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Let Me See Your Grades

Monday, Sep. 19, 2011

Juliana was a good student in high school. She wasn't valedictorian, but she got mostly As and Bs. Her parents thought they had to sit on her to get her assignments done, but she thought they worried too much. After all, she did get into the college of her choice and was starting her freshman year at school.

Juliana was looking forward to the independence of the college environment. There was only one hitch: her parents were insisting that she allow them to see her grades. Because she was 18, by law, she was an adult. But by her parents' law, she was either going to make her records accessible or they weren't going to pay for school.

Was it right for them to invade her privacy like this?

Here are some useful resources:

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Photo by quinn.anya available under Creative Commons License.

Comments Comments

Adan F said on Sep 19, 2011
I feel there is no need to show grades to your parents in college. We hit that age the mark where we are considered ADULTS. We shouldn't have to go walk up to our parents with a print out of our grades and wait for an approval. Many college students are out there on their own these days not really on parents for anything. Although I do believe it depends on the situation though. If a college student is dependent on their parents I believe, out of courtesy, they should show their parents their grades. If a parent is shelling out $20-100k a year for a student's education they must show that they are exceling in school and not wasting their parent's money. - Like - 14 people like this.
Cameron said on Sep 20, 2011
My family, like most families that I know of, subscribes to the old adage: "My roof; my rules." If Juliana's parents are paying for her tuition, she is still under her parent's roof, albeit a metaphorical one. As long as her parents continue to support her, which they by no means are obligated to do, Juliana must listen to them. It is up to Juliana's parents to decide what kind of rules they want to lay down regarding their continued payment, and that includes insisting on seeing her grades. If they are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars a year and Juliana begins failing all of her classes, her parents have the right to know so they do not continue wasting money on an education that is clearly not going anywhere. If Juliana wants the privacy of not showing her grades to her parents, I say that is completely acceptable. She is an adult and should be treated as such&as long as she pays her own way. Sharing her grades is really not much of a sacrifice anyway. She is already out of the house, so her parents can't exactly lock her in her room until she finishes her homework. The least she can do is prove to them that she can do well without them hovering over her. That way, after a few good semesters, maybe they will back off and give her some privacy. - Like - 3 people like this.
Justin H said on Sep 20, 2011
Why is there a right to privacy when she is relying upon her parents to provide for her? If she feels as though she's an adult and capable of being responsible for herself, she should pay for her own education. - Like - 2 people like this.
Adan F said on Sep 20, 2011
Cameron went with exactly what I was saying. If you want to be independent and not show your grades to your parents, then pay for your school. Those students should ENJOY and should be more then happy to show their parents their grades. To not have to worry about paying for school, but just show up is easy enough. Others out there are struggling to pay for classes. Juggling part time school and full time jobs. Show your grades if your not paying, just as Cameron said "My Roof, My Rules" - Like - 8 people like this.
Jake T said on Sep 20, 2011
My initial reaction to this scenario was the same as everyone else's: If Juliana's college is paid for by her parents, then they should be entitled to seeing her grades. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to a dissenting opinion. Any time you purchase something--computer, car, college education, etc.--you possess the trust that it will do what's it's supposed to do (i.e. if you buy a car, you have faith that it will not break down when you go to drive it...at least not right away). And if you can't accept that risk (i.e. you think the car is just too decrepit to be of value) then you don't make that purchase in the first place. A similar notion applies to Juliana's education. The mere fact that her parents agreed to pay for her tuition indicates that they have faith she will succeed--or at least do well enough for the investment to be worthwhile. However, if they then incessantly ask to see her grades, it implies that they lack that trust. If her parents truly want the college education to be as fruitful as it's meant to be, then they cannot mandate that she reveals her grades. College is supposed to be a time of developing one's independence, and if her parents don't want her to do that, then they should have never offered to pay for the education in the first place. In order for Juliana to develop both a healthy sense of self-reliance and a mature relationship with her parents, each party has to understand the other's role in this situation and act accordingly. And while I agree that it would be best for Juliana to willingly share her grades if her parents were curious, first and foremost, the parents must slow the churn of their helicopter's rotors. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Miriam said on Sep 20, 2011
I hope it's okay if a mother chimes in. I do not feel that parents should ask to see their children's grades in college. When people turn 18, they are grown-ups as far as the law is concerned, and they are grown-ups as far as I'm concerned. Of course, they don't have the experience that their parents do, but they never will gain that experience if they're not allowed to function as adults. I think my kids always knew they could ask us for help if they needed it, but I wanted to show them the respect of assuming that they were able to handle their own lives in college - Like - 1 person likes this.
Adan F said on Sep 21, 2011
I believe you cannot do that comparison. When purchasing a car you have reports, facts about the car and you can always fight with the company or dealership about the car and its standards. Usually you can fight to get your money back because they broke a contract or lied to you about the car you purchased. In college, you won't get your money back. Parents pay for their childrens tuition because they either want to offer an opportunity that their parents didn't give to them, or doing what their parents did for them. In example, my parents pay for my tuition ebcause they never finished high school, or college. They want me to excel in life. My parents always tell me "We want you to do better then us, and this is why we are giving you this opportunity". I think the least you could do is show your grades. - Like - 5 people like this.
Adan F said on Sep 21, 2011
I believe living on campus or at an apartment away from home is enough freedom for college student. That alone shows that we are adults. I feel it is only fair that we show you how we are progessing through our classes. - Like - 6 people like this.
Deepti said on Sep 21, 2011
I don't think Juliana's parents have any automatic right to view her report card just because they're paying for her education. Sure, they can hold that over her head and coerce her into letting them into her life, but that isn't my idea of a loving parent/child relationship. Ultimately, Juliana is an adult. Her parents have chosen, very generously, to help her pay for college, but that was their choice. They can't expect to be able to control her on that basis. Keeping her parents updated might be a nice thing for Juliana to do, but as far as I can see, she's by no means required to do so. If the principle we all lived by were that we owe our parents absolute obedience in return for the money and effort they put into raising us, we would never be able to make decisions for ourselves. Juliana should be allowed to use her time in college to learn independence. It seems pretty clear, however, that her parents are not going to back down. Juliana might want to consider taking out student loans or looking for alternate sources of funding for her education so that her parents no longer have any claim on her autonomy. - Like - 4 people like this.
Jenna V said on Sep 25, 2011
I think that's an invasion of privacy unless you already made an agreement to show your grades since your parents are paying. I feel like I have to show my grades to my parents because they are paying for me so I need to be able to step it up and have good grades. We are all adults but we still need to be showing improvement or at least proving that their money is going to a good cause in bettering our education! - Like
Jeremy Geist said on Sep 25, 2011
Although it may rankle Julianna, it's her parents' right to want to ask for her grades if they are permitting her to stay. If she's getting As and Bs, not only is there nothing to be ashamed of, but she may be able to convince them that she's doing well enough that they can get off her back in the future. - Like - 2 people like this.
Miriam Schulman said on Sep 26, 2011
Adan gets the $50 Amazon gift certificate this week. Not only did he leave his own thoughts on the original case, but he also engaged with other people's comments. - Like
David DeCosse said on Sep 26, 2011
Here's a paradox that Americans often blow past: I am nothing without my rights; I will accomplish nothing if I absolutize all my rights. These may sound like conflicting statements, but they're not. It's important that Juliana, as an 18-year-old, have the sure protection of rights  like the right to privacy over her student record at college  befitting an adult. It's also important that Juliana's parents assert their right to see her report card on account of paying for her school. But if we stop there  and think too much of these as absolute, clashing rights  we won't get anywhere. Furthermore, we'll miss the deeper possibilities for figuring a way forward through this and similar situations. What if college  going to it and paying for it  isn't so much the occasion for the assertion of rights but is rather the beginning of a dialogue between parents and children about the assumption of adult responsibilities? In that scenario, neither Juliana nor her parents assert their clashing rights. Rather, the obligation on each party is to discuss candidly and regularly the challenges of academic work. Such a conversation could empower Juliana. It also might help her parents move from parent-as-monitor  okay when the kids are really kids  to parent-as-mentor  much better when the kids are launching into life. - Like
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