Dealing with a misconduct incident at your college or university can be an overwhelming or traumatic experience. Regardless of the outcome, you'd probably prefer that the whole thing stays behind you once it's over. Unfortunately, misconduct determinations placed on your record can have negative impacts on your future academic or professional career, depending on the severity of the misconduct and what you pursue after graduation. For how long, exactly, can college indiscretions come back to haunt you? Is it possible to get online records of misconduct removed?
How College and Universities Manage Student Records
Colleges and universities collect a lot of data about you. Some of it is personally identifiable information (PII), which is protected under The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). Under FERPA, public educational institutions cannot share this data about you without your consent.
Infolinx – Records Management for Education
Between admissions files, student records, library records, employee files, and countless other records, colleges and universities have a lot of information to keep track of. Companies like Infolinx offer records management solutions for education institutions to make the process easier.
Who uses Infolinx?
Infolinx isn't just for education records, but several major universities use their service to manage their records, including Princeton, the University of Virginia, and Rutgers. Some universities only use Infolinx for managing library records, and others use it to handle all of their institution's digital records.
Infolinx works by allowing university personnel to upload or amend records in a university-wide document repository. Staff members and faculty may only be allowed to access or add certain records, depending on their function. When a student receives a misconduct determination and goes on their record, it's likely the office of the Dean of Students or Student Affairs that handles it.
With a records management service like Infolinx, students may be able to digitally access their academic records and see their transcripts, disciplinary history, and all the information the university has created about them. Although students always have a right to see their records, some universities that don't use digital records management like Infolinx may ask students to submit a request.
Do You Have a Permanent Record?
To comply with FERPA, most colleges and universities have a record retention policy for student records. This policy will dictate how long the school holds on to certain types of records and may distinguish between permanent and temporary records.
Some states require schools and universities to retain certain forms of information on students indefinitely, and others may set a limit of 60-100 years. What information is usually contained in these permanent records? Although it varies by state and by school, a permanent student record may include:
- Basic identifying information (name, address, SSN, etc.)
- Academic transcripts
- Attendance records
- Admissions records
- Long-term suspensions
- Health records
Any information that doesn't go into a permanent record may go into a temporary one, which schools keep for between 3-6 years. Temporary records may include:
- Family background information
- Extracurricular activities
- Teacher anecdotal records
- Disciplinary information
- Psychological evaluations
- Other health information
The easiest way to figure out what information your college or university retains about you is to look up your school's record retention policy. If the policy isn't readily available online, you can contact the records management department at your school for more information. If you want to know what the Department of Education laws are concerning record retention in your state, then you should check with your state's Department of Education agency responsible for records maintenance.
It's possible your school will only have your misconduct determination on file for up to six years after you graduate. If you received a harsher sanction, however, it could be on your permanent record.
Who Can See College Misconduct Records?
After you've figured out how long your university will keep your misconduct determination on file, your next likely question is: Who can the school share it with?
FERPA prohibits colleges and universities from sharing information created for a student's academic record, whether permanent or temporary, without a student’s consent. But since graduate schools and employers condition admission or employment on seeing disciplinary records, you have to give your consent and have the records released anyway if you want to be considered.
Other situations where FERPA allows schools to release private student records are when a student violates the student code with a crime of violence and law enforcement requests the records, or to protect public safety on campus.
What Happens to Your Records When You Transfer to Another School?
Expect your new college or university to scrutinize previous records, especially disciplinary notations. When you apply to another school, they will likely ask you for previous transcripts and student records, which you will have to authorize your previous school to release. The new school you apply to may decide to deny you admission or condition enrollment based on your previous disciplinary record.
Is It Possible to Remove Records of College Misconduct?
Some universities may let former students petition or apply for the removal of certain records. Rutgers, for example, allows students to apply for clemency of an expulsion record after five years. Former students usually must wait a certain amount of time or go through formal processes to have some notations of disciplinary action removed. Former students who want to amend disciplinary records may have to go through their university's Office of the Dean Students or Student Affairs, rather than the records management department.
A Student Defense Attorney for College Misconduct
As a student, you have a right to know what information your university is maintaining on you, especially if it's related to misconduct and disciplinary matters. If you need assistance understanding your university's record retention policy, or you're facing a charge of academic misconduct or a code of conduct charge, a student defense legal advisor can benefit you.
Joseph D. Lento of Lento Law Firm has helped thousands of students across the country defend themselves from university misconduct charges. Call the Firm today at (888) 535-3686 with your questions about misconduct and student records.