Sunday, March 30, 2014
The Desks Have Ears
I understand the appeal of a return to the golden age, but it isn’t going to happen. If the desks have ears, let’s make sure everyone else does, too. Otherwise, we’re at the mercy of the one student with a chip on his shoulder and a phone in his hand.
This sounds remarkably naive. Fox (or any other station with an agenda) will simply pull the 'incriminating' five minutes from your recording and use that, out of context, to 'prove' their point.
Sure, you'll have the proof that it was pulled out of context, but that won't matter. The story will be out there, and will be believed. Truth never catches up to juicy lies.
But I think Dean Dad is right, in general--this kind of thing is only going to happen more. Faculty & universities need to be a bit more sophisticated about the whole thing. But it's not always about context. For example, back during the federal government shutdown, a poli sci professor at another UW campus got into trouble for telling students in an email that the Republicans were responsible for turning off access to some databases the class needed to complete an assignment. I appreciate the professor's frustration, but it would have been better to leave the blaming out of the email.
thanks to richard for the additional details on the case. this apparently wasn't a "devil's advocate" situation. it's unclear to me why any professor in a public institution should have an expectation of privacy in the classroom.
Doesn't address the issue of taping, which, FWIW, scares me quite a lot, as I am a devil's advocate kind of instructor.
Though the ones around here prefer the term, "libertarian" because it isn't cool to be Republican because Fox News is just mind-numbingly stupid. It's difficult to be labeled as an intellectual conservative these days because the Republican party has made that phrase into an oxymoron. So, they're "libertarian" and "independent". 10 years ago, many they self-labeled as "McCain-type conservatives" but they felt abandoned by the choice of Sarah Palin.
Back when I was working at Large Telecommunications Company, I taught several in-house courses on technical subjects for the employees. Towards the end of my career there, my classes were all video-taped. I suspected that the purpose of this taping was to replace me by a video tape player and a television set, which is certainly what eventually happened. The company was certainly within their rights in doing so, since I was an employee and my classes were “works for hire”, and the company owned the intellectual property rights on the recordings, not me.
But in an academic setting, things may be different. If a professor’s class is video-recorded, who owns the rights on the recordings? Does the professor own the recordings of his lectures, and can they take them to another school or even sell them on the open market? But since the professor is an employee of the college or university, would the recordings be treated as a “work-for-hire” and be owned by the employer? This is such a murky issue that a savvy professor would be wise have to have all of this cleared ahead of time and put into writing before they allow the recording to go ahead. At Proprietary Art School where I teach, there is a written statement in our contracts that individual classroom teachers own the intellectual property rights on the classroom materials that they create, but that the school owns the syllabi.
This is a hot issue in the online education world. If you create an online course, who owns it? You or your employer? Can your college or university lay you off and have a poorly-paid part-timer use the course materials that you created? Could you take your online course to another university? Again, before you agree to create an online course, you would be wise to negotiate the intellectual property rules and have all of this put into writing.
If someone surreptitiously records my classroom lecture and posts it on YouTube, could they be infringing on my copyright? After all, they are making available for free something for which students have to pay tuition to see. They could also be infringing on my right of publicity, namely they are using my image and words without my permission. But I suppose that courts and lawyers might conclude that these things are OK, provided that they were not done for any sort of commercial gain. YouTube has run into all sorts of legal hassles over people who post clips from movies, music videos, or TV shows.
In today’s environment, almost everyone has a video camera in their smartphone, and one should assume that just about everything you do or say could potentially be recorded. And if what you did is in any way embarrassing or controversial, it is sure to appear on YouTube and perhaps go viral.
The student who did the video (head of the local College Republicans, if I'm not mistaken), may or may not have violated the professor's right to privacy, but he definitely ran the risk of violating the students' FERPA rights. What if one of the other students, not knowing the class was being videoed, stood up and agreed with the speaker about racism being endemic to the GOP? They are acting properly as a student participating in a classroom discussion, so their remarks are covered by FERPA. Did the student with the camera even consider the possibility? And what would have happened to the student who agreed? The UWW campus has seen a number of racist attacks on the person and property of African-American students over the last couple of years, so this is not a fanciful concern.
This is what strikes me as most irresponsible about what the student did, and he should face up to the fact that he endangered the other students.
I have only read the OP and the comments, but based on what's been said so far, it could still be a devi's advocate situation if, for example, the instructor was otherwise going to present the pro-Republican argument, either in the same lecture, in another lecture, or with another guest speaker.
I'm withholding judgment, b/c I have encountered/witnessed/been a participant in(to my shame) biased instruction. So it's not impossible. I'd just need to know more.
I've had the pleasure of conversing with any number of right-wing professors. I've even worked with a couple during my grad student days. Racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia are hardly banished from academia.
*cf: Atwater, Lee