Maintaining record of interactions with students is essential for facilitating continuity in a student’s educational development. For academic advisers, it is a basic expectation of professional and ethical practice. Notes maintained in Starfish are part of the student’s educational record, and are viewable by individuals in particular roles and educational relationships with the student.
Use of advising notes should be consistent with the ethical standards of the advising field (per the Exposition of NACADA’s Core Values):
- Respect for student confidentiality rights regarding personal information;
- Understanding of the institution’s interpretation of applicable laws such as the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA);
- Accessing student information only when relevant to the advising process.
- Entering or changing information on students’ records only with appropriate institutional authorization to do so;
- Documenting contacts adequately to meet institutional disclosure guidelines and aid in subsequent advising interactions.
Self-Check Questions When Accessing Student Records
When accessing student records, ask yourself:
- Do I have a specific, job-related need to access this record?
Self-Check Questions When Entering Notes
When entering notes, assume others will read your notes. Ask yourself:
- Is this something another adviser would need to know?
- Is this something the student would want other people to know?
- Are the details in my notes based on fact? Or are they observation and personal perspective?
Standard Topics to be Documented
Every substantial contact with a student or relating to a student should be documented, and should include appropriate details and the date of the interaction. Typically, this documentation includes the content of discussion with students, including curricular goals, issues raised, and recommendations made.
Sensitive Subject Matter
Caution should be exercised when documenting topics that contain sensitive subject matter. These include: disability, religious and/or political affiliation, sexual orientation, medical diagnoses, or information that could be potentially detrimental to the student if it were revealed to a third party. Penn State’s policy AD11 excludes records of the Police Services Records Division, records related to an individual’s employment, and records made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist from the educational record.
Official documents related to these topics are not to be kept in Starfish notes, even if necessary for legitimate academic business. Records with medical or judicial content that are included in petitions to the University Faculty Senate, should be kept separately from the educational record, in a different location. At University Park, petitions including such information must be forwarded immediately to the Faculty Senate Office, with a copy kept in the office of the associate director of DUS. Upon receipt of the decision regarding that petition, the copy will be destroyed.
Policies on Disclosure of Student Records
Disclosure to the Student
Following FERPA and AD11, a currently or previously enrolled student has the right to inspect and review his/her educational records, and may do so by making a written request to his or her college. The college must respond within forty-five days of the request by arranging an appointment for the student to review the record. Access should be provided in the presence of an administrator. The student has the right to an explanation of any information contained in the record. The student is entitled to a copy of his or her records at a reasonable administrative cost, but the student may not remove or alter any original files without following the procedure for Challenge of Record Entry outlined below.
Letters of Recommendation
A student should request letters of recommendation in writing, and specify whether or not an adviser can reveal information contained in the educational record. See Policy AD11 for additional details. Advisers may use the Request for Letter of Recommendation Form if desired.
Disclosure of Information to Third Parties
Following Policy AD11, “disclosure of information contained in student records, files, and data is normally controlled by the student… Such disclosures may be made to someone other than a University official having a legitimate educational interest in the records only on the condition that prior written consent is obtained from the student. The third party is to be reminded that he/she should not permit additional access to the information by an additional person without further written consent of the student prior to such a transfer of information.” The Consent to Release Education Records Form should be used when students wish to waive right to confidentiality.
Disclosure to Parents
Following Policy AD11, the assumption of the University is that students are not dependents within the meaning of the Internal Revenue Code unless individually certified to the contrary following criteria defined in AD11. Information regarding a student is not released to any third party – including parents – unless the student grants prior written permission for the sharing of specific information. Students must specify the nature of the information to be shared and the length of time the waiver will be valid. The Consent to Release Education Records Form may be used when students wish to waive right to confidentiality.
Disclosure Pursuant to Judicial Order
University officials should authorize requests from state and federal authorities for information regarding a student. An adviser should never release student records without consultation with their unit’s administrator, to ensure proper authorization.
Disclosure Under Emergency Conditions
A designated officer of the University may release information about a student when that information is necessary to protect the health or safety of a student. Advisers should consult with the unit’s administrator concerning any such case, and the release of the information should be appropriately documented.
Disclosure as a Function of Assessment and Research
Following Policy AD11, information that will not permit the individual identification of students may be released to educational agencies or institutions for the purpose of assessment. Any public presentation of assessment or research results must have prior authorization by the Office of Research Protections.
Disclosure to Other University Employees or Offices
Student educational records may be disclosed to other University officials or offices having a legitimate educational interest in the records. Caution should be exercised, and questions about specific cases should be directed to the unit’s administrator.
Challenge of Record Entry
Following Policy AD11, “the student is entitled to challenge and/or add to the factual basis of any record entry contained in records, files, and/or data.” The purpose of this challenge is to ensure that such entries are not inaccurate or misleading, or in violation of his/her privacy or other rights as a student. Furthermore, “the student has the right to file a complaint with the Department of Education concerning alleged failures of the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.”
|Starfish Role||Notes from Meetings with advisers||Notes from Meetings with instructors||Notes from Flags, Kudos, and Referrals||Advising Note
||Notes imported from legacy advising note systems|
|Academic Support Staff||View||X||View||Create, View||View||View|
|Assigned Adviser||Create, View||X||Create, View||Create, View||Create, View||View|
|General Adviser||Create, View||X||Create, View||Create, View||Create, View||View|
|Instructor||X||Create, View||Create, View||X||Create, View||X|
|Student||Email, if creator chooses||Email, if creator chooses||Email, if creator chooses||Email, if creator chooses||X|