I’d like to reiterate and expand on an email from Provost Wu that you should have received on Monday regarding a new Virginia law governing disclosure of student information. The new law goes beyond the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) in terms of what information cannot be disclosed and under what conditions.
While FERPA had an “opt out” clause for disclosure of what is called “directory information”, the Virginia law (https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title23.1/chapter4/section23.1-405/) is an “opt in” law and states that “no institution shall disclose the address, telephone number, or email address of a student … unless the student has affirmatively consented in writing to such disclosure.”
This means that you cannot send email to your class with any student’s email visible to other students as would happen if you put the entire class list in the “To” or “CC” sections. You MUST use the “BCC” section for all student lists used for emails – or use the messaging function in Blackboard, which has the same function.
Please remember that, even for group projects, you still can’t send out an email with student email addresses exposed. The campus FERPA office suggested that you use groups in Blackboard to assign the groups and have the groups either use Blackboard’s chat function or agree among themselves to share emails. You could also assign the groups in a classroom setting and have the students meet while in the room to share contact information.
You can also ask students to sign a consent form, but you cannot require that they do so as part of the class. And you must save those consent forms for at least six months.
CHAIRS: Please share this information with your adjunct faculty.
Please contact me if you have any questions about this new law and I will try to help.
Jonathan Goldman Volgenau School of Engineering
Director of Computing Resources George Mason University
(703) 993-3506 4400 University Dr. MSN 4A3
fax (703) 993-3977 Fairfax, VA 22030-4444