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Davis, California

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Stanford students’ requests for admission files granted

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On Jan. 15, The Fountain Hopper newsletter, a student-run anonymous publication at Stanford University, sent an email to their subscriber base urging them to request access to their admission files, as they had done.

Students have the right to access their academic records under the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law.

The email they sent out to their Stanford subscriber base outlined a five-step guide to putting in a formal request to view their files. Once the students sent their requests, they received their admission files within 45 days.

“We saw what the admission readers write, they were very frank, very honest, it was clearly for internal purposes only which is why we think it is interesting,” said an anonymous Fountain Hopper contributor and Stanford undergraduate student.

FERPA details certain rights students have in regards to their educational records. The first right listed is, “The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the date [the] University receives a request for access.”

This only applies to students who were admitted and currently attend the given university. Rejected students or students that do not attend the given university do not have the right to gain access to their academic files from the university in question.

The full text of the law is displayed on Stanford’s Office of the Registrar’s web page.

“People have the right to know legal information; it’s good when it’s public. We think the federal law should be followed and that is all we’re advocating for,” said the Fountain Hopper contributor.

They estimated that there have been 1,100 requests submitted since the email’s distribution.

UC Davis does make reference to FERPA on the Office of the University Registrar’s web page in a section titled Preserving Student Privacy. However, the full text of the act is not displayed verbatim — as it is on Stanford’s website.

In regards to this issue, UC Davis admissions preferred not to comment at this point in time.

Third-year political science and history double major and former ASUCD senator, Gareth Smythe said he would be interested in seeing his admission files to see how his writing has improved over time and to gain perspective on how to better apply to secondary institutions.

“I could see why universities wouldn’t want to allow that though. You can strategically study for the SATs, so they would be afraid [people would] be applying to colleges more strategically than [they] already do,” Smythe said.

Smythe said he thinks that releasing admission files to already admitted students should have no affect on the university as long as the standards for admission remain consistent. He said he could see it having an effect on admissions if the students who request their files chose to make the commentary on their essays and resumes accessible to future applicants.

“If I had a sibling that wanted to go to UC Davis I could say ‘Well here’s how they judged mine,’” Smythe said.

Smythe said he doesn’t see any reason why admissions would not want to release these files aside from the possibility that it could create problematic patterns in the admission process.

As for The Fountain Hopper, the contributor said that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“People have the right to know what the federal law says, [and] we think that information should be public,” the contributor said.

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