Some students claim not putting lectures on Q-Review hinders their learning. However, the reasons for not recording them are arguably justifiable.
Some politics lecturers at Queen Mary have opted not to record their lectures for Q-Review. This is to the dismay of students who use the service for revision or to catch-up on lectures they have missed.
The problems that arise when lectures are recorded have become more apparent in recent years, not just at Queen Mary, but at Universities worldwide. There have been many stories about professors who have had phrases taken out of context; phrases that could lead to inquiries that jeopardise their academic careers.
Professors have found that simple remarks have caused huge uproar; an assistant Geography professor at the University of Wisconsin made international news when an email to students went viral. In the email, she was addressing student complaints about inaccessible consensus data on a government website. The assistant professor blamed the “Republican/Tea Party controlled House of Representatives” for the shutdown of the federal government and consequent government website issues. She experienced uproar after taking this slight partisan bias – which was merely a matter of opinion rather than offence.
Many view it as disappointing that technology (which did not exist in Universities a few decades ago and can be massively beneficial to the student experience) has been exploited to the point where professors feel that they have to refuse the recording of their lectures in order to be safe.
Does this limit the academic freedom of professors? More importantly though, do students really want to be taught in an environment where professors are worried to say anything remotely controversial or express an opinion in case it is taken out of context?
Of course, if xenophobic, homophobic, or blatantly offensive remarks are made in a lecture theatre, there would be a serious problem. However, the extent to which lecturers’ freedom of speech is being hindered can be viewed as a huge shame, considering it is stopping them using Q-Review – a service that is supposed to be beneficial to students. A classic case where the few, who may have posted out-of-context clips online, have ruined it for the many.
We reached out to some of the professors in Politics and International Relations department at Queen Mary. One professor, who stated that they would rather not be named, said the following: “Recording of lectures has, unfortunately, killed the lecture as a semi-spontaneous performance. Only an idiot would now risk a joke or an aside – especially based on inside information – that could be used out of context to embarrass them or one of their sources. Much better to be bland, boring and safe”.
Not only have professors’ freedom of speech been hindered, but their privacy too. Professors at other universities have received hate mail, and even death threats for completely fair remarks that merely leant towards one end of the political spectrum or have been taken out of context.
Some Universities have begun to introduce privacy rules, banning forms of recording, particularly unofficial recording on private devices. But does this really stop anyone from recording lectures? It is easy to conceal a recording device, especially when the majority of modern mobile phones have the option to record. “Even if lectures were not being recorded by QM, we should always remember that every single student attending is carrying a recording device in their pocket with pretty much the same potential”.
For now, Queen Mary has the more favourable policy of lecture recording being left at the discretion of professors themselves rather than a University-wide ban. Hopefully the growing controversy surrounding the matter never goes so far as to change this. However, the concerns some professors have surrounding being recording are understandable.