All users of Starfish, regardless of role, are expected to meet the standards of record-keeping detailed below, consistent with Federal and University policy. For academic advisers, documentation of recommendations and interpretation of policy is a basic expectation of professional and ethical practice.
Maintaining record of interactions with students is essential for facilitating continuity in a student’s educational development. Notes maintained in Starfish are part of the student’s educational record, and are viewable by individuals in particular roles and educational connections with the student.
These records protect both the student and the university by allowing mistakes to be corrected, and students to be held accountable to instructions provided by university personnel. These documentation standards ensure that the content of these records are consistent with policy and ethical guidelines.
Use of Starfish notes should be consistent with all federal and university policies, as well as the ethical standards of the advising field:
- 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 educational 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 educational interactions
When creating a new record in Starfish, users can see which other Starfish roles are permitted to view this note. Users can choose to email students a copy of Starfish notes they create. Students may request to see their Starfish notes under their FERPA rights.
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 Starfish user connected with this student 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? Is the distinction clear and written in a non-judgmental tone?
- Are my notes interpretable by someone else? Did I provide enough information for another to understand substance and context? Did I avoid using arcane acronyms?
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 interpretations of policy, 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. Care should be taken to avoid positing diagnoses or revealing specific diagnoses in 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.
Policies on Disclosure of Student Records
Records in Starfish are visible to others in Starfish who have a legitimate educational need for that information and depending on the user’s Starfish roles and the permissions associated with the particular type of record.