental notification and undertake such notification when deemed appropriate. Having the external provider directly notify the parents ensures that parents receive the most informed and precise information regarding their child’s well-being. 

Likewise, if a student is deemed a threat to him or herself or to others, the College may decide to notify parents without the consent of the student.  It should also be noted in accordance with Maine State Law that the College may only share health information with parents/guardians of students under the age of eighteen with that student’s written permission or in cases where there is a pressing personal health or public health emergency. The College may also contact a parent or guardian if it comes to the attention of school officials that a student has been inexplicably absent from campus for a prolonged period of time. 

As noted above, FERPA pertains specifically to educational records and it does not address records that may be generated in the Health and Counseling Centers on campus. FERPA’s protection of educational records does not include those records: (1) relating to a student that are either created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional; (2) generated solely to provide treatment to the student; and (3) not disclosed to anyone other than individuals providing such treatment.

However, access to Bowdoin’s Health and Counseling Services’ records is limited by departmental confidentiality policies. In particular, information shared, generated, and/or obtained during visits to either the Health Center or Counseling Center is protected from disclosure by specific policies regulating the release of such information.

Counseling Services and Health Services
Students may request to review their own confidential counseling or health records by filing a written authorization with the Director of the Counseling Services or Director of Health Services, respectively. This request must be responded to within a reasonable period of time not to exceed forty-five days. If the provider believes review of these records would be detrimental to the student’s own health, the Counseling Service and Health Service reserve the right to require that a member of the counseling or health staff be present while the student reviews the file in order to discuss or help interpret any information the file may contain.

With a student’s written authorization, counseling or health information can be disclosed to a third party for the specific purpose stated in that authorization. This authorization is retained with the student’s counseling or health records and is effective for a time period mutually agreed upon between the provider and student. Counseling and health records will be maintained for six years after a student’s year of graduation.

THERE ARE CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH LEGAL STATUTES REQUIRE OR ALLOW MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS TO BREAK CONFIDENTIALITY, WITHOUT CONSENT IF NECESSARY. THESE INCLUDE circumstances where there is serious danger to self or others, or suspicion of child or elder abuse. Also, in rare instances, counseling records may be subject to court subpoena. In the event of after-hours emergency services, information may also be shared with necessary campus personnel (i.e., Security, Office of the Dean of Students, and Residential Life) to provide safety and support.