Stanford students gain access to admissions records

Student publication offers steps on how to request documents under federal law

About 1,000 students are due to get a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the Stanford University's admissions office after requesting that the university release their admission records under the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which among other rights, grants students access to their education records.

The Fountain Hopper, a sometimes satirical student-run email newsletter that one of its creators describes as "an irreverent take on campus news," sent a message to its subscribers on Thursday, Jan. 15, urging them to submit such requests with step-by-step instructions on how to do so.

"Below is The Fountain Hopper's tried and tested Five Step Plan™ for getting hold of your admissions records, including qualitative and quantitative reviews by your admissions readers," the message read.

Under FERPA, the university must provide these documents within 45 days of receiving a written request.

The student, one of about 20 involved with the Fountain Hopper and who wishes to remain anonymous, estimated that about 1,000 students have since submitted requests. He said about 80 percent of Stanford's undergraduate population subscribes to the Fountain Hopper, which is also referred to as "FoHo."

University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said Saturday she did not know the number of requests that had been submitted since Thursday, but that there was an increase on Friday.

"I could not speak about the Fountain Hopper in conjunction with this effort," she wrote in an email. "They have simply shared a 40-year-old federal policy."

The student said he and others who are involved with the publication started looking into FERPA in the fall and did a test run in October. One contributor submitted a "catch-all" request to the university, who "sat on it for 43 days" but within the required time limit provided about 800 "sides" of documents including admissions records, submitted assignments, advisor documents and housing information, the student said.

"The philosophy we approach this with is that if you go to a good private (high) school or your parents are rich enough to have college counselors or college consultants, these are people that work inside admission offices," he said. "When they review applications for all the students before they apply, they know exactly what to look for."

But students who come from a more disadvantaged background or attend a school with less resources, he said, don't have that same leg-up.

"College admission is really important. … to be able to succeed in the world that we are in," he said. "We believe in the admission process, but everyone should have an equal right to the information that happens inside that black box."

FoHo is asking that all students who submit FERPA requests report back to them on how the university responds and what documents they eventually receive.

"When people start getting stuff back, we'll push a full demystification of the numbers and jargon in the documents," the Jan. 15 email reads.

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7 people like this
Posted by More power to you
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2015 at 11:58 pm

"Under FERPA, the university must provide these documents within 45 days of receiving a written request."

All Stanford has to do is ask PAUSD how they avoid answering those requests. (Start with having an assistant administrator make nothing but charts full of requests they didn't fill and claim they did, and say they are overwhelmed and all these records requests are costing time and money...)

Like this comment
Posted by Stanford Grad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Interesting. I'm a Stanford Univ. grad from the 1980s. Can FoHo or anyone else tell me how far back FERPA applies? Based on FERPA, do I still have the right to request my admissions records from the 1980s?

3 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Atherton
on Jan 19, 2015 at 5:28 pm

It is more difficult to get into UCB than Stanford. Remember that parents who donate tens of thousands of dollars to a school's endowment and or kids who are legacies are unfairly admitted/get their kids in these prestigious schools.

Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 19, 2015 at 8:22 pm

@ Anne - Define "unfair". Stanford is a private institution. If they want to admit Victor Frost, they can. But, what purpose does it serve them to admit students that are unable to handle the academics? Aside from the donation money, of course. Does UCB not admit athletes that are unable to handle the academics? Let's look at most any school with a D-1 football or basketball program. Exceptions are always made. But, I don't think that issue is what this article is about, so let's try to stay on topic.

Like this comment
Posted by Sara
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2015 at 5:56 am

Stanford is a private school, they can run the school policy how they like. Stanford has set high standard in academics, no exception to athletes. That is why it is hard to get in because it has its ingredient to success. What is the point to know how they admit students? Stanford is not for everyone, FoHo is just playing the liberal crap!! I hope Stanford keeps up their name and set the bar even higher

1 person likes this
Posted by Me
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

If anything, UCB is 'unfair'. After all it's created on 'CA' public taxes

1 person likes this
Posted by Unfair Indeed!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm

A few years ago, a student of mine at Menlo School had a 2.65 average, and was rejected by every college she applied to.

Her father, a wealthy developer in San Mateo County, had made huge contributions over the years to UCB Berkeley, including building a new gym and swimming pool.

He was furious that his daughter was turned down by so many schools, and though she had not applied to Berkeley, where he was an alumnus, he insisted she do so. When she had finished her application, he stapled to it a letter telling the admissions staff that if his daughter was not accepted, there would be NO more money or new construction forthcoming from HIM!

Not surprisingly, she got in!

1 person likes this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 5:40 pm

A nincompoop athlete just admitted to Stanford tweeted out his decision to accept "The University o Stanford"
A football player....say not more. High intelligence, indeed.

1 person likes this
Posted by Niko
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Does anybody know whether applicant who have been rejected can access their files under FERPA?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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