FERPA Concerns Prompt Temporary Removal of Past Course Websites

November 15, 2011

As a precautionary measure, the College of Computing recently removed information from its public domain to proactively evaluate FERPA compliance. Per the message from College of Computing Dean Zvi Galil, there was no intent to inhibit academic engagement. Below is Dean Galil's message to faculty, sent Nov. 14, 2011.

 

Nov. 14, 2011

Dear Faculty:

The Georgia Tech Office of Information Technology (OIT) has notified the College of Computing that pages on our class websites expose information protected by FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act of 1974). In response, with my approval the College's Technology Services Organization (TSO) took down all past course websites stored on College servers earlier today. Current semester sites will remain up, and TSO and the Office of Academic Affairs are working with the Office of the Registrar to identify and mitigate any further exposures of protected data on those pages.

The exposures identified by OIT represent not just a few isolated incidences, but a pattern resulting from practices many of us follow in building and maintaining course websites. And it is not simply a pattern in the College of Computing; all Georgia Tech colleges will have to deal with this issue. Put simply, FERPA prohibits the release of student names in connection with any particular classes in which they have been enrolled, and this connection can be either explicit or reasonably inferred. Going forward, we must find a way to retain the value that course websites provide both to the College’s teaching and its reputation, while upholding our legal requirement to protect FERPA data.

We are working with the Educational Technology department and OIT to find a sustainable solution. We will be talking to many of our faculty and will share the results of our efforts as soon as possible. Any faculty who are actively using pages from past course sites should submit a help request to the TSO Help Desk to restore this information (minus FERPA data, of course). Please direct all other questions to Associate Dean Charles Isbell.

 

Thank you,

Zvi Galil

John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of Computing