Hello FERPA Professor,
I received a FERPA-related question from a faculty member, and I wanted to run it by you before providing an answer.
This faculty member is looking to hold virtual office hours and invite students from all her courses to attend. The sessions would be held via Zoom and would not be recorded nor displayed in any way in the courses.
One concern is that students use office hours to discuss personal matters (grade, performance in an assignment, etc.), which wouldn't be able to take place in this particular format. The professor suggested if there is a privacy concern, she could
add a statement to the syllabus specifying that the "public" Zoom office hours are open to people outside of the course, and so they should contact her for a private Zoom session if they have privacy concerns.
What is your take on this situation from a FERPA perspective?
If the session is not being recorded, participation is voluntary, and if information contained in students' education records (i.e., grades, performance in classwork, etc,) is not discussed, then this would seem to be permissible under FERPA.
Adding a disclaimer to the syllabus would not replace the §99.30 signed consent requirement in FERPA, however, if any information from the students' education records is disclosed or discussed by the faculty member.
You can find the above cited regulation on page 159 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide
and the §99.3 "Disclosure" definition
on page 153.