Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Notre Dame Destroyed My FERPA Files

"You only got into Notre Dame because you're Cuban"- A fellow Freshman

A year ago a buzzfeed article was all over facebook about a loophole in FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Students at Stanford had discovered that through FERPA you could request your admissions documents detailing everything the admissions board had noted on you when you were an applicant. Essentially why you were accepted to your school.

I was a super ambitious High School student. President of this, Captain of that sort of thing. My GPA was pretty high and my test scores were better than average. Although maybe not Notre Dame standards; I didn't have a 4.0 and I certainly was not valedictorian. My strong points were my social skills I could bring to a campus- "loves to be involved" kind of applicant. So when I got accepted to Notre Dame I was happily surprised. My parents and I always joked that I accidentally slipped through the system and I should notify the admissions office. It was always in the back of my mind that being a Latina was most likely a booster and when I first came to campus I wasn't sure I would succeed. But now what if I finally did get to ask them why I was chosen? Would it change how I felt about Notre Dame if a main reason was that I was Hispanic?

I emailed the admissions office with the exact wording suggested by Buzzfeed. The office replied back that I would have to submit a form and then they would set a meeting. I uploaded the form on Microsoft so I could again exactly write the tediously long prompt from Buzzfeed. Hey, I wanted to be thorough.  I had already graduated in December so I made the meeting for when I would be visiting campus in May 2015 to walk at graduation.

I nervously walked into the office, when a overly chipper woman placed me in a room and gave me a folder. This was going to be my moment of truth, I never thought I'd get the chance to see something like this. I also want to note that I was applying for law schools at the time and was also using this as an exercise for what schools may look for in me. I open up the folder and pull out a fairly small stack of papers. As I look through I realize it is just an exact copy of what I submitted to Notre Dame when I applied. No notes, no comments- nothing.

"Wait, there's something wrong here- this is just my application, where are the admission board's comments?" I asked. 

"Ohhh, (long pause) well what year did you apply in?" she replied. 

"I applied in 2009/2010." 

"Hmmm I think that might be the first year we went electronic, all of those files are destroyed- I'm so sorry." She replied in her still too chipper voice. 

So that was it. I just got up and left. Did she think I'm stupid? My basic application isn't destroyed but conveniently all comments from the admissions board are? Who destroys any type of file if they're not trying to hide something? Also, pretty positive they had long been electronic; this was 2010, not 1999. 

But after a successful undergrad run and a degree in my hand, did it really matter how I got in?  I was about to walk across the graduation stage with honors regardless of why I got admitted. I had an amazing four years at Notre Dame. All of the memories of tailgating, all-nighters, class room debates, CJ's, and one dollar margs can't be taken from me. Maybe I got in because I'm Latina, maybe not. But that's not what really matters. What does is what I did with those four years- and I did them right. 

That's what counts. 

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