Sunday, June 10, 2007

Privacy? I Pay The Bills, I Want The Grades

Privacy? I Pay The Bills, I Want The Grades
By Ann Baldelli
Published on 6/10/2007

It's prudent to be leery of information from Wikipedia, the free, online encyclopedia, because contributors from around the world write this resource collaboratively.

Anyone can edit or add to an article, so users must always be careful and realize the source might not be factual. But anyone who is computer savvy will also tell you that Wikipedia is a great place to get a quick understanding of many issues. Say, something like the subject of privacy.

Here's Wikipedia's take on privacy: “Privacy has no definite boundaries and it has different meanings for different people. It is the ability of an individual or group to keep their lives and personal affairs out of public view, or to control the flow of information about themselves.”

It goes on to say, “the right against unsanctioned invasion of privacy by the government, corporations or individuals is part of many countries' laws, and in some cases, constitutions.”

Privacy is an implied but not a guaranteed right in the U.S. Constitution. We expect our right of privacy, but we don't always value it. And quite frankly, sometimes we overstep the boundaries.

But lately, I've been wondering if this whole question of privacy isn't getting totally out of control. Here's the latest rub for me.

My firstborn is heading off to college, and I've recently learned that the institution he'll be attending — like all schools that accept federal funds — is bound by the regulations of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) not to release information pertaining to his academic record to me without first obtaining the express permission of said son in writing.

In other words, he has to sign a waiver for his grades to be sent home to me.

It should have been clear that my perceived rights were changing when his tuition bill arrived in our mailbox addressed to him. He's not paying the bill.

When I called the college about his proposed student loan, I was told he needed to make the call, not me.

According to FERPA, which is also known as the Buckley Amendment, college students, regardless of age, are considered responsible adults and are allowed to determine who will receive information about them. Under the law, parents who want to receive a copy of their student's academic or financial records can do so only if their student signs a release.

Certainly there are many students who pay their own tuition and have every right to have their grades and bills sent directly to them. But it seems screwy to me that a person, or a parent, who is paying a college bill, is denied access to financial information and grades, simply because their child is no longer in high school.

In most cases, students sign the waiver to allow their parents to receive their grades, and in extreme cases, parents could stop paying the tuition if the student didn't agree to sign.

It just seems an odd interpretation of privacy for young adults who in many cases are still dependent on their parents, financially, and otherwise. And a bit, contradictory, too.

We're just back from a parent/student orientation at my son's chosen school, and it was made abundantly clear that overindulgence of alcohol and/or drugs will not be tolerated there. In fact, the head of security and judicial affairs told the assembled parents that if their student is transported to the hospital for drug or alcohol abuse, we'll get a call.

Apparently the college is not subject to the hospital privacy laws.

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