Campus / News / April 11, 2012

Faculty access to student grades renewed in new system

Faculty at Knox College have always been able to access the grades that students received in past courses at Knox. However, following recent changes to the registrar’s website, that ability was lost and faculty were left only being able to see the grades of their advisees and students majoring in their department.

In response to this, the Executive Committee of the Faculty has been working on restoring access for all members of the faculty, a process that should be completed relatively soon.

The ExComm report for April notes the main reasoning for the proposed switch: “The principal motivation for access to the academic records of students is that it may be helpful for a faculty member (other than the student’s advisor) in their work with that student.”

Professor of Mathematics Dennis Schneider agrees with this assessment.

“We should have access to student records. All of us share in making sure [the students] get the best educational experience possible,” he said.

Schneider noted that it is often helpful to see how students have done in past courses in order to properly help them to do well in classes the faculty member is teaching.

Dean of Students Larry Breitborde is of a similar mindset.

“There’s a pretty clear argument that to be able to do their jobs properly faculty need this access,” he said.

Breitborde mentioned that faculty generally get this access anyway, as students in need of letters of recommendation or similar help from faculty often give them copies of their Educational Development Records (EDR). A restoration of online access would make this process easier on students.

There is some dissent regarding whether the proposed switch would compromise student privacy, but neither Schneider nor Breitborde were overly concerned.

The text of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the federal law dealing with release of college grades, authorizes “school officials with legitimate educational interest” to be able to see those grades; this category is likely inclusive of faculty members.

“I don’t see that there are any downsides,” Schneider said on privacy worries, noting that there were no troubles in the past when faculty did have total grade access.

Students seemed to be more concerned.

“If they want to see my grades … they can write to me and prove why they need to know,” sophomore Sterling Kowalski said. “If my parents don’t have the right, then my professors don’t either.”

Others are less anxious.

“We go to a private school and signed away most of our privacy rights already,” senior Alison Gitomer said.

The proposed changes would only cover strictly academic records. Other records, such as disciplinary problems or Honor Board proceedings, will remain private.

The discussion at the ExComm meeting regarding this issue was relatively short, as there is no major dissent over these proposed changes, and it is a matter of restoring access to what was already accessible.

The issue at this point is largely technical in nature. As certain people already have full access, such as the Dean of Students, it does not seem that the technical hurdles will prove very difficult to overcome.

Barring major technical issues, these changes should be in place relatively soon, though there is no definitive timeline in place.

Matt Barry
Matt Barry is a senior majoring in international relations and double minoring in economics and German. This is his third year working for TKS, having served previously as discourse editor. He has worked for such organizations as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Premier Tourism Marketing and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, where his work appeared in such publications as Leisure Group Travel, Ski & Ride Club Guide and The Chicago Monitor. Matt has written his political opinion column, "The Voice of Reason," weekly for three years, which finished in first place at the 2012 Illinois College Press Association conference and was also recognized at the 2013 conference.

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