The Value of Private Conversations
Harvard University values student privacy and recognizes the important role of private conversation in students’ learning and development. Candid conversation with knowledgeable advisers, mentors, and counselors, such as the academic counselors at the BSC, can provide students with support and help them sort things out when they encounter difficult choices or circumstances. For this reason, BSC records are protected both under FERPA, as required by law, and through additional University policies.
Privacy of Educational Records under FERPA
Records of the BSC are governed by The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a Federal law that protects the privacy of your educational records. This is the same high standard of privacy that applies to your transcripts, financial aid status, and other student information. “Records” includes any written information regarding your contact with the BSC, including emails, electronic notes, and appointment information.
- Information protected by FERPA ordinarily cannot be disclosed to anyone outside the University (including parents) without your permission.
- Information protected by FERPA ordinarily can be disclosed inside the University on a need-to-know basis in the best interest of your education.
Consult your school’s handbook to learn more about FERPA. (For example, the Harvard College Handbook for Students, under Education Records.)
Additional Privacy Protections
Academic counselors at the BSC use their professional judgment and discretion in determining when limited disclosure of information is necessary or required. However, by policy, BSC counselors are not required to share information within Harvard under the following circumstances:
- Violation of University rules. If you share information with a BSC academic counselor related to an honor code violation, drug or alcohol use, or any other rule violation, the academic counselor is not required to report that information (e.g., to your dean, professor, the Harvard University Police Department, or Harvard’s Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct).
- Sexual or gender-based harassment. As a matter of policy, conversations with BSC academic counselors are considered "confidential" with regard to issues related to Title IX. This means that BSC academic counselors are not required to notify a Title IX Coordinator when someone utilizing the BSC’s services discloses information related to an incident of sexual or gender-based harassment.
BSC academic counselors do not hold a legal privilege of confidentiality, and must comply with requests for information from external parties made by a subpoena or court order.
Communication, Fees, and Appointments
The BSC does not conduct academic counseling or other private conversations via the internet (e.g., email or Skype). Email is not an appropriate means of communication about an urgent situation needing a rapid response. The BSC may communicate with you by email, telephone, text, and/or voicemail about scheduling or other logistical /administrative matters.
Three BSC services have fees:
- the Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies
- the Peer Tutoring Program, and
- the ESL Peer Consultation Program.
Students who participate in any of these programs can find fee information online, and will be provided with fee information at the time they register. Financial aid might be applicable to these services, depending on a student’s financial aid package.
BSC academic counselors meet with students by pre-arranged appointment. You may reserve one appointment with one BSC academic counselor at a time. The BSC academic counselors generally cannot guarantee regular ongoing appointment times, but can help you connect with area resources that provide such services.
As a matter of courtesy, please notify the BSC in advance if you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment. Although we ask that you provide as much advance notice as possible, we understand that unforeseen circumstances do arise, and we would prefer short notice to no notice at all. Similarly, BSC staff members who need to cancel or reschedule an appointment make every effort to contact you in advance.
Students with concerns or questions about any BSC policies are encouraged to consult with a BSC academic counselor or with the BSC Director, Abigail Lipson, 617-495-2581.
Other University Resources
AEO Accessible Education Office
(for Harvard College and GSAS students)
Smith Center, 4th Floor, 617-496-8707
Mental health services:
CAMHS Counseling and Mental Health Services
75 Mt. Auburn Street, 617-495-2042
or HUHS After-Hours Urgent Care Clinic, 617-495-5711
Harvard University Police Department, 617-495-1212