THE FOUNTAIN HOPPER

FIGHT BACK WITH FERPA
FoHoHoHo | How-To Special Edition | December 14, 2016
TL;DR

Angry with Stanford administrators for Title IX, Divestment, Band, Alcohol Policy, PHEs, etc. etc. etc.? Us too. 

Click the button below to generate a FERPA records request email to effectively protest at Stanford’s shitty treatment of students – and pick your message to the admin from the litany of failures. 

The custom-generated request includes language withdrawing it if the admin changes course on the issues you select, so best case it makes a difference.

Worst case, you use 21st century statute-based activism to make Stanford, Inc. realize how badly they’re fucking up
FOHO'S FERPAMATIC BUTTON
SOME BACKGROUND

This weekend, Stanford gutted Band. They’re allowed back if they install a professional director, turn Band Shak into the Bing Auditorium, blow Greg Boardman once a week demonstrate continued loyalty to the Stanford admin, etc. etc.

Band’s playing it nice, and we support their actions as a leadership group, but we don’t think passionate letters will make a difference. That said, read this one from an ex-Bandie and Stanford administrator which sort of eloquently explains why what's being done is so bad.

Last week, Stanford reportedly offered sexual assault survivors cash – that they need for therapy – to drop their complaints. Sure, Stanford claims the investigations will ‘still go on.’ But if Leah Francis drops her complaint, the Department of Education loses much of the evidence that would have allowed an actual investigation to happen – and the understaffed, overworked department will likely just stop investigating. Stanford can once more walk away with clean hands. 

We organized a mass emailing campaign. Lisa Lapin, Stanford’s head PR honcho, sent canned statements back claiming that Stanford undertook “aggressive efforts” to curb sexual assault. Well, we must have missed them, because last time we looked Scary Path was still unlit, Stanford still had more Title IX complaints than any other university in the country (!), and the flawed Sexual Assault survey still hasn’t been redone – despite widespread student and professional outcry at the flawed methodology.

Instead, back in September, Stanford banned hard alcohol, in express violation of a student petition, any number of university officials and pretty much every RA we could find. They even put up a “patronizing, victim-blaming” (USAToday’s words, not ours) webpage on “women’s bodies and alcohol,”  which they quietly took down after it was uncovered by national media. Stanford held ‘focus groups’ after we loudly complained about the lack of student input. Nothing has changed. As far as we can tell, nothing ever will. (More on cathincollege.)

Last quarter, Stanford released a climate survey that used laughable metrics to claim a tiny percentage of students are sexually assaulted. A crushing majority of students asked for a new survey to complement the new one. Stanford – the same Stanford that is apparently spending over $2 million ‘fighting’ sexual assault – refused.

And for over a year, Stanford has systematically underfunded everything from community centers to PHEs in dorms – who earn less than 1950’s minimum wage (Review). It’s kept quiet about funding private prisons, has refused endlessly to divest from fossil fuels, and has done little more than send a letter to Who’s Teaching Us.
PUSH THE BUTTON
BOTTOM LINE

The admin doesn’t give a shit about what you do or think. A billion reports and promises to change did nothing for Band over the last year. A wildly successful petition did nothing on the campus climate survey. And hundreds of emails to Marc Tessier-Lavigne were met with a misleading FAQ page and, instead of displaying care and compassion, described a woman’s assault to the world (Daily).

Every reasonable avenue of ‘dialog’ has failed. There’s only two things left to do:

1) Make administrators truly understand the pain they cause students on a daily basis – be it by ending band, fucking with title ix, <insert list of grievances here>.

2) Create a real cost to the admin from our anger – by expending a fair chunk of their time and money on wasteful tasks, exactly the same way they did for Band. 
WHAT WE WANT TO DO

There’s this thing called FERPA. It’s a federal statute that says Stanford has to cough up any data they have on you within 45 days of a student’s request. Two years ago (almost to the day), FoHo lead the country’s largest FERPA activism campaign ever, convincing well over 2k Stanford students to file requests for their admissions documents (NYT). 

Stanford promptly shredded everything (Daily), but not before letting those that requested in time view the actual reason they got in. As the Higher Education Law Report pointed out at the time, we were “the latest example of FERPA activism”. We kind of like that. Since rallies and letters don’t do shit, why not try using other, more novel levers available to us? 

FERPA requests – but for all of the things. 


Remember when you tapped into your dorm last night? Stanford keeps a record of that. Dinner swipes? Yep. What about Coursework, the site that stores all your psets and is being shut down permanently in a week’s time? Stanford keeps records about you in there. The Student Affairs Office? Yep, there’s a file there too. (It’s called “AdvisorWeb” – the secret place where your advisors actually write candidly about you.)

We’d like you to send 
Stanford a FERPA request for some of your documents. All it takes is a click, and you’ll be sending a message to administrators that what they’ve done is not OK, and you intend to fight back in any way available to you.

We’ve compiled a list of over a dozen different types of data that Stanford has on every student. We then built an automagical email generator thing, powered by Science + CS™

Hit the button below. Pick any one of the issues where the student body has spoken – loud and clear – and the admin paid no attention. Then pick just how many different FERPA requests you want to file, from door swipes to Athletics records.

Finally, add a personal message. We think this would be a good place to express, in your own words, why you’re filing the request, and that filing a FERPA request is a last resort in the face of an administration that won’t listen to anything but legal documents they’re obliged by federal law to respond to.

Much like the Title IX emails from last edition, they’ll pop open in your default mail app. (If that’s a PITA, you can get a pastebin with a bunch of already-generated text and appropriate emails for you to send it to). You should read the form text before you send it, and customize it as you see fit.

We’d also advocate being polite – the staff reading and processing these emails are not necessarily the ones that banned Band, and should understand that this a protected expression of your right to protest an institution you have qualm with.

 
PUSH THE BUTTON
(PSA: site is mobile friendly)

Please don’t forget to cc/bcc tips@fountainhopper.com with any correspondence you have with Stanford on this issue. We’re the best in the nation at running FERPA campaigns, and there’s a lot we’ve learned since last time we did something like this, so we’re more than likely going to be able to help out.

If you send this today, 
Stanford has to let you review and inspect the records by Saturday, Jan 28.

Here’s the button again. Go on, press it. Every time someone hits send, Greg Boardman’s decision to ignore seven thousand students looks a little dimmer.

 
PUSH THE FERPAMAGIC BUTTON
SOME Q&A
 
 
What was already done?

We sent this email to Band members and friends yesterday morning, and after an outpouring of messages – and a popular vote mandate more than twice the size of Donald Trump’s (lol) – we decided to send it on. But this still isn’t everyone at Stanford, so forward to lists and let people make their own decisions.


Is this going to get me in trouble?

Absolutely not. It’s your legal right to invoke FERPA, as codified in statute and University policy. Stanford has to give you what you ask for, or they could lose the hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding they receive. You also have a right to file requests as a form of protest. Enjoy rights while they last, folks – you don’t use them, you lose them.
 
 
Why should I do this now?

Good question. We’ve been saving this until we thought Stanford needed it. This appears to be pretty much the only way to get the university’s attention, by hitting them administratively where it hurts. And now is a great time, because winter break starts in a couple days, but the 45-day countdown to respond to a FERPA request doesn’t change
 
 
Should I do this?

Put it this way: there’s no way it’ll harm you, it’ll take less than a minute to hit send on the email, and it forces Stanford to read your thoughts and learn that, if it treats its students like shit, we can waste hours of their time. Think of it like the Main Quad camp-out, only faster, lower-effort from you, and a billion times more effective.
 
 
Won’t this impact low-level administrators who have nothing to do with student affairs anyway?

Great question. We think this is highly unlikely. Last time we ran a FERPA campaign, the University hired a project management outsourcing firm and a bunch of rent-a-lawyers that coordinated the University’s response. These were decisions made by high-level administrators directly responsible for the policies that are being protested, not regular administrators.

From what we understand, Stanford treats FERPA requests as a serious legal matter, and so rely on counsel, legal professionals, and highly ranked administrators to gather documents. Additionally, University employees have vacation days and max hours written into their employment agreements, and Stanford can’t force them to work over their holiday period, no matter how much they’d like to.

So, to summarize: legitimate concern, but our prior experience suggests low-level innocents are protected.

 
 
What’re they gonna do?

We don’t know. Corporations exhibit odd behavior when poked. They’re more than likely to write back asking you to withdraw your request, or meet with them to discuss, or to “consider the consequences of your actions”.

This is bullying. Politely decline, and restate that you’re expressing your right to protest, your request was clear and concise and met the guidelines stated in FERPA, and you look forward to reviewing your documents. Don’t be guilt-tripped by the mega-corp into submission – that’s not how protesting works.

 
 
Isn’t this too harsh?

Some of you might think that. FoHo exists to push for students’ rights against the Stanford machine when no-one else can/will. Some of you will think this is too much, and that’s fine. Others will see the last 18+ months of carnage and decide that someone needs to do something to stop Stanford, Inc. from ignoring its students. To quote one recipient of the earlier version of this email: If not now, when?

And if you think now isn’t the time, that’s fine – this form isn’t going anywhere, and neither are we. But if it gives groups a little more bargaining power when fighting the admin, now and in months to come, that’s a win in our opinion.

 
ICYMI, PUSH THE BUTTON
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In these dark times for Stanford, we’re glad you’re with us.

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