The Catholic University of America

Of Counsel - A Bulletin on Legal Issues at CUA - November 1997

Student Records

What Is a Record Custodian?

In the broadest sense, a record custodian is any person who has physical control of actual records. FERPA is drafted around the idea that there will be a custodian of education records who will be informed about the law. This record custodian will make decisions about requests for the release of education records. In addition, the record custodian is charged with keeping a record of requests and disclosures. At CUA, there are a number of different persons who are record custodians of education records. With the advent of computerized records and the networking of the databases of different departments, a record custodian may be any person at CUA who controls access to computerized education records.

The Center for Planning & Information Technology (CPIT) has designated Data Trustees to control access to computerized records. There is one Data Trustee for each administrative system (a collection of computerized records used to support various business functions). That Data Trustee can authorize access to a particular set of computerized records. The Data Trustee for academic education records is Dr. G. Kendell Rice, the Registrar.

To illustrate the relationship between record custodians, Data Trustees and FERPA, consider the following. A chemistry professor has access to the computerized academic education records of all registered CUA chemistry students. Access to this database was authorized by the Data Trustee. The Registrar is the Data Trustee, not the chemistry professor. Similarly, the chemistry professor would not be considered a record custodian for purposes of FERPA. However, the obligations under FERPA would still apply to the chemistry professor's use of those education records.

Training: All record custodians at CUA are being informed about compliance with education records law. Position descriptions for new employees should indicate whether or not the individual will have control over access to education records. If the answer is yes, then the new employee must be trained on FERPA before commencing employment.

The role of the General Counsel is to answer legal questions, help with training, and assure compliance with the law.

The Registrar is the university official responsible for keeping all official academic education records. Only the Registrar may release an official transcript. The Registrar receives, directs and responds to most of the requests, originating from within and outside the university, for education record information.

links updated 6/26/08 rab