Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beware the dangers of videotaping your class.

There have been a series of incidents recently that illustrate the risks that classroom tapes, usually made by professors for their students' benefit, can wreak havoc if they fall into the wrong hands and wind up on YouTube.  As noted in this story from Inside Higher Ed:

While the cases differ widely, faculty members at Cornell University, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge and the University of Central Florida have all seen pieces of their lectures go viral in the last several weeks. Taken collectively, the carefully edited clips play up familiar stereotypes about faculty: there’s the quick-tempered bore (Cornell), the liberal indoctrinator (Louisiana State) and the lazy test-recycler (Central Florida)

The most egregious incident occurred at Louisiana State where it was later determined that a person not even enrolled in the professor's class surreptitiously taped a lecture, edited the tape to distort the professor's views, and then posted it on YouTube in order to attack the professor's supposed liberal leanings.  I have also previously blogged about a University of Florida business professor who was fired after a classroom tape appeared on YouTube showing him apparently stoned (by coincidence, a law student of mine happened to be in that professor's class on the day in question and confirmed to me that he was drunk, not stoned). 

If it isn't already part of your syllabus, consider adding a provision that prohibits the videotaping of class under any circumstances.  It might not prevent what happened to the Louisiana State prof (if someone is intent on portraying you in a false light, they'll find a way to do it) but at least it may give you some recourse.  


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