Considerations to protect privacy and prevent harassment in online instructional settings

Dear Colleagues,

I know you have been working under a great deal of ambiguity and pressure these past few weeks, and I want to express my deepest appreciation for your valiant spirit, your dedication to our students, and your energy and ingenuity. You have dealt with the exigencies of these difficult times in remarkable ways, figuring out new ways of teaching, learning, and working in these unprecedented circumstances.

As you have been working so hard to fulfill our mission, and, in particular, have been moving instruction into alternative formats, issues related to privacy and risks of harassment have surfaced, on our campuses and nationally. (See, for example, this Inside Higher Ed article about ‘Zoombombing’ and an AAUP blog post warning about instructors being targeted using copies of recorded lectures.) I want to assure you that the University of Minnesota remains steadfastly committed to protecting your academic freedom, to protecting our instructional environments from intimidation and harassment, and to ensuring the privacy of our instructors and students.

Both University policy and federal law are relevant, including:

In the current context, you will want to consider:

  • whether or not to record synchronous lectures and discussions with students;
  • how best to limit access to your online meetings and recordings;
  • any intellectual property ramifications of recording lectures—e.g., maintaining protection for your own research, for your intellectual property, for material you intend to include in future publications—as well as fair use guidelines for including copyrighted work of others.

The University has several key resources to assist you in these considerations:

We hope these resources are helpful as you scramble to do your work in these evolving and difficult circumstances. Please stay in touch with one another, with the Provost’s Office (at [email protected]), and with your college, school, and campus leadership, so we can continue to learn from one another and address our challenges—together. Stay well.

With deepest respect and admiration,

Karen Hanson
Executive Vice President and Provost

email sent to all faculty and instructors systemwide on March 27, 2020