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Faculty and Student Confidentiality

At every College or University campus, one person or office is charged with the responsibility of maintaining confidential, disability-related documentation for students with disabilities in order to determine reasonable accommodations for programs or courses. Disability Resources is that office at Macalester. 

The Department of Justice has established that a faculty member generally does not have a need to know what a specific disability is, only that it has been appropriately verified by (Disability Resources) on behalf of the institution.  

Faculty do have a right to know accommodations and how these may or may not impact what is essential in their courses; faculty can ask students to provide accommodation letters to substantiate accommodation requests. 

General guidelines for student confidentiality in courses

  1. The Faculty Notification Letter serves as a confirmation of a student’s disability and that they have been through the appropriate process to verify disability.
  2. When meeting with a student, discuss only how the indicated accommodations either would or would not fit into course parameters, not disability specifics. In some cases, faculty may be informed of a specific disability to provide the best access for the student. 
  3. Students should not be asked to provide documentation to you directly. Asking for a “doctor’s note” to miss a class is generally not appropriate if the Faculty Notification Letter indicates accommodations for absence flexibility are needed. 
  4. Do not identify which students in your course require accommodations to other students/colleagues who don’t have a specific “need to know” information.  Example: discussing if accommodation is appropriate with a Department Chair is reasonable, but not with other faculty colleagues who have no direct educational connection to your course.
  5. A good general rule:  Before sharing, ask, “Who needs to know this and why?” and for students, “How can I address their accommodations while respecting medical information?”

Have concerns? Please ask! We are here to support you!

Note: accommodation concerns about student employees should be referred to Human Resources.