COLUMBIA — A new UM System policy requires students to gain permission before sharing recorded video or audio of classroom lectures and discussions with those outside the classroom.
Interim UM System President Steve Owens issued the policy last week, requiring that students ask faculty and other students who made comment during class for permission before sharing video or audio with anyone outside the classroom.
The policy took effect Dec. 20 and applies to all four UM campuses.
The issue originated from incidents at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart manipulated classroom videos to make the instructors seem as though they supported violence in labor-management relations, according to an article by Inside Higher Ed.
“I understand that today’s students rely heavily on technology to aid in learning, including capturing audio or video of lectures presented in the classroom,” Owens said in a letter to the four UM chancellors announcing the order.
“This policy in no way attempts to prohibit students’ use of technology but rather prohibits the unauthorized redistribution outside the classroom of any audio or video recordings without the consent of the faculty and students who are recorded,” he wrote.
Leona Rubin, an MU Faculty Council member, said she thinks the policy was created in the “right spirit of things.”
“It’s really about giving students and faculty that sense of security that you can have an open discussion,” Rubin said. “(Owens) didn’t want a public display of classroom material to inhibit classroom discussion.”
Rubin said that Breitbart inappropriately used classroom material and that the faculty and UM administration want students to know that they can’t share classroom discussions with third parties, like Breitbart did, without permission.
Not all UM faculty members agree.
Charles Davis, associate professor of journalism studies, described the incidents at UMKC and UMSL as a “spectacular one-time event that’s extraordinarily unlikely to repeat itself.”
“From a First Amendment standpoint, I’m troubled by the policy that tell students who pay tuition to attend that university that they can’t capture video from the classroom that you’re in as students,” Davis said. “I don’t know how you do that with a straight face.”
Davis said many students have recording devices, such as smartphones, with high-definition video capabilities, making the policy difficult to enforce, especially in large lecture classes.
“We’re in an era of lots and lots of sharing and capturing of video content and repurposing that content in interesting ways,” Davis said. “To squelch that seems to be the wrong approach. I think we ought to be open and transparent and share like mad.”
Clyde Bentley, associate professor in the MU School of Journalism and a member of the Faculty Council, said he sees the policy as a compromise.
“There is also a need for freedom of information,” Bentley said. “What we worked on is to balance the two.”
He said there have been previous drafts of this policy and the final order is an improvement.
He said he appreciated Owens’ flexibility in creating the final policy. The president gave the document to the council to examine, listened to the council’s complaints and made changes based on its recommendations, he said.
Bentley said being able to revise the policy restored some of his faith in the UM System.
“Even though it was an executive order, it was a due process,” he said. “That’s what we want in this country.”
According to a previous Columbia Missourian article, instructors would have the ability to warn students up front about “disciplinary actions for unauthorized use of classroom materials or comments” in the class syllabus.
For Davis, that means leaving the door open for sharing information.
Davis said he plans to make it “abundantly clear” that his classes are an open forum and that students in his classes are allowed to share information in any way they want.