Dear FERPA Professor,
I need your assistance with a request for non-directory information for a research study by some professors in our sociology department.
To wit, the professors are requesting assistance in acquiring contact lists (to include names and emails) of our institution’s students who self-identify as African American, Asian/Asian American, Native American, Hispanic/Latina/o, or multiracial. The lists will be used to contact the students and ask for their participation in an online survey and in focus groups as part of a larger study. The project itself was approved by our Office of Research & Engagement.
I am concerned that the students may not be comfortable with my giving a list of students who self-identify as minorities to professors who don’t necessarily have a need to know. The professors are conducting a research study. Is there something in the law that allows this since it’s a research project? Any advice you have would be very helpful.
You are correct in your conclusion that the student records information that includes race/gender/ethnicity cannot generally be disclosed under FERPA unless it is done so in response to a signed consent from the student(s) or meets specific conditions of one of the exceptions to signed consent found in §99.31 of the FERPA regulations. One of those exceptions would permit the disclosure for research purposes, but only if the research is on behalf of the institution (not individuals at the institution) as required in §99.31(a)(6) and that the written agreement requirements found in §99.31(a)(6)(iii)(C) are met. You can find the above cited regulations on pages 160-161 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.
I hope this is helpful in answering your inquiry.
The FERPA Professor
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