Student Suspended for Recording an Instructor

A community college student in California has been suspended for video recording an instructor’s anti-Trump remarks during a human sexuality class. Importantly, the school has a well-posted policy against recording without permission. (An exception is made for students with disabilities, if they need a recording to help them learn.)

The event is getting a lot of play in the national media, but local coverage appears to be most comprehensive. Here is the link to an article in the Orange County Register, which contains helpful background links, especially this one, which discusses the issue of whether students are allowed legally (at least in California) to make recordings of class presentations.

If this case concerns you in terms of its implication for your classes, it might be a good idea to see if your school has a policy on this issue. The institution may also have access to an official interpretation of state law.

Applications on cell phones simply make it easier to surreptitiously make (and post) a digital record of class presentations. We have all been approached by students who ask if it’s okay, and tape recorders have been used for a long time, of course. However, in addition to new technology, the political atmosphere in the U.S. today aggravates the situation. The instructor in the California case is an openly gay Latina, and lawyers for the student are affiliated with the College Republicans on campus. Welcome to the culture wars.

You may be aware of organizations targeting “leftist” or “liberal” professors, posting a list of alleged perpetrators online. Much of this activity centers upon universities, but the above case may be instructive of what might happen at a community college.

In terms of pedagogy, some teachers believe it chills the atmosphere in class when recording is going on. Students may also be reluctant to reveal personal information during class discussion if they know, or even suspect, it’s recorded. Whatever the law stipulates (and you are getting the exact amount of legal representation you are paying for here), perhaps a statement in your syllabus is worth considering.