Access and Restriction Policy

The institutional records of Emerson College will be made available in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Emerson College Archives and Special Collections (ECASC), Iwasaki Library. The College is guided in its policy by relevant federal and state laws. Relevant laws include, for example, the federal Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA) and state data privacy and protection laws. Other policies of the College pertaining to its records are incorporated by reference in this policy.

All records required by law to be maintained or publicly available at their inception will be made available in the ECASC immediately. All other institutional records will normally remain closed for a period of 20 years from the date of their creation (for example, the date on which each document was written) unless the office of origin or donor and ECASC have designated a longer period.

The opening date for files spanning several years will be 20 years from the most recent document. If some items within a larger collection of materials are 20 years old or older, ECASC will give researchers access to those older materials if the older materials can be isolated from the rest of the collection. The records that are closed for longer periods are as of follows:

  1. Board of Advisors and Board of Trustees committee minutes and records are restricted for 35 years except those sections identified by archives staff members, in consultation with General Counsel and/or the Records Committee, which require greater confidentiality.
  2. Student records are restricted by FERPA. ECASC will generally provide access to student records only with the written, verified consent of the student named in the record or, at its discretion, under an applicable FERPA exception. If ESASC is uncertain whether there is an applicable FERPA exception, ESASC will consult the Office of the General Counsel. If the record contains the names of students other than the one who has consented to the release of the record, ECASC will provide a copy of the record with the names of the other students redacted. If it is possible to determine the identity of the other students even with their names redacted, ECASC may decline access to the record so as to protect the FERPA rights of those other students. FERPA rights cease upon the death of the student named in the record.

    Researchers seeking access to the student records of a deceased student must provide ECASC with proof of death.

    While a student’s consent, a FERPA exception, or proof of death may cease the FERPA protections for a student record, the decision to permit access to a student record is discretionary, and ECASC reserves the right to decline access to a student record.

  3. Records of the Office of General Counsel: In general, records created by the attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel in their capacity as counsel to the College, as well as records created by outside counsel, are subject to attorney-client privilege and thus confidential and exempt from access. ECASC will provide access to publicly available records created by the Office of the General Counsel or outside counsel, such as court pleadings not under seal, consent decrees, and resolution agreements. When in doubt as to the public status of a record, ECASC will consult the Office of the General Counsel prior to permitting access to the record.

    On occasion the College may be willing to waive attorney-client privilege, particularly with respect to dated records or records with historic or archival significance. If ECASC receives a request to waive attorney-client privilege with respect to archive materials, ECASC will refer that request to the Office of the General Counsel. Only the President of the College, or the President’s designee may waive attorney-client privilege.

  4. Graduate Theses are restricted by FERPA and intellectual property laws. ECASC will generally provide access to theses only with the written, verified consent of the student author or authors of the thesis or, at its discretion, under an applicable FERPA exception. FERPA rights cease upon the death of the student, but intellectual property laws still apply. Researchers seeking access to the thesis of a deceased student must provide ECASC with proof of death. Theses may then be viewed in the ECASC research room. The decision to permit access to a thesis is discretionary, and ECASC reserves the right to decline access to a thesis.

Other archival records may be restricted for more than 35 years as determined by Archives staff and General Counsel.

During the restricted period, the records will be made available only to the office of origin, the staff of ECASC and officers of the College as necessary. ECASC will give consideration for access by others when a written request is presented to the Head of Archives and Special Collections (“the Archivist”). A researcher denied access by the Archivist may seek review of the decision of the Archivist by submitting a written request for such a review to the Office of the General Counsel or the Provost. Both the researcher’s initial request and the researcher’s request for review of the Archivist's decision must be accompanied by sufficient information as to the intended uses of the records. The Archivist may impose whatever conditions on the use of the records as the Archivist deems necessary to preserve the confidentiality of the information contained in such records.

For non-College records, researchers will have full access to all materials within a collection unless the donor has placed specific restrictions on any content. Items within the American Comedy Archives or other special collections containing personally identifiable information (PII) of persons still living or potentially living will be restricted or redacted for 75 years after date of creation or if known, 50 years after the death of the individual.

This policy will not impinge upon the normal administrative uses of administrative records.