Information About Records
Although state records law guarantees citizens' rights to public records, state and federal statutes and regulations affect the public's access to certain types of records. For instance, it generally exempts from disclosure several categories of records. Those exemptions that pertain to higher education may include medical records; confidential law enforcement investigatory records; intellectual property records; donor profile records. The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) restricts public access to most student records and information without consent from the student. However, University officials who have a demonstrated need to know as part of their official duties may have access to relevant student records. "Directory" information may be released without a student's consent.
Confidential records include the following (not an all-inclusive list):
Documents including social security numbers or student ID numbers; student grades; disciplinary actions (for students, staff, or faculty); medical records; study reports including identifying information about test subjects; financial records with account numbers or credit card numbers; donor information.
Records access and information disclosure are very complex issues. Consequently, this section should not be considered legal advice. When questions arise, there are several sources of guidance. Refer questions about disclosure of and access to faculty personnel files to the office of the Provost, and staff personnel records and information to the Office of Human Resources.
Refer questions about access to student records to the Office of Registration and Records.
Other questions about record access should be referred to the University General Counsel's Office.
The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) restricts public access to most student records and information without consent from the student. However, University officials who have a demonstrated need to know as part of their official duties may have access to relevant student records. "Directory" information may be released without a student's consent. Directory information may include: student name; current address (home and campus); telephone number (home and campus); class standing; date and place of birth; academic college; major; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; dates of attendance; date and type of degree; degrees and awards received; and most recent previous educational institution attended. Students may request in writing to the Office of Registration and Records that their directory information be kept confidential. The restriction remains in effect until revoked by the student, even if the student leaves the University or graduates.
A student academic record is defined as a record of academic work pursued and includes grades, course evaluations, and competency assessments, etc. It is the responsibility of all University employees who have access to student academic records, to keep them safe and private. Faculty members handle their grade records in different ways. Some may have a handwritten grade book, while others may have the information on their personal computer, but whatever method is chosen, those records must be protected. The best protection for the records is to keep the information only until it is no longer needed. As far as the actual grades are concerned, once the grades are reported to Registration and Records, you no longer need the information. The basis for the grades, e.g. scores for tests or papers, needs to be kept until midway through the following semester, in the event of a grade appeal.
Faculty members receive requests from former students for references. Working with so many students makes it difficult sometimes for a faculty member to remember details about individual students from the past. There are three ways to access student records without keeping the individual grades and PO numbers:
The academic office, academic advisor, or college will have files on students that you may view;
The student may provide you with a copy of her/his transcript obtainable through Registration & Records; Create a substitute for a grade book after each semester to write general notes about students that could be used in potential reference letters. If you printed the student roster from your Canvas course shell, you should shred it after the semester has ended. Having student information on a laptop, PC, or external drive such as a flash drive puts that information at risk. Laptop thefts are common, as is the loss of flash drives. Convenience is hardly worth the price to the student, the University, or yourself for the loss of that information.
Records Retention For Public Colleges and Universities in Ohio: A Manual, published by the Inter University Council of Ohio, provides a list of possible items contained in a personnel file for Administrative, Classified and Faculty employees, all of which have a retention period of active + 6 years. This retention period applies to the official personnel file that Bowling Green State University maintains in the office of Human Resources for Administrative and Classified Staff and the office of the Provost for Faculty. Personnel files held in the department/office and division in which the individual is employed are not considered to be the official personnel files, but rather copies maintained to facilitate administration of the department/office and division. Only copies of what is in the official personnel file should be in the department/office file because while it is not the official file, it is open to discovery.
Personnel Files are not confidential records and under the Ohio Public Records Laws are open to the public, with a few exceptions, most notably medical records, social security numbers, and peace officer, fire fighters, or EMT's residential and familial information. In order to facilitate compliance with Public Records Laws, medical records should be maintained in a separate folder from the personnel file. When you are providing personnel information as a result of a public records request, the social security number must be redacted from any documents before they are disclosed. Forms, correspondence, and reports generated during a disciplinary, grievance, harassment or discriminatory proceeding are public record. [See Ohio Revised Code 1347.01 (8) and take reasonable precaution to protect personal information from unauthorized modification, destruction, use or disclosure].
Confidential materials should be stored separately from personnel files and may include:
Physical examination reports; disability establishment; disabilities accommodation requests; psychiatric records; psychological records; maternity Leave/FMLA/personal/medical leave documents; medical records (medical history, diagnosis, prognosis, or medical condition); workers compensation claim documents; social security numbers (must be redacted from all public documents prior to disclosure); attorney-client communications to or from university attorneys concerning university legal matters; trade secrets: scientific, technical, business and other information that independent economic value is derived from. Faculty research, until such time as it is patented, copyrighted or otherwise voluntarily made public, may be classified as a confidential trade secret.
1. Personnel Files - Classified Staff:
Employment record maintained for full-time and part-time classified employees. Files may contain applications, copies of driver's license, leave of absence requests, letters of commendation and reprimand, transfer requests, leave forms, evaluations, reclassifications, certifications, promotions, step increases, longevity, PERS forms, employee's inspection of personnel file form, personnel card, etc.
2. Personnel Files - Contract (Administrative) Staff:
Employment record maintained for full-time and part-time university contract employees. Files can contain position descriptions, applications, letters of appointment or change, personnel data, notice of salary rate, annual contracts, performance evaluations, PERS forms, previous state service forms, letters of commendation or reprimand, publications, evidence of continuing education, transfers, leave of absence requests, payroll forms, vacation and sick leave reports, resignations, termination notices.
3. Personnel Files - Faculty:
Employment record maintained for full and part-time and adjunct faculty. Files contain original faculty contracts and addenda, promotion and tenure documentation, original transcripts, hiring documentation, resumes, letters of recommendation, correspondence, teaching schedules, sabbatical information, evaluation forms, STRS forms, promotion and tenure decisions. Relevant supporting documentation that leads to disciplinary action should be kept in the official personnel file. Documentation regarding a violation of good teaching practices or equal opportunity and affirmative action regulations should be kept in the file if it leads to disciplinary action. If someone has a complaint against a faculty member that does not result in disciplinary action, the correspondence would be placed in the appropriate departmental/college file. Documentation that is part of a grievance that is filed with FPCC should be kept in a separate file that is attached to the official personnel file.
Documentation marked as Confidential Attorney/Client Privileged Communication should not be released without permission from General Counsel. It should be labeled and kept in a separate manila file folder within the personnel file. These documents would not be released as part of a public records request.
Letters of Reprimand--if a reprimand letter states that it will be removed from the personnel file after a certain date, the letter would be pulled from the file and handled according to the records retention schedule.
When a staff member switches from classified/administrative to faculty or from faculty to classified/administrative, the files should be merged into one chronological file. If the individual is becoming a faculty member, the Provost's Office should request the classified/administrative file from Human Resources. A faculty member's personnel file should be forwarded to Human Resources if they are changing to classified/administrative staff.
When archiving faculty personnel files, retain the following vitae:
- Vitae from original date of hire
- Vitae from Reappointment Review binder
- Vitae from Promotion and Tenure Review binder
- Vitae from Promotion to Full Professor binder
Public Record Laws
House Bill 9 (126th GA - Revisions to Public Records Laws)
House Bill 104 (126th GA - Sensitive Data Security)
UETA (Uniform Electronic Transaction Act - HB 488 123rd GA)