ASG approves recording policy for college

Permission to be required to record in private places, classrooms

Allegheny Student Government discussed an upcoming change to the college that will affect the school’s policy toward recording in private during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

Campus Life and Community Standards drafted the policy. Co-chair of that committee and Assistant Professor of Political Science Shanna Kirschner visited ASG to explain the policy. Under Pennsylvania law, recording without the consent of all present parties is illegal, unless the recording is taken in a public meeting, according to the Digital Media Project website.

It kind of sounds like we’re jumping the shark and creating a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist yet.

— Jason Ferrante, Class of 2020

The recording policy was written specifically for Allegheny to clarify that the policy applies to the classroom, according to Kirschner. She said if passed, the policy would eventually be put into “The Compass” to ensure everyone was fully aware of the rule. The policy also dictates that if a student wanted to record a class, he or she would have to receive permission from both the professor and the students, according to Kirschner.

“My understanding of some of the disciplinary processes on campus is that we’re not necessarily ruling on state law,” Kirschner said. “That’s a separate process, the legal process. But there may be some sort of moment when we’re considering whether a college policy has been violated. This sort of moves [the recording policy] into that sphere.”

As ASG members held an open discussion to determine whether or not they would pass the policy, Class of 2018 Vice President Zach Javorsky voiced his concern that the policy was too vague.

“It’s taking the right away from students to protect themselves from a professor that would come at them in a racist [or] homophobic way,” Javorsky said. “It’s an erosion of student rights. There’s a reason the school wants this passed. They don’t want a [Public Relations] incident.”

If a professor directed inappropriate or offensive language at a student, and the exchange was recorded without every present party’s consent, the recording could not legally be used against that professor, according to Kirschner. However, Class of 2020 President Jason Ferrante said bias incidents often do not have direct recordings but hypothetically are still properly handled.

“It kind of sounds like we’re jumping the shark and creating a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist yet,” Ferrante said.

First-year Liaison Matthew Steinberg, ’20, also spoke on the fear that students would be unable to record a professor or faculty member using offensive language.

“When you file a bias report … there’s not necessarily a recording of that,” Steinberg said. “If a professor is using hate speech or derogatory speech toward you in a class, whether it’s recorded or not, you can still file a bias report like normal.”

Kirschner further explained what aspects of the college the policy would cover.   

“Personal attacks, slurs of some sort, that is not covered under academic freedom,” Kirschner said. “The notion of allowing for conversation to flow without it being posted on YouTube very much applies.”

In response to Kirschner’s explanation, Ferrante said the faculty’s rights need to be considered, too.

“The rights of students are paramount, but the rights of faculty still have to be respected,” Ferrante said. “If a student is taking a professor’s words or any other administrator’s words and posting it online … and it’s a heavily edited clip, then you’ve created a situation where you allow a harmful environment to be perpetrated.”

Despite the policy’s restrictions on in-class recording, disability accommodations will still be made, according to Kirschner. She said if an accommodation is required, arrangements can be made with the faculty member teaching the class.

The policy does not extend to dormitory rooms, according to Kirschner. She said if an officer from the Office of Public Safety or a resident assistant entered a student’s room, the student would be permitted to record. Furthermore, a one-on-one meeting would be considered public if the door was left open and could therefore be recorded, according to Kirschner.

As the open discussion closed, ASG voted to pass the policy. However, the policy must still be passed by committees before it officially goes into effect, according to Ferrante.

Following the policy’s approval, Allegheny Student Government President Mark MacStudy, ’18, explained ASG’s plans to work with Why Not Us? for upcoming events.

MacStudy discussed his meeting with Why Not Us? founder Mark Myers, ’19. ASG and Why Not Us? are planning to partner for various events to raise awareness for incidents such as domestic violence, according to MacStudy.

The first event will be a pledge signing event on Feb. 6 in the Henderson Campus Center lobby. The event will be a follow-up to ASG’s Title IX resolution passed in the fall of 2017, according to MacStudy.

The second event will be a survivor love letter event that will begin on Feb. 12 and will end Feb. 16. The letters, which will contain encouraging words to people who have experienced sexual violence, will not be sent anywhere, but will be put on display, according to MacStudy.

Along with the events, the two clubs will hold three self-defense classes spread throughout the semester, according to ASG Vice President Valerie Hurst. She said money will be used to find speakers, funding promotional material for events and holding a conference.

“They will be holding a training or information session about the process of Title IX,” Hurst said. “There are going to be … the district attorney, lots of lawyers, Women’s Services all coming together so you can kind of see the entire process from start to finish if you were to launch a Title IX case.”

Hurst also explained ASG’s hope for future years with this new partnership.

“Hopefully with this we will increase that fund over the next couple years so that we can raise more money toward Title IX,” Hurst said.