[Cs-affiliates] Student Privacy and returning of assignments

Devits, Christopher R cdevits at bu.edu
Thu Oct 20 15:03:48 EDT 2016

Dear Faculty,

Today I attended a meeting, hosted by University Registrar Christine Paal, regarding FERPA and student privacy.

One item she particularly noted was the returning of graded student assignments (homework included) and examinations. IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY – It is a violation of FERPA for faculty, graders, TFs, etc to leave graded exams or homework where students can see each other’s grades and work. Leaving personally identifiable, graded papers or examinations unattended for students to view is no different from posting grades in the hallway.

For some of our courses, our current practice is to return graded assignments via the return boxes located by the Crypto suite. If the returned assignments have been graded (even just a check mark to confirm receipt) and have personal identification on them such as a student’s name, email, UID, etc, then that procedure is in fact in violation of FERPA. Consequently, effective immediately, I’d ask that for your courses please refrain from using the return boxes if the assignments to be returned contain grades and identifiable information. Please relay this information on to your graders and Teaching Fellows as appropriate.

Alternative suggestions include:

·         Returning assignments during class or at lab/discussion sections. Here they should be handed back to the individual student by faculty or a TF, not left on a table in front for students to sort through to find their own. Students could also come to office hours for either TF or faculty or at other designated times to pick up assignments.

·         Continue to use the return boxes for homework, and assign students random “class identification numbers” (cannot use UIDs). Assignments would be left in the return boxes in a random order. The returned assignments should have no grade on them, but students could log into Blackboard or a class website for example to see their grade. Such random numbers could be assigned at the beginning of a course and used throughout the semester. Students should be urged to keep the numbers confidential, and a statement to that effect should be included in a course syllabus.

If you have any questions regarding the above, or concerning FERPA in general, please don’t hesitate to come by and ask. The essence is that student privacy needs to be protected, and I’m happy to help work through some solutions or run them by the administration if there’s questions.



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