Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

There are important limitations on accessing and sharing student information placed on us by federal legislation and college policy. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) provides considerable protection to our students and their records and legal sanctions against Williams if we do not comply. Therefore, it is necessary to understand your responsibilities prior to accessing the online student information system, PeopleSoft, which contains confidential information.

Under FERPA, information is divided into two categories: directory and non-directory. The law covers the educational records of living persons who are attending, or have attended Williams. The following procedures and policies cover both students and living alumni.

Unless the student or alum specifies otherwise to the Registrar, Williams may, but is not required to, release directory information without prior consent of the individual. Except under specific circumstances stipulated in the legislation, e.g. in response to a lawful subpoena or an emergency, Williams may not release non-directory information without prior consent of the student or alum.

Williams defines the following as directory information:

  • name
  • permanent and Williams College addresses
  • campus electronic mail address
  • permanent, mobile, and campus telephone numbers
  • date of birth
  • major field
  • extra-curricular activities
  • height and weight of members of athletic teams
  • dates of attendance
  • degrees, honors, and awards
  • other schools attended

Although this information is defined as directory or “public” under the law, it is not released indiscriminately. We do not, for instance, provide directories to outside agencies who wish to prepare mailing lists or otherwise solicit students. We request that you also follow this procedure. Please direct inquiries for information from off-campus to the Office of the Registrar.

In general, faculty and staff have access to personally identifiable non-directory information about students as long as they have a legitimate educational interest in the data—common legitimate interests might include:

  • Advising a student about course selections, fulfilling major or distribution requirements, or other similar academic advising matters.
  • Verifying that a student has added or dropped a course.
  • Assistance in writing a letter of recommendation.
  • Ensuring a student has met prerequisite requirements for a course or eligibility criteria for an award.
  • Gathering information to update department or program records.

Releasing personally identifiable non-directory information to others without prior permission from the student or alum is illegal. You cannot, for instance, provide information about grades to others, even parents, unless the student or alum has given you prior permission to share the data. You cannot even share course registration information with other students.

By accepting access privileges to Williams College’s student information system, PeopleSoft, you agree to abide by these regulations and also agree not to share your password with others.

Test your knowledge with our FERPA Tutorial, then request access to PeopleSoft.