Site leads professors to pause lecture recording
By Shaudee Navid
April 12, 2006 9:00 p.m.
Some UCLA professors say they are rethinking their policies on
allowing students to tape-record their lectures after a Web site
asked for taped lectures as evidence of “radical”
Concern with tape-recording rose among some faculty after the
media attention garnered by UCLAProfs.com, a Web site founded by
former Bruin Republicans leader and Bruin Alumni Association
creator Andrew Jones.
The Web site revealed the “Dirty Thirty,” a list of
31 people who Jones referred to as UCLA’s “most radical
Jones had offered students as much as $100 for tape recordings
of classes given by professors on the list.
Though Jones retracted the payment offer in January, some UCLA
faculty members said they have become more cautious in their
classroom policies as a result. Others said that some concerns
about students recording their lectures have crossed their minds,
though they haven’t made restrictive changes.
Before the list came out, political science Professor Steven
Spiegel had always accommodated students who preferred to
“The Dirty Thirty was the last straw,” said Spiegel,
who now prohibits the use of tape recorders in his courses, though
he was not on the list.
Though Spiegel said he always had doubts about tape-recording
lectures because it allows students to attend class less frequently
and pay less attention, the benefits used to outweigh the costs by
a small margin.
Currently there are no policies specifically addressing whether
students can or cannot record lectures, said Adrienne Lavine, chair
of the UCLA Academic Senate.
But because faculty own the copyright to their lectures, they do
have the right to restrict recording, she said.
Other professors, including some who are listed on the Dirty
Thirty, are not restricting recordings as long as students ask
permission and justify the reasons for recording.
Communication studies Professor Paul Von Blum, who is No. 21 on
the list, is willing to grant students the permission to record his
lectures, which often deal with social and political themes.
“I’m not afraid of what I say. … I’m
grown-up, I’m big, I can handle it,” Von Blum said.
“I have high respect for thoughtful conservative
intellectuals, (and) Jones doesn’t rise to that level of
Though some professors are not restricting tape-recording
entirely, Jones’ Web site has made them reconsider their
“I have to re-think it a little … depending on the
reason why (students) want to tape-record,” said Rafael
Perez-Torres, who teaches Chicano literature and post-World War II
American literature and was identified on Jones’ site.
English Professor Robert Watson, who continues to allow
recording even though he was targeted by Jones, voiced the same
“That would make me more self-conscious of what the
purpose of the recording is,” he said. “I can imagine
some professors would have a little alarm bell go off.”
Professor James Gelvin, who teaches modern Middle Eastern
history, lectures about controversial issues by the nature of his
course, and was placed on Jones’ list. Though he has not
restricted tape-recording, he has implemented other policies to
prevent the spread of false information.
“Anyone coming to my classes has to be registered, and
students who register can record,” he said, adding that in
previous years people would come into his classroom and ask him
what he considered to be inappropriate, disruptive questions.
Similarly, comparative literature and classics Professor
Katherine King allows tape-recording as long as students bring
copies of their tapes to her at the next class meeting, allowing
her to have a record of the lecture.
King has always had this policy, but plans to enforce it more
strictly because her name came up on Jones’ Web site.
King said she did not change her course policies in response to
Jones’ Web site and criticism from others like him because
she believes that “would be the coward’s way” to
deal with the issue, as it brings unnecessary attention to those
who seek to undermine academic freedom.
The air of uneasiness among some professors because of
Jones’ Web site should anger students, Spiegel said.
“It could inhibit the quality of education,” he
said, referring to the notion that some professors might be afraid
to say what they think.
Lavine said she is disappointed if the Web site is causing
professors to change their policies on recordings.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the Web site had a
chilling effect on our openness, if that is the reason why faculty
are doing this,” Lavine said. “It’s a