Friday, November 7, 2014

Harvard secretly photographed students to study attendance. From the Boston Globe.

Smile, brother.
They're taking attendance.
Harvard University has revealed that it secretly photographed some 2,000 students in 10 lecture halls last spring as part of a study of classroom attendance, an admission that prompted criticism from faculty and students who said the research was an invasion of privacy.

The clandestine experiment, disclosed publicly for the first time at a faculty meeting Tuesday night, came to light about a year-and-a-half after revelations that administrators had secretly searched thousands of Harvard e-mail accounts. That led the university to implement new privacy policies on electronic communication this spring, but another round of controversy followed the latest disclosure.



  1. Thank God they aren't snapping proffies!

  2. I am completely unapologetic about photographing my students, but then I tell students in my syllabus that I'm going to do it, with a clause at the end of the syllabus that being enrolled in the class and not dropping it constitutes agreement to the terms of the syllabus. I photograph my students in the beginning of the semester, to print up on a piece of foam board and pass around, so students can print their names legibly and not over their faces, so I can learn names. My students regard this as friendly. I also photograph my classes during exams, and it noticeably cuts down attempts at cheating. I bring a DSLR camera and a big zoom lens. Waving that thing around does get noticed: the message is be good, or the proffie will point his nasty thing at you.

    1. I use a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens. At F = 85mm, it can zoom in on the pair of students sitting so close together I ask them if they're dating. At F = 17mm, the field of view is so wide I can image the whole classroom in one image, with a clock on the back wall, to document latecomers and other events.