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Newspaper finds colleges use athletes' privacy to hide records

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  1. Freedom of Information
Many colleges are using the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to hide a wide range of information about…

Many colleges are using the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to hide a wide range of information about their athletes and sports programs, The Columbus Dispatch reported this weekend.

The newspaper asked all 119 schools in the nation’s top football classification for records including flight manifests for football travel and reports of NCAA violations. Sixty-nine colleges provided records, revealing a lack of uniformity in the application of FERPA’s provisions for privacy in "education records."

Only half of the responding schools offered the Dispatch uncensored flight manifests. Only 10 percent gave unedited NCAA violation reports; some schools went beyond merely blacking out the names of athletes involved in those reports. Three schools cited student privacy in refusing to release any records of NCAA violations, and others censored violation reports almost entirely.

Most schools provided the records for free or at a small cost, but the University of Maryland demanded $35,330.

Former U.S. Sen. James L. Buckley (N.Y.) told the paper he helped draft the 1974 FERPA legislation to maintain students’ privacy in grading, not to cover college sports in secrecy.

"Things have gone wild," he said in an interview with the Dispatch. "These are ridiculous extensions. One likes to think common sense would come into play. Clearly, these days, it isn’t true."

Buckley called for an update to FERPA, saying schools have inserted "their own meaning" into the law.