Hundreds of Stanford students have begun requesting copies of their admission records under a 1974 federal law, spurring some Yale students to do the same.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Stanford must comply with these requests, The New York Times reported on Friday.
FERPA is a federal law that grants students the right to inspect and review their education records. If a student submits a written access request to the registrar’s office of a school that follows FERPA, the school must comply within 45 days by sending the student a copy of their files.
Though FERPA was enacted 41 years ago, a group of Stanford students who run an anonymous newsletter called “The Fountain Hopper” have brought the law back into the public eye by using it to request access to their records, The Times reported. At least one student has received his files back from Stanford administrators, The Times reported, which were comprised of his admission records, as well as a log of each time the student had used his identification card to unlock a door.
Stanford Associate Vice President for University Communications Lisa Lapin told the News that Stanford has to review any requests that may have been submitted over the three-day weekend. Stanford administrators are just getting to work now, she said.
“The law applies to all universities,” Lapin said. “FERPA applies only to enrolled students.”
The Yale University Registrar’s Office website echoes these words by stating that Yale follows FERPA law. Additionally, according to the website, students enrolled at the University have the right to access their education records, as well as request to have these records corrected, should they find something in them inaccurate or misleading.
FERPA further stipulates that a student can only submit a FERPA request to a university once they have enrolled, meaning that students who have been rejected from a school or who have not yet matriculated are ineligible to gain access to their admission documents.
“A student can make a FERPA request once they are in attendance at Yale, which means when the student is enrolled and classes begin,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said.
According to The Times, members of The Fountain Hopper publicized their findings to encourage more students to submit requests, both at Stanford and at other universities.
Both Quinlan and University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski said the University has recently seen an increase in requests.
“It is not rare for us to receive FERPA requests, but we have seen an increase recently,” Olszewski said.
Two Yale students — Scott Greenberg ’15, a staff columnist for the News, and Aaron Gertler ’16 — said they were inspired by The Fountain Hopper to submit their own FERPA access requests to the University Registrar’s Office on Saturday. Greenberg and Gertler both said they expected that finding any scores or comments on their records may provide useful insight into the inner mechanisms of the University’s admissions process.
Both students said they have not yet received a response from the Registrar’s Office.
While Greenberg said he is interested in holding the administration accountable for their decisions, Gertler said simple curiosity was his main motivation for sending in a request.
“I also have a little brother who may apply to Yale in a few years, and who is very similar to me in many ways,” Gertler said. “I’d like to see how Yale thought my application could have been stronger so that I’ll be in a position to advise my brother.”
FERPA was passed in 1974, and has been amended by Congress a total of nine times since its enactment.