Compass Update September 16, 2013

Release Date: Thursday, Sep 19, 2013

Reminder - Change to be implemented for off-campus Compass access

In order to improve security, Compass users who are not on campus in College Station, Galveston, Qatar or the School of Law will need to use the Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access the system.  This change will be effective on Wednesday, September 25.  Your IT desktop support staff can assist you with installing the VPN on your off-campus computer.  Instructions on downloading and installing the VPN can also be found on the CIS Help Desk Central VPN page.

One important note is that when you download the VPN, you are presented with an option to “tunnel_all_traffic” or “tunnel_tamu_traffic.”  The “tunnel_tamu_traffic” option is recommended.   This will use the VPN only for Texas A&M resources and will allow other activities on your computer such as local printing.

VPN Login

New Image on the Howdy login page

A new image will appear on the Howdy login page starting next week to inform students about the Undergraduate Degree Planner.

Undergraduate Degree Planner 


SWATMPL Form Enhancement

The SWATMPL Undergraduate Degree Planner template form has been enhanced.  Next to each semester’s course list, a comment field has been added.  Students will see be able to see the comments on the Undergraduate Degree Planner template in Howdy.  Examples of comments include taking an elective course, taking a core curriculum course or choosing a course when there are multiple options.  For questions regarding SWATMPL, please contact




Student View of Template

Student View of Template


FERPA for Faculty and Staff

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal regulation that protects the privacy of student education records.  It is important that every person who works with student education records understands: what an education record is; what information within that record may be disclosed; and, to whom and under what conditions that information may be disclosed.

An education record is any record containing information directly related to a student that is maintained by an institution, educational agency, or by an individual acting directly for such institution or agency. It may be maintained in any medium: print, film, handwriting, electronic text, photographs, etc.

Education Records do not include:

  • Records kept in the sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker;
  • Law enforcement records;
  • Medical treatment records;
  • Employment records for those employees whose employment is in no way related to student status at TAMU as long as those records are related exclusively to the individual’s capacity as an employee and not available for use for any other purpose.


Personally identifiable information includes:

  • Name;
  • Name of a parent/guardian or other family members;
  • Address;
  • Numeric identifiers, such as Social Security number, driver's license number, or UIN
  • Other identifiers, such as date of birth, place of birth, or mother’s maiden name; and
  • Other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific person that would allow a reasonable person without knowledge of the relevant circumstances to identify a person with reasonable certainty.

Directory information refers to items of information contained in an education record which may be released without the student's prior written consent.  Texas A&M University defines the following items as directory information:

  • Name
  • Universal Identification Number (UIN)
  • Address (Local and Permanent)
  • Telephone Number (Local and Permanent)
  • E-mail Address
  • Dates of Attendance
  • Program of Study (College, Major, Campus)
  • Classification
  • Previous Educational Agencies/Institutions Attended
  • Participation in Officially Recognized Activities and Sports
  • Degrees, Honors, and Awards Received

Students may request to have their directory information items withheld from disclosure without prior written consent. Texas A&M University employees should exercise discretion when releasing directory information.

Staff with access to the Compass student information system may view any holds a student has placed on his or her directory information on the SWAINFO form.  Items checked on SWAINFO have been withheld and should not be disclosed without prior written consent from the student.  Additional training about FERPA information in Compass is available in the Compass User Training channel on the Employee tab in Howdy.

Faculty and instructors may view students with directory holds on the class roster.  Students with the word “Confidential” listed next to their names have requested directory holds.  Clicking on the “Confidential” indicator will display the specific items on which a student has placed a directory hold.

Directory holds will not prevent information from student education records from being released to university officials, authorized agents acting on behalf of the university, and to others with a legitimate educational interest under certain conditions (e.g., for the receipt of financial aid, to other institutions to which a student has applied, in connection with health or safety emergencies) without prior written consent.


DO NOT leave graded tests or papers in a stack for students to pick-up by sorting through the tests or papers of all students.

DO NOT discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents/guardians) without the consent of the student.

DO NOT provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in classes for any commercial purpose.

DO NOT provide student schedules or assist anyone in locating a student on campus.

DO post grades using secure technology (see below).

DO store documents or physical media containing confidential or personally identifiable information in locked file cabinets or drawers, and store the keys in a secure area.

DO encrypt any confidential or personally identifiable information stored on computers, portable computing devices, or portable media.

Posting Grades

FERPA requires student grades be accessible only to individual students and other authorized personnel. Posting grades in a secure learning management system like eCampus (Blackboard Learn) is the preferred method for distributing grades online at Texas A&M University. Instructional Technology Services (ITS) would like to remind instructors and instructional staff of the secure, centrally supported technology available for delivering student grades.

ITS is available to support instructors in adhering to university regulations, especially in terms of implementing new technology. If you would like more information about using the eCampus Grade Center, contact ITS at or (979) 458-3417.

Special Reminders for Faculty and Staff

Any confidential information stored on a portable computing or storage device must be encrypted with an appropriate encryption technique, according to TAMU Standard Administrative Procedure ( ). Storing unencrypted student education records outside the University’s network, particularly using cloud storage or synchronization services (e.g., Drop Box, Google Drive, SkyDrive, etc.) may result in unauthorized access to that data by third party vendors in violation of FERPA.  Ask your IT support personnel for assistance or go to for more information about encryption.

If the unauthorized disclosure or release of confidential or sensitive personal information should occur, see SAP 29.01.03.M1.24 ( ) for appropriate procedures.

Additional information about FERPA is online at  If you have any questions about FERPA compliance or the release of student information, please contact the Office of the Registrar at