SG to edit rules to comply with student privacy laws

Eleanor Dearman

Student Government and a group of administrators will reexamine SG’s governing documents Tuesday because of the Office of Legal Affairs’ decision to not allow the release of interview notes in early August.

The decision was a response to the SG court’s request in May for the release of interview notes from internal and external positions. SG assembly speaker Braydon Jones said SG was planning to revise its governing documents over the summer, but because SG drew significant attention regarding the interview notes, the documents are being examined in greater detail for compliance with the Office of Dean of Students’ policy.

Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff, said SG must make sure to follow the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other University rules.

“We’re subject, of course, to higher laws than the Student Government rules,” Jordan said. “But I think [it] was good in that it sparked a discussion about what our rules actually say and how we can reformat them.” 

SG President Kori Rady said the discussion of whether interview notes should be released never occurred because no one had requested them in recent years until May. Jones, who worked as chief of staff during the 2013-2014 school year, said interview notes were taken and stored by the chief of staff in the past. 

“I oversaw that each member of our executive board who sat in an interview completed a rubric,” Jones said in an email. “I kept each rubric on file in my office; and once my term was completed this past April, I shredded each document. I am not sure if other Chief of Staffs kept their interview notes on file; however, I do know they were never released.”

When the Office of Legal Affairs determined releasing the interview notes would violate FERPA, Jordan said SG executives were not told what area of the law releasing the notes violated.

“All we were told was that the notes would constitute a FERPA violation and were therefore not producible in an unaltered state,” Jordan said. 

According to Jeffery Graves, associate vice president of the Office of Legal Affairs, any student document or record that contains personal information not released in the student directory is a violation of FERPA. 

“FERPA does not distinguish between any sorts of records,” Graves said. “There’s nothing about GPA, transcripts and academic records. It protects all records when they are directly related to a student, and they are maintained by a institution.”

Jordan said SG rules are currently being examined for other contradictions between SG and the Office of Dean of Students’ regulations. 

“[Our governing document] was written by students, for students,” Jordan said. “I think it would be a different animal if it were written by someone with a legal background, but it was written for students, so naturally there’s some contradictions in there.”

Jones said SG rules have been flawed for the last few years. 

“I believe that the circumstances over the last few months have made it clear that there are some problems with the current wording of our governing documents,” Jones said. “This is an exciting time for the assembly, as we will be able to make this serious adjustment as we are restructuring our current rules.”

Several months into the new SG term, there are still positions empty. Jordan said a time line for when final decisions will be made and how the interview process will change is still uncertain.

“I think this clarity will definitely help Student Government in the coming year to understand when transparency is important and when it is overshadowed by the legal aspect of how we exist in the university structure,” Jordan said.