A proposed policy at the University of Missouri would require students to obtain written permission from their professors and classmates to record class lectures or discussions.
As more and more classroom content finds its way to an online format, this policy seems like a step in the wrong direction.
The policy was prompted largely by an incident in April, when two Missouri professors nearly lost their jobs after a video posted on an anti-union blog apparently showed them promoting union violence during a class lecture.
At first, some called for the professors’ resignations, but the university eventually sided with them after it was determined that the two seven-minute videos had been deceptively edited from about 30 hours of lecture footage that was posted on the university’s Blackboard system as part of a distance-education course, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Gail Hackett, provost of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, issued a statement in April critical of the videos, stating that a review of the original footage made it “clear that edited videos posted on the Internet depict statements from the instructors in an inaccurate and distorted manner by taking their statements out of context and reordering the sequence in which those statements were actually made so as to change their meaning. Such selective editing is disturbing, and the release of students’ images without their permission is a violation of their privacy rights.”
The proposed policy change is intended to make students and professors comfortable with talking openly in class. Steve Graham, senior associate vice president for academic affairs for the University of Missouri system, said to The Associated Press that the policy “protects the sanctity of the classroom for our students so they can freely discuss their thoughts and opinions.”
This seems like an exaggerated concern, however. Most students probably aren’t worried about what they say during discussions finding its way out of the classroom, and the policy would only hinder students’ abilities to take notes and learn in class.
The videos represent a deliberate attempt to manipulate words, and the policy would do nothing to limit such extreme cases. Individuals with agendas will still find ways to discredit professors they disagree with ideologically, while legitimate students suffer under such policies. Additionally, the videos were created from lectures intentionally posted online, though only students in the class were meant to see them.
Many USF professors include recording policies in their syllabuses, such as requiring some form of permission before recording or banning the sale of recorded lectures. Individual policies like these are a better solution than a university-wide policy that could damage the learning environment it is trying to protect.