Student recordings of classes is a bad idea

Student recordings of classes is a bad idea

Kevin Griffin

Perhaps each of us at one point or another has been sitting in a class when a professor said something we found objectionable.

Depending on what or how it was said, the incident might bother us for some time. Still, it would probably take a major controversy for any one of us to go so far as to record and share with others what the professor had said.

The issue of student recording of lectures was settled at University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. After reviewing the case of a student who had recorded and released a video of a guest speaker making disparaging remarks about Republican leaders, the Faculty Senate at the university voted to prevent students from recording lectures, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

While we have not encountered issues with students taping classes at Appalachian State University, it is worthwhile to consider what the implications of allowing students to tape classes are for universities in general.

On the surface, this may seem to be a fairly straightforward free speech issue. The job of a school, after all, is to be a forum for discussion and debate, so why should professors fear having lectures recorded?

I am not totally unsympathetic to this view. Recordings of some cases can help expose instances of professors and other public figures saying things that the public should know.

For a national, out-of-the-classroom example, we have Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remark, which gave valuable insight on the candidate’s real positions.

The classroom setting, though, is different in a sense. As much as filming individuals speaking can give public accountability, it could also have the unintended consequence of stifling speech in environments where they know they are being observed and perhaps judged.

This means professors who know they are being recorded may watch what they say, which might lead to them softening or avoiding making certain points because they are controversial or out of fear that certain remarks may be misrepresented.

Such a chilling effect is bad for the type of robust discussion that should take place in classrooms.

For all the benefits that come from recordings of speakers, there are significant downsides that could harm the educational process.

Kevin Griffin, a sophomore journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.