Overview: The transition to college is an exciting and significant one for both students and families. Denison seeks to develop independent, self-reliant students who take ownership of their education and campus life. Because our students are adults, Denison treats you as such, and wants and expects you to be your own agents, shape your own experience, and to communicate directly with faculty and staff about challenges or concerns. Our faculty and staff are incredibly dedicated to our students and are here to support you in their academic and personal growth.
The University’s approach to parental engagement and disclosure of student information to parents is based both upon legal privacy requirements and the university’s philosophy that students are adults.
We want students and parents to understand these parameters:
- The federal law known as FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, protects the privacy of student educational records, which broadly includes academic, disciplinary, and other types of student information. We also follow applicable medical and counseling privacy law.
- Generally, Denison will not discuss or share personal information about students with third parties, including parents or guardians, except in limited circumstances where such disclosure is permitted under FERPA and where the University determines that discussion or disclosure is appropriate. This means that we do not generally disclose to parents student grades, academic standing (including notifying parents about academic warnings or academic suspension), disciplinary matters, or details about athletics or extracurricular involvements.
- Denison will communicate with parents or guardians in cases of emergency, where information sharing is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or others.
- In some circumstances, for students under the age of 21, and as permitted by FERPA, Denison may share information with parents or guardians when a student has violated campus rules on the use or possession of drugs or alcohol.
We understand that these parameters and legal requirements are an adjustment for parents and guardians, who may be used to receiving more details from primary and secondary schools where students were enrolled as a minor. It’s also an adjustment for students who have been accustomed to parents/guardians handling administrative matters or raising concerns on their student’s behalf.
Sometimes, parents contact university offices on their student’s behalf, on issues Denison expects students, as adults, to engage, or with questions that Denison is not able to discuss because of privacy laws. Denison’s approach will generally be to share the parent message with the student and ask the student to take up any issues they believe are important with the appropriate university staff.
We know parental involvement is most often coming from a place of love and caring (and habit!). In redirecting many parent inquiries, Denison is also acting on a sense of care. We want students to be their own agents. This independence is important to your success at Denison and life more broadly, and there are many resources here to support you.
Additional information for parents to support their students and stay informed:
- Stay in touch: Most students are helped by knowing that their parents or guardians are available to talk. Allowing space for independence is important too, so let your student set the priorities for when and what you talk about. Ask open-ended questions and give them room to air concerns, share successes, or just simply talk. Take the time to remind your student to take care of themselves physically and emotionally. And remind your student that challenges and even stumbles are normal. Encourage them to take advantage of Denison’s resources, and if they’re not sure which resources to turn to, encourage them to speak to their class dean, who can help connect them. If you are concerned about your student’s academic progress, confirm the course load they are taking; ask about whether they’re on top of their advising appointments; or request to see specific information (including printouts or screenshots showing your student’s schedule, their academic history, grades, and GPA). Denison defines various levels of academic standing, and has protocols for academic warnings and academic suspensions based on student grades. If you’re concerned about your student’s academic progress, you should familiarize yourself with the academic standing policies and talk to your student about whether they have received communications about their academic standing and what their status is.
- Ask your student to assign you proxy access to records: Under FERPA, students can give others permission to access information about their student financial account, grades, and other information. This is called granting “proxy access,” and those given permission are referred to as a “proxy.” Instructions for setting up proxy access can be found here.
If parents or guardians have serious concerns about the health or safety of their student, they can contact the student’s Class Dean. This is a support structure the college has put in place to help navigate challenges or concerns when they arise. The Class Deans are as follows: First Year Class Dean is Nathan Graves; Sophomore Class Dean is Sarah Rundell, Junior Class Dean is Torrance Powell; and Senior Class Dean is Mike Brady. In the event of an emergency, parents/guardians may contact our Campus Safety department’s Campus Emergency line at 740-587-6777, or the 24-hour operator/dispatch line at 740-587-0810.