Furman prohibits the recording of classes without the advance written permission of the instructor, except in cases where Furman permits a qualified student with a disability to record classes as a reasonable accommodation. Students are advised of this policy in the Student Handbook.
Academic accommodations ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires Furman to permit recording of classes as a reasonable accommodation when appropriate. The recording of lectures is a common accommodation for students with a variety of disabilities that make it difficult to process the lecture content and make cogent written notes at the same time. The audio recording allows the student to ‘fill in the gaps’ after the lecture or clarify their written notes. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has repeatedly ruled that students with qualifying disabilities have the right to record class lectures, and federal courts have upheld the accommodation.
As with other types of accommodations, the Student Office of Accessibility Resources (SOAR) office reviews documentation related to the student’s disability and meets with the student to discuss functional limitations and appropriate accommodations. If it is determined that a recording accommodation is appropriate, staff in the SOAR office have the student review and sign an agreement regarding the student’s responsibilities related to the recording accommodation. The agreement reinforces the policy from the Student Handbook. It reminds students that there are rules and parameters and that they can be disciplined for violations.
A standard recording accommodation permits a student to audio record classroom proceedings. However, technological developments in auxiliary aids now enable students to insert photographs and video into transcriptions of a lecture. These features can be extraordinarily helpful for students, particularly when they are trying to capture graphs or drawings. Generally, any photos would be of content on a whiteboard or PowerPoint, not of a person. If any faculty member feels that a student with a recording (or any) accommodation is taking pictures in such a way that does not align with the accommodation, then he or she should share those concerns with the SOAR office.
The improper sharing of recorded material is addressed in the Student Handbook. The recording itself is not the issue; it is the improper use of a recording, which is clearly addressed in the published policy and in the agreement that the student signed. If a professor has reason to believe that students are not following the terms of the agreement, then it should be reported, and violations will be addressed through the student conduct process. OCR has addressed intellectual property concerns in a document available here.
The accommodation is for recording classroom proceedings. It does not extend to hallway conversations. If a student comes to office hours and the professor spends time reviewing material that was delivered in class, then a recording could be helpful for that student. Students should ask the professor for permission before recording a conversation during office hours.
It is appropriate for professors to advise students generally that students with an accommodation through the SOAR office may record classroom proceedings. However, the professor should make every effort to protect the privacy of any students with recording accommodations. Under no circumstances should the professor identify the students with the recording accommodation. Other students do not need to provide consent for the recording. Similarly, if any student in a course has a recording accommodation, professors may notify guest speakers that they might be recorded. If the speaker’s remarks are not going to be used in future assessments, then use the generic “pencils down and recorders off” instruction.
If the material included in the presentation could appear in later assessments, then students with academic accommodations for recording must be permitted to use them. All students should be able to take notes to help them digest the material for future academic exercises, and for students with specific needs, the recording of the presentation will facilitate that process.
Occasionally, instructors object to the use of a recording device in classes that involve a great deal of self-disclosure from students as part of the class, fearing that the use of a recording device will inhibit students from sharing freely. The use of a recording device is to replace the student’s note taking ability. If these open discussions are not appropriate subject matter for any student to be taking notes, it would be appropriate to issue a general directive to all students, such as “pencils down and recorders off.” Students should not be assessed on any content that follows the “pencils down and recorders off” statement.
A professor who believes that a recording accommodation would constitute a fundamental alteration to course content should contact the director of the SOAR office to discuss those concerns and suggest other means of providing the needed accommodation. If a professor determines, for example, that recording of a particular portion of a class or group discussion might prevent other students from fully engaging with the material or the exercise, then that professor should consult SOAR for guidance.
Students agree to delete files at the end of the semester, though it is the student’s responsibility to do so.
Posting lecture notes and PowerPoint slides on Moodle can be very helpful for all students, especially students with disabilities. Please be sure that anything you post can be read with a screen reader.