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Privacy Policy (FERPA)

The following constitutes the institution's policy concerning student rights of access to personal educational records in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Definitions and principles

Certain definitions and principles contained in the law and guidelines are as follows:

  1. A "student" is defined as one who has attended Northwestern University or is attending Northwestern University and whose records are in the files of the University. Attendance is defined as the date of the first enrollment at the University or participation in a University sponsored program or activity, whichever occurs earlier.
  2. Educational records do not include files retained by individuals that are not accessible to any other person except a designee or replacement.
  3. "Directory" Information is limited to:
    • name
    • local and home address and telephone
    • email address
    • school or college
    • class
    • major field of study
    • dates of attendance
    • enrollment status
    • expected graduation date
    • degrees and awards received
    • the most recent educational institution attended
    • weight, height and age of members of varsity athletic teams
    • photograph of the student taken for University purposes, such as a WildCard photograph
    Directory information also includes class rosters listing students in a Northwestern academic course; such rosters may only be used for the purpose of conducting that course. In addition, directory information includes NetID, but NetID will be used for internal campus use only.
  4. "Record" means any information or data recorded in any medium, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, tapes, computer files, video or audio files, film, microfilm or microfiche.

Release of public information

Public information may be released unless the student files the appropriate form in the Office of the Registrar requesting that public information not be released. Public information cannot be restricted by former students.

Student record locations

All students have records in one or more of the following University Offices:

Office of the Registrar
Rebecca Crown Center
633 Clark Street
Evanston, Illinois 60208

Student Finance
555 Clark Street
Evanston, IL 60208

Student Affairs
Scott Hall
601 University Place
Evanston, IL 60208

Office of Alumni Relations & Development
1201 Davis Street
Evanston, IL 60208

School and College Offices - Evanston Campus

J.L. Kellogg School of Management
2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208

School of Education and Social Policy
Annenberg Hall
2115 North Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208

Medill School of Journalism
Fisk Hall
1845 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
1922 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208

Bienen School of Music
Ryan Center for the Musical Arts
70 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208

School of Communication (formerly School of Speech)
Frances Searle Building
2240 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208

McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Technological Institute
2145 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208

The Graduate School
Rebecca Crown Center
633 Clark St.
Evanston, IL 60208

School and College Offices - Chicago Campus

School of Law
Levy Mayer Hall
357 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Feinberg School of Medicine
Morton Medical Research Building
310 East Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60611

School of Continuing Studies (formerly University College)
Wieboldt Hall, 6th Floor
339 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

J.L.Kellogg School of Management and The Manager's Program
Wieboldt Hall, 2nd Floor
340 East Superior Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

The Graduate School
Abbott Hall
710 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

Program in Physical Therapy
645 North Michigan Avenue, 11th Floor
Chicago, IL 60611

Program in Prosthetics-Orthotics
345 East Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Academic department records

Some departments maintain records separate from the school or college. A list of the academic departments that may have records and their locations may be obtained from the Office of the Dean of the school or college in which the department is located or from the Office of the Registrar.

Student record access exceptions

A student has the right to inspect and review their records, except as listed below. Any reference to student records or to access to student records in this document is subject to these exceptions:

  1. Confidential letters of recommendation placed in files before January 1, 1975.
  2. Financial records of the student's parents or any information contained therein.
  3. Employment records, except for those cases in which the employment is required as part of the student's program.
  4. Medical and psychological records.
  5. Letters of recommendation or other documents that carry a waiver of the student's right to access (See F below).
  6. Records compiled by University Police for the purpose of law enforcement.
  7. Any information in a student's file regarding other students.

Waivers relinquishing access

To ensure the confidentiality of references, certain documents may carry waivers signed by the student relinquishing the right of access to the document. Waivers are subject to the following conditions:

  1. Waivers can be signed only for the specific purposes of application for admission, candidacy for honor or honorary recognition, and candidacy for employment.
  2. Waivers cannot be required.
  3. The student shall be told, upon request, the names of those supplying references.
  4. All items in the student record not covered by waivers are open to the student. Material not covered by waivers may not be concealed by keeping it out of the student's file.

Access to university officials

Student education records are open to University officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the information contained in the records.

  1. A University official is an employee or other agent of the University. A University official may also be a person or company with whom the University has contracted to carry out a function on the University's behalf.
  2. The determination of a "legitimate educational interest" will be made by the person responsible for the maintenance of the record. This determination will be made scrupulously and with respect for the individual whose records are involved. "A legitimate educational interest" requires that the individual seeking access is doing so for the purpose of performing a job function.

Access to third parties

Normally, records can be released, or access given, to third parties (i.e. anyone not a university official, as described in paragraph G.1.), only with the written consent of the student.

Without the consent of the student, releases to third parties generally may be given only as follows:

  1. To federal officers as prescribed by law.
  2. As required by state law.
  3. To research projects on behalf of educational agencies, providing that the agencies guarantee no personal identification of students.
  4. To accrediting agencies carrying out their functions.
  5. In response to a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena.
  6. By University Police to other law enforcement agencies in the investigation of a specific criminal case.
  7. To parents of students who are dependents as certified according to IRS standards.
  8. A student's parent(s) or legal guardian(s) regarding the student's use or possession of alcohol or controlled substance if it has been determined by the University that the student's use or possession of alcohol or controlled substance constitutes a violation of a University rule or regulation; and the student is under the age of 21 at the time of disclosure to the parent(s) or legal guardian(s).
  9. In connection with an emergency, to appropriate person if the knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other persons.
  10. To educational agencies or institutions that request records when a student seeks to enroll, or is already enrolled.

Destruction of student records

Nothing in this policy requires the continued maintenance of any student record.

However, if under the terms of this policy a student has requested access to the record, no destruction of the record shall be made before access has been granted to the student.

Release of deceased student records

FERPA rights cease upon death.

However, it is the policy of Northwestern University that no records of deceased students be released to third parties after the date of death, unless specifically authorized by the executor of the deceased's estate or by the next of kin.

Record correction procedure

Students have the right to ask to have records corrected that they believe are inaccurate, misleading or in violation of their privacy right.

The procedures are as follows:

  1. The student must ask the custodian of the record to amend the record. The student should identify the part of the record that the student wants changed and the reasons.
  2. Northwestern University may comply or may decide not to comply. If not ,the University will inform the student of the decision and advise the student of the right to a hearing. Requests for a hearing are to be sent to the University Registrar.
  3. Upon request, the University will arrange for a hearing within a reasonable time and so notify the student.
  4. The hearing will be conducted by a hearing officer who is a disinterested party. However, the officer may be an official of the institution. The student may be assisted by one or more individuals.
  5. The University will prepare a written decision based solely upon the evidence presented at the hearing. The decision will include a summary of the evidence and the reasons for the decision.
  6. If the University decides that the challenged information is not inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's right to privacy, it will notify the student that he or she has a right to place in the record a statement commenting on the challenged information or setting forth reasons for disagreeing with the decision.
  7. The statement will be maintained as part of the student's record as long as the contested portion is maintained. If the University discloses the contested portion of the record, it must also disclose the statement.
  8. If the University decides that the information is inaccurate, misleading or in violation of the student's right of privacy, it will amend the record and notify the student in writing that the record has been amended.

FERPA complaints and violations

A person may file a written complaint with the Department of Education regarding an alleged violation of FERPA.


Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-4605

Registrar forms related to FERPA