To Correct, or to Let Stand?
When high-profile figures lie about their academic records, the institutions they attended must perform a delicate balancing act between protecting their privacy and telling the truth.
by Liam Knox
“The hands of the institution are tied in a lot of ways from getting specific with the details of a person’s educational record,” said Alexander Bilus, an attorney who counsels higher education institutions on data privacy issues.
One exemption is directory information, which universities are allowed to disclose as long as a student doesn’t choose to opt out. That includes a student’s name, major and degree status, meaning that Walker’s false degree claim likely falls outside FERPA’s protections and is fair game for correction. But for more specific records, like GPA or even class ranking, correcting public figures’ statements might put institutions in noncompliance with the law.
“There is a tension between the public having the right to know the truth about people running for office and the privacy of people’s education records,” Bilus said. “Right now, that’s been resolved largely in favor of protecting privacy.”