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Is it legal (for a faculty member) to publicly reveal a student's performance in PhD comprehensive exams? In the US, isn't this in violation of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974?

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  • 1. I'm not completely sure whether this is off-topic in its present form, but i'll let others decide. 2. Could you post a link to any report in which this alleged violation has been done?
    – TCSGrad
    Jul 21, 2012 at 1:24
  • As written, this is not "off-topic," but it is "too localized." Please edit to remove references to the specific event; there is a general question about releasing information that can be asked without reference to the incident.
    – aeismail
    Jul 21, 2012 at 1:27
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    The audience for stackexchange includes people who are not familiar with acronyms such as FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, a U.S. federal law). In the future, please provide some context.
    – JRN
    Jul 21, 2012 at 4:48
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    After rephrasing the question is IMHO worth reopening, bur please add "in US" in the title and the content (FERPA is a US law, not an international one). Jul 21, 2012 at 10:34
  • I would be interested to know if there are similar laws in other countries.
    – Nobody
    Jul 21, 2012 at 11:09

2 Answers 2

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Edit, again: The question seems to have changed, yet again. :)

  1. A student can reveal their own performance in an exam. That information is their property.

  2. Faculty cannot publicly reveal students' performances, as that would, indeed, violate the "FERPA" laws. (As parent of over-18 college student, whose tuition I'm paying, I do not have access to her grades without her permission!)

Edit: Hm... the sense of the question is radically changed. [Initially, it was about faculty publicly disclosing students' performance results. When this answer was written, it had become about whether one could disclose one's own results.] Sure, one is at liberty to reveal one's own quality-of-performance on an exam in the U.S. The "FERPA" laws would only prevent your examiners from revealing your performance publicly or to anyone who did not have a legitimate operational professional reason to have access.

It might be that the content of the exam might be partly confidential, but that is a different issue.

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  • The question has been rephrased, you might want to rephrase your answer too :)
    – user102
    Jul 21, 2012 at 10:27
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I can think of three reasons why a faculty member might reveal how a student performed on a qualifying examination.

  1. When writing letters of recommendation requested by the student. Ideally you will have students provide you with written or electronic documentation stating what areas will be touched upon in a letter of recommendation. Assuming the student consents to you mentioning the qualifying examination, then you should be covered from litigation.

  2. When approached for a reference that the student hasn't informed you that they have requested. Often students list individuals as references, but then don't let the potential referees know. As of two years ago, my school has advised us to say nothing in these cases. While this initially hurt our students, they are now aware of the policy, and the number of surprise requests is greatly diminished. If you chose to ignore school policy and reveal information about the student, then you can presumably be held liable.

  3. Gossip. It can be accidental where you implying that someone failed his qualifying examination: "John is no longer a student here". It can also be intentional: "Don't be so quick to write off John's theory, he aced his qualifying exam." Both can get you in trouble. As with most gossip, you need to be careful with what you say and who is listening.

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