Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

May 13, 2010

Syllabus should address students recording classes, Assembly says

Faculty should add a statement to course syllabi clarifying students’ use of recording technology in the classroom, Faculty Assembly recommended last week.

Kathleen Kelly, co-chair of the University Senate educational policies committee (EPC), reported May 4 on what she termed a “classroom civility topic.”

As University Senate President Michael Pinsky reported at the November Assembly meeting, in October a student secretly taped a Pitt class and posted it on YouTube. The posting included the student’s caustic commentary about the class, the instructor and the University, he said.

When confronted by the instructor, the student removed the video from the site and resigned from the course. The teacher elected not to pursue any action against the student, Pinsky told Assembly members in the fall.

At the May 4 Assembly meeting, Kelly said, “There was an incident that was taken care of, but it raised the bigger issue of making faculty more aware of the potential of this happening with the growth of electronic media.

“We spent a lot of time deliberating on the issue of students’ disseminating what happened in a classroom. We had the input of legal counsel on several occasions, as well as the provost’s office,  to come up with — not a policy — but a statement.”

The statement, which was approved by Assembly members with one abstention, reads: “To ensure the free and open discussion of ideas, students may not record classroom lectures, discussion and/or activities without the advance written permission of the instructor, and any such recording properly approved in advance can be used solely for the student’s own private use.”

Use of the statement is optional, Kelly noted.

To disseminate this recommendation to faculty members, EPC plans to work with the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE), she said.

“We thought the best vehicle for that might be to go through CIDDE, to have them perhaps pre-populate that statement in their [syllabus] template,” Kelly said.

At last week’s Assembly meeting, Pinsky, in endorsing the statement, said, “The principle here is the sanctity of the classroom, and that the classroom should have open and free conversation, but it is not a public place. So, for example, you can’t go into someone else’s classroom without their permission.”

The other issue, he said, was protecting students’ confidence that their remarks in class would not be recorded. “We cannot have classrooms where students do not feel they can be honest and open. It’s the sanctity of the classroom that must be preserved. This statement is an attempt to raise awareness,” Pinsky said.

In other Assembly business:

Alexandros Labrinidis, co-chair of computer usage committee, reported results of a survey on the voicemail message system. (See related story this issue.)

Senate elections chair John Baker reported on participation in the recently concluded elections for Senate officers and new Assembly members. (For those results, see April 29 University Times.)

Baker said 17 percent of the 3,257 eligible voters participated in the elections, which concluded April 15. “That number is considerably better than last year, when only 10 percent of the eligible faculty voted for Faculty Assembly [members]. If we go back to our last paper ballot, which was 2006, 23 percent of the eligible faculty voted.”

He asked Assembly members for recommendations to increase voter participation.

“The [Senate standing] committee elections were held during finals week, but I don’t know how we could have avoided that,” Baker said.

“We can set the election date, so we can change it next year if there’s strong sentiment to do so, but it’s very difficult to do. We don’t really want to have committee elections at the same time as Faculty Assembly elections,” he said, adding his strong preference for holding elections before the end of the academic term when the majority of faculty are on campus.

Assembly members suggested more email reminders during the election cycle. For this election season, one paper reminder and one email reminder were sent, according to Senate office director Lori Molinaro.

• Pinsky said Assembly meetings will be held in Ballroom A of the University Club for the foreseeable future. Assembly meetings usually are held at 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.

—Peter Hart

Leave a Reply