Office Hours, E-Mail, Phone Calls & FERPA

Students often misinterpret the phrase "office hours" and may even believe that it is time that an instructor has reserved for their own research. The phrase that makes even less sense in a time of hybrid learning and social distancing. A best practice is to rename office hours as "drop-in time for students," "check-in time," "open question time," etc. and to create regular remote meetings with waiting rooms as well as remote times by appointment and to be aware of student privacy considerations, as follows. Avoid in-person office hours in Fall 2020.

FERPA and Remote Instructor-Student Consultations

Instructors should offer appointments via phone, MS Teams, Zoom, Email (LoboMail or Outlook), or Skype for Business. For resources and guidance on technology access, visit https://at.unm.edu/coronavirus. To be FERPA compliant, we must practice due diligence in confirming students’ identities before discussing information from student records.  Keep in mind that FERPA does not apply to prospective students.  The FERPA starting point at UNM is when new students attend the first day of classes.  The following provides guidance on how to proceed in various remote delivery.

In all instances use your UNM account in contacting students through web-based media.  Be mindful that information from student records should not sent from personal accounts.

Phone Advising

  • Begin the conversation with open-ended questions to confirm the student’s identity and enrollment in your class, such as, "Do you have a question about a particular assignment?"
  • End the conversation politely if the person does not appear to possess familiarity with the class, or the person begins referring to the student in a third person, using a sentence such as, "Please communicate with me via your unm e-mail address; this is not the best time for this conversation."

Video and Audio Consultation

  • Use systems that require authentication such as LoboMail, MS Teams, or Zoom, which verify a student’s identity. Rely on the identity checking questions above to confirm student identity if you do not recognize the student.
  • If authentication is not required, ask the student to show their UNM ID card or government issued photo ID at the beginning of the session.

Email or Skype for Business Instant Messaging via UNM Accounts

Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual – Policy 2540: Student Email (https://policy.unm.edu/university-policies/2000/2540.html­) sets the UNM email as a “mechanism for formal communication by the University.”

  • Since the UNM email system requires authentication, you may be assured that email or IM is coming directly from the student.
  • To remind students of our duty to protect confidentiality, you may use the following signature and add this information to your syllabus.

E-Mail Note and Syllabus Language:  In order to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), UNM students must correspond with me using their UNM email account and/or the communication feature of our class learning management system (for example UNMLearn). To protect student privacy, I cannot respond with any information contained in educational records from emails received from non-UNM accounts.  For information on FERPA, please visit http://ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html.

Information that may be shared if a student does not authenticate or verify identity

You may provide general information, for example, how to write a thesis statement, how to solve an equation, what assignment is due, what is the link for a resource

UNM Student Records Policy

Be familiar with our Student Records Policy (http://pathfinder.unm.edu/campus-policies/student-records-policy.html).  The following is considered directory information per the UNM Student Records Policy.

  • Name
  • Major field of study 
  • Enrollment status (full-time, 3/4-time, half-time, less-than-half-time)
  • Dates of attendance (matriculation and withdrawal dates) 
  • Degrees and awards received (type of degree and date granted)
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and weight and height of members of athletic teams.