“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” -Harry Truman

It’s the end of the term here at my college, as well as most colleges across the nation. And while the students are freaking out about finals, grades, and other things associated with the end of the semester, there’s a new one that’s coming up more and more frequently all across the nation.

I’m looking squarely at you, helicopter parents. While college students, perhaps, should be going through and learning to cope with the stresses of higher education, many of them are more concerned with what their parents are going to say if they get a bad grade, drop a class, or even (gasp) choose to major in the subject they really like.

This phenomenon is well documented, and recently many professors around the country have been facing encounters with dissatisfied parents.

And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting your child to succeed or wanting your parents to be happy and proud of you, there’s a line that I want to make very clear. I want it to be clear to students, parents, and professors.

College and University students have a right to privacy. In the United States, it’s called FERPA: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. And there are a lot of rights and protections that you have as a student eighteen or over, and that you must respect as both a parent and a professor.

As a student, your grades, enrollment, assignments, and interactions with professors are all completely confidential. As a professor, I am not allowed, legally, to give out any information whatsoever about a student without that student’s explicit permission.

And, like practically all professors, I don’t. But this message is most important for parents, and for students who are worried about their irate parents.

What happens if a parent calls or emails a professor? (Which, by the way, you should never, ever do unless the student is having a medical emergency.)

Quite simply, I can’t give out any information, other than other phone numbers on campus.

Want to know how your child is doing in my class? Can’t tell you.

Want to know if your child has been showing up? Can’t tell you.

Want to know if your child is even enrolled in my class? Can’t tell you.

College students get treated like adults in college, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of adults. And unless it’s the academic advising office or the student has explicitly told me that I can discuss their academics with a third party, what happens in a professor’s class is no one else’s business.

And this is true for all students in all Colleges and Universities everywhere in the country. Before a student even steps into a professor’s class, this agreement is in place. Students: you are legally protected academically, and no one can invade your academic privacy without your permission. Professors: you are legally protected from parents, friends, administrators, coworkers, or anyone else who wants to break academic confidentiality. And parents: most of you are absolutely wonderful and supportive of your children’s rights, ambitions, and choices, and I laud you for that.

But to those who would breach that academic privacy, you have no power here.

FERPA protects all college students, past and present, from having their academics discussed with a third party without express permission from the student.

To all the students, professors, and all the good parents out there, spread this information, and let people know that their academic privacy is legally protected, and that nobody — not even parents — can override that.

Comments

  1. #1 Jack
    December 10, 2010

    Don’t schools still confirm if you graduated from that school or not? Otherwise what’s to keep everyone from claiming a Harvard degree on their resumes?

  2. #2 John
    December 10, 2010

    It is easy to theoretically talk about students’ privacy wrt their parents, but in reality parents pay for their children’s education and exert influence of all sorts (for good or for bad) over their kids, as you’d expect.

    Let’s put it another way, if you don’t want to think of parents as naturally influencing and wanting info on their kids. They are “investors” who are inquiring about their “assets” or “investments” and they will talk to them to sign whatever form you desire to talk to you, if you’re strict about it.

    But it rarely comes to that sort of understanding because as mentioned, their influence over their kids will be such that they are told of their progress from them.

  3. #3 daedalus2u
    December 10, 2010

    This reminds me of my freshman year. There was another freshman who was forced by his father, against his will to go to the school we were both at. His response was to flunk out by not doing any work, not going to any classes, not doing anything. It was very sad. What a waste.

    Never, never, never get into a conflict with your child where they can “win” by doing something self-destructive.

    Actually, that goes for every conflict with everyone.

  4. #4 theonides
    December 10, 2010

    Technically, this applies to all college students, EVEN MINORS. I teach at a community college, and we relatively frequently get high school students in our classes taking courses for college credit, or because they are homeschooled, etc. I am legally forbidden from telling even their parents anything at all about their college experience, from, like you said, grades to attendence. You go to college at 16, the law treats you like an adult.

  5. #5 Childermass
    December 11, 2010

    Naturally, the university will mail the grades to the home address at the end of the semester. For quite a few students that will be the same address as mommy and daddy. So much for privacy unless the student has the initiative and foresight to request the grades be sent somewhere else.

    Also, honor rolls for university students are often published in newspapers and on the web — sometimes with GPAs.

  6. #6 Chem undergrad
    December 11, 2010

    @ Childermass

    Not all schools mail grades. My uni only posts grades online (in a password-protected area, of course). I do get letters to inform me of honor roll placements, though, and my degree will be mailed.

  7. #7 Chem undergrad
    December 11, 2010

    Amendment to my first post: just remembered my degree isn’t mailed either. I actually get it on stage during graduation. My uni’s weird that way.

  8. #8 Samantha Vimes
    December 11, 2010

    Childremass, it would be illegal– tampering with the U.S. mail– for the parents to open mail addressed to their children. Legally, the privacy is very well protected by mailing.

    However, the kind of parent who tries to control their child’s college experience might well ignore the law. Nothing prevents the student from giving their best friend’s address as their mailing address, if they need to.

  9. #9 Sili
    December 11, 2010

    Don’t schools still confirm if you graduated from that school or not?

    Presumably claiming graduation from a given school on official documents implicitly grants permission to confirm that claim?

    Otherwise what’s to keep everyone from claiming a Harvard degree on their resumes?

    Doesn’t doing so constitute fraud?

  10. #10 Rob Ryan
    December 11, 2010

    When my 16 year old goes to college, he’ll need to show me his grades to be continue to be funded, it’s as simple as that. If he says “I’m an adult, I don’t have to show you” then my (obvious) response will be “as an adult, make your own way.” If he finds a way to make it on his own, he can keep his grades private but his motivation to keep them acceptable will be much higher. Or he’ll drop out. Being an adult and all, he can deal with the consequences of that.

    But I certainly won’t look to his school for any such information.

  11. #11 joemac53
    December 11, 2010

    The good old days: Students could afford to go to college if they worked three jobs in the summer and worked part time during the school year.

    Today: FAFSA, and get ready to be squeezed.

    I took on a lot of my children’s education cost, but didn’t hear about grades except from the one that was grade-conscious her entire life. They were (are) all motivated and mostly enjoyed school. I tried to let them be as free as I was (see the good old days).

    However, I never went into debt for the kids’ education. We never took vacations and only had one TV. They will have enough (but not too much) debt when they graduate to ensure they will get a job. I won the kid sweepstakes in one respect: the two who have finished school both have steady professional jobs and own (small) houses not far away. Yay!

  12. #12 Rob Ryan
    December 11, 2010

    I did most of the stuff in my comment – took on debt, dropped out, went to work, paid the student loans from my first two years of college out of my income, went back and finished in night school. As I mentioned, I was a much better student when I was writing checks every quarter at a Cal State University Los Angeles than when I was going to Northwestern on student loans. My parents didn’t contribute a dime either time, maybe they knew what they were doing (but I doubt it).

    I will concede that they didn’t ever see my grades. On the other hand, since they had no investment, they probably didn’t care. Funny how that works…

  13. #13 Mike
    December 12, 2010

    I’d have to say I’m with Rob (@10) on this. If I’m footing the bill for my kid’s advanced education, I have some right to see how they’re progressing. It’s almost an Employer / Employee relationship in that context: I’m paying for their education and I am entitled to know I’m getting what I pay for.

    I’m also with him on the question is between me and my kid. They’re the one who has the “I’m footing the bill, so I expect you to do your best” deal with me, not the University. Their relationship is with my kid, not with me, so I’m good with them keeping that information private.

    If my kid’s paying their own way through school somehow with loans, jobs, or scholarships? I’m going to be curious, sure, but I don’t have any right to know how they’re doing. They’re making the effort to succeed. I’m good with that.

  14. #14 daedalus2u
    December 12, 2010

    #10 and #13, If the only way you can remain an informed participant in your child’s educational experience is by threatening to withhold funding, that is just so sad for the both of you, parent and child.

  15. #15 simbol
    December 12, 2010

    Since my child didn’t ask me to put him into the world, it is my duty:

    1)Feed, shelter and protect his psychological and physical health.

    2)Pay the University, so that he gets the maximum professional advantages.

    3) Give him a good house when he marry

    4) Give him a good business for him to thrive.

    5) Give him the maximum money I can as inheritance.

    All this is directed to facilitate his life until he die since I put him in the world without his agreement.

    Of course many people would say that their duties don´t go beyond college, but the fact is the child could be unsuccessful in his profession and at some point could be unemployed and homeless for reason he cannot control.

    So, when you decide to have children, remember that your responsibility will last until the last day of that child. If you don´t agree, don´t have children.

    You would say that my opinion is senseless because it could lead to the disappearance of the human race since all this duties cannot be met.

    My answer: who told you that the human race had any sense?

  16. #16 Rob Ryan
    December 12, 2010

    #14 – I don’t expect that to be what happens, I expect my son to let me know how he’s doing all through the semester/quarter and then to discuss his grades when he receives them. In the unlikely event that he says “you have no right to see them, I don’t want to talk about it” then the above scenario would play out. Disappointing? Yes.

    As to #15, hard to know what to make of that.

  17. #17 islami sohbet
    December 12, 2010

    arama motorlarinda en iyi yerlere gelmek istiyoruz Alınan bilgiye göre, Dörtyol’un Yeniyurt köyü yakınlarındaki Botaş tesisinde, 150 bin varil ham petrolün bulunduğu akaryakıt tankına yıldırım düştü.
    Tesis çalışanlarının müdahalesiyle kontrol altına alınmaya çalışan yangın, kısa sürede büyüdü.
    Yangına Dörtyol, İskenderun, Erzin ve Adana’nın Ceyhan ilçe belediyesi itfaiye ekipleri müdahale etti. Elves as a crucially important element (Legolas/Elrond and Hermey/Hermey’s boss). But I think that’s probably enough for now. I hope that this analysis has helped to deepen your appreciation of the world of literature.

  18. #18 dini sohbet
    December 12, 2010

    arama motorlarinda en iyi yerlere gelmek istiyoruz Alınan bilgiye göre, Dörtyol’un Yeniyurt köyü yakınlarındaki Botaş tesisinde, 150 bin varil ham petrolün bulunduğu akaryakıt tankına yıldırım düştü.
    Tesis çalışanlarının müdahalesiyle kontrol altına alınmaya çalışan yangın, kısa sürede büyüdü.
    Yangına Dörtyol, İskenderun, Erzin ve Adana’nın Ceyhan ilçe belediyesi itfaiye ekipleri müdahale etti

  19. #19 Mark Baker
    December 13, 2010

    Having a 16 year old and a 14 year old I am torn on this one. Yes an 18 year old should be able to make his own decisions and part of the learning process is making bad decisions. However, with college costing up to $30,000 or more an extra set of eyes can be a good thing.

    If society does not trust an 18 year old to drink a beer responsibly why should we trust an 18 year old to make $100,000 decisions on college education responsibly?

  20. #20 cennetevi
    December 13, 2010

    arama motorlarinda en iyi yerlere gelmek icin caba harciyoruz elimizden gelenin en iyisi bu gerekeni yapiyoruz tabiki olursa baska napalim hep basarimiz bizim olmali ve sizlerin en iyi yerlere gelmek icin
    Unutmayin basari önemlidir ama onu surdurmek daha onemlidir

  21. #21 Mike
    December 13, 2010

    @14, daedalus2u

    I think you misunderstood our comments. It’s not a matter of threatening our kids with withholding funding, it’s that there are expectations on both sides. If they want us to put them through school, then we expect them to actually do their best and to keep us in the loop as to how they’re doing.

    And note, please, it’s not even an expectation that they’re going to succeed and get good grades. Just that they’re going to do their best. If they’re not succeeding, then we can figure out why and what best to do about it.

    You don’t have any right to know” isn’t an acceptable answer when we’re footing the bill.

    Is my relationship with my kid such that she’d tell me that? No. Is it such that I’d realistically be withholding funding for her education? No. But the “Ok, here’s the deal . . .” talk does include “As long as I’m paying your way, I want you to keep me in the loop.

    And yes, “sure thing, dad” is the expected answer.

  22. #22 Vicki
    December 13, 2010

    From another angle: I suspect that some of those requests for information from parents come from lack of trust. The student says “I’m doing fine in everything except bio, and I’ve got a tutor there.” If there’s a good relationship, the parents may express sympathy, or ask if there’s anything they can do, or maybe send a care package that they think will cheer their child up.

    One kind of bad relationship leads to the parents calling the school to make sure that their child really is doing well in the other classes, or that s/he is attending the tutoring sessions.

    Another kind is the parent who refuses to contribute a nickel, nonetheless claims the child as a dependent on his tax forms (which can mess up financial aid), and calls the school to demand information about his adult child who he is doing nothing to help.

    Because one of the effects of this law is that if the child says “It’s not your business, I’m paying my own way,” the parent cannot legally go behind her back and get the information anyhow. Neither can the estranged parent who is several years behind on child support and doesn’t even send birthday cards.

    And another kind of bad parenting leads to the parents in the first example calling the bio professor to demand that s/he give their child a better grade.

  23. #23 OKThen
    December 13, 2010

    Thanks Ethan.

    We teach our kids privacy by respecting their privacy and ditto many other things.

    What else needs to be said? Respect and never give up on your kids.

  24. #24 Lloyd Hargrove
    December 13, 2010

    So, the new college level grading system effectively boils down to either pass or fail, whereby if whomever is actually funding a student’s education inclusive of our government and most scholarship programs fails to receive notification of acceptable student progress the immediate result is a failure of any further funding. Congratulations, this is just like real life and a valuable lesson has been made available.

  25. #25 becca
    December 14, 2010

    I’m trying to remember. I don’t actually remember discussing my grades with my parents at all- at least not after I was 17 or so. Not that I would have had any problem doing so, and not that they would have given me anything but encouragement.

    My kid is very young, but I can’t imagine wanting to know this for college. I also can’t imagine spending 100,000 on him unless I trusted him to make his own educational decisions. Nor judging whether I was getting my money’s worth solely by his grades. There are just so many assumptions in this thread that do not compute at all to me.

  26. #26 Jim Thomerson
    December 14, 2010

    I’m so old that I can remember posting test and final grades on the wall for all to see. I retired back before things got really bad in higher education, and mighty glad of it.

  27. #27 Doug
    December 14, 2010

    “Don’t schools still confirm if you graduated from that school or not? Otherwise what’s to keep everyone from claiming a Harvard degree on their resumes?”

    You COULD claim that, but you’d get caught the first time a potential employer asked to see your transcripts. :)

  28. #28 Mic
    December 15, 2010

    I worked my tail off in high school to get a full ride plus living expenses at my university. Sure, I will mention a test or two to my parents, but I feel no need to tell them every grade.

    P.S.: I HATE this stereotype that all college students are using their parents money, and would do so foolishly if the parents did not monitor them. Do you have such little faith in your ability to raise a human? Did you not provide an environment that encourages open communication back when your kids were stuck at home? If you built a strong relationship with your kid, you should never have to demand grades. You will trust them, and they will tell you what you need to know.

  29. #29 JFS in IL
    December 15, 2010

    My son’s college recommends the parents walk the student over to the Registrar’s Office to sign a form giving the college permission to contact the parents in cause of emergency or sickness of the student.

    This may be just done to calm us parents down ;-) – it works, btw.

    Now, when my son turned 18 he was still in high school – and the school would NOT let him sign himself out, etc. – despite being 18 he was, in their eyes, NOT an adult and NOT protected by law. Ridiculous.

  30. #30 Lin
    December 21, 2010

    I’m with John and Rob. It is crazy to assume that all kids are going to be upfront about sharing their grades and since this is an “investment” so to speak I want to know one way or another how they are doing. Case in point: I know of a neighbor who kid went to college on their parents dime. Their parents were both teachers and worked hard to save for their kids education. The kid failed a couple of classes the first semester, but never told the parents. He went back the second semester but never went to any classes at all and partyed the semester away on his parents dime. They never found out until the year was over and they asked for the grades. He didn’t have any. An expensive mistake. They had no power over this investment. Sad. It happens.

    Both my daughters went to a school of their choice on partial scholarships but we still paid the majority. We wanted to know and they were happy we were interested enough to ask. They would never expect anything else.
    College kids may think they are on their own but unless they are paying the freight, they are not.

  31. #31 canlı maç izle
    December 25, 2010

    I agree with Mick “I worked my tail off in high school to get a full ride plus living expenses at my university. Sure, I will mention a test or two to my parents, but I feel no need to tell them every grade.
    P.S.: I HATE this stereotype that all college students are using their parents money, and would do so foolishly if the parents did not monitor them. Do you have such little faith in your ability to raise a human? Did you not provide an environment that encourages open communication back when your kids were stuck at home? If you built a strong relationship with your kid, you should never have to demand grades. You will trust them, and they will tell you what you need to know.”

  32. #32 lig tv izle
    December 25, 2010

    I liked becca’s comments thanks “I’m trying to remember. I don’t actually remember discussing my grades with my parents at all- at least not after I was 17 or so. Not that I would have had any problem doing so, and not that they would have given me anything but encouragement.
    My kid is very young, but I can’t imagine wanting to know this for college. I also can’t imagine spending 100,000 on him unless I trusted him to make his own educational decisions. Nor judging whether I was getting my money’s worth solely by his grades. There are just so many assumptions in this thread that do not compute at all to me.”

  33. #33 islami sohbet
    December 27, 2010

    İstanbul’un fakir mahallelerinden birinde yaşayan Akın’ın İsmail Hacıoğlu) hayatı, annesinin ölümüyle şekil değiştirmeye başlar. Babasından nefret eden Akın, her şeyi geride bırakıp yeni bir hayat kurma planları yapar. Bunun için yıllardır marangoz atölyesinde çalıştığı Nuran Usta’nın (Cüneyt Türel) parasını çalar. Ancak kaçma planı, sevgilisi Deniz’in (Damla Sönmez) onu terk etmesiyle yarım kalır. Bunun üzerine arkadaşı İdris’in (Çetin Altay) teklifini kabul eder ve mafyaya katılır. Fahrettin’in (Uğur Polat) himayesine giren Akın, yavaş yavaş silahların dünyasına alışmaya başlar

  34. #34 Dini Sohbet
    August 30, 2011

    İstanbul’un fakir mahallelerinden birinde yaşayan Akın’ın aİsmail Hacıoğlu) hayatı, annesinin ölümüyle şekil değiştirmeye başlar. Babasından nefret eden Akın, her şeyi geride bırakıp yeni bir hayat kurma planları yapar. Bunun için yıllardır marangoz atölyesinde çalıştığı Nuran Usta’nın (Cüneyt Türel) parasını çalar. Ancak kaçma planı, sevgilisi Deniz’in (Damla Sönmez) onu terk etmesiyle yarım kalır. Bunun üzerine arkadaşı İdris’in (Çetin Altay) teklifini kabul eder ve mafyaya katılır. Fahrettin’in (Uğur Polat) himayesine giren Akın, yavaş yavaş silahların dünyasına alışmaya başlar