From videotaped lectures to podcasts, universities are rushing to embrace the digital revolution. Yet even as some schools invite the public to view course material online, they’re starting to grapple with how to keep classroom discussions out of the wrong hands.
At the University of Missouri, a leaked classroom video that went viral in the spring and triggered an uproar on conservative media has prompted what may be the first restrictions on students recording lectures since the advent of portable tape recorders more than 50 years ago.
Under the new policy, students must first obtain written permission from their professors and classmates.
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Administrators say they want to make sure that students and faculty don’t discover their conversations posted online or become afraid to talk openly.
The new policy “protects the sanctity of the classroom for our students so they can freely discuss their thoughts and opinions,” said Steve Graham, senior associate vice president for academic affairs for the four-campus Missouri system.
But some Missouri professors are crying foul. They say the restrictions are impractical and contradict the public university’s goal of promoting shared knowledge.
“…We are public, taxpayer-funded faculty, and so we should think long and hard about any sort of restrictions on the rights of our students to record us as we work,” said Charles Davis, a journalism professor and former executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
The proposal, which awaits approval by campus attorneys, is a response to a video of a labor studies lecture by University of Missouri-Kansas City professor Judy Ancel. Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government website obtained a leaked copy and edited hours of classroom lectures to suggest that she and a classroom colleague advocated union violence.