Re: Question Concerning the Privacy Act

Dan Donnelly (
Fri, 15 Aug 1997 16:04:10 -0500

.At 01:06 PM 8/15/97 -0700, you wrote:
>A professor has requested that a sign in sheet be placed on reserve in conjunction with a
>video that he requires of students to screen. I did not comply to this request because I felt
>it was a violation of student's privacy--we used to have sign in cards with every video but these
>were destroyed some time ago. Some people feel that this is a harsh practice and the professor
>has a right to know....I personally feel that if it so crucial for the class to see the video
>then the professor should show the video in class. I would appreciate any feedback/past
>experiences regarding this matter, if you have any.
>you can email me directly, if you like
>Thank you
>Jennifer Villany
>Ithaca College
>Jay Rozgonyi are you out there????


I've had to contend with similar requests in the past, though not recently. I've not taken the privacy tack but it's a good one, probably an improvement over my approach. I've usually tried to impress the instructor with the burden it places on my staff and the notion that the best indicator of whether or not students are doing their work outside of class is their performance in class, in discussion, on quizzes, tests etc. Often after gentle cajoling an instructor will relent or even feel somewhat foolish at having made such a childish request and never ask you to do such a thing again. It doesn't always work though and of course I never get to tell an instructor directly that such a practice is rather gradeschoolish. So, the sign-in sheets have been lost at times. I can't quite understand how or why. Though I guess it can happen.

I've never liked doing this sort of thing (providing sign-in verification of student use of reserve material). It is really not worth my staff's time. I find students often simply check the material out just to sign-in, do so and never listen to or view the materials. My staff are confused about the extent to which they're being asked to endorse the sign-in and wonder whether they should ever refuse to allow a user to abuse the sign in procedure. Not an ethical dilemma for me but I do have to help my student staff with this sort of thing, remind them that they're not expected to police and so on. In the end I believe the exercise serves no greater purpose than to help an instructor know when everyone in the class has seen the tape. It might be easier simply to pose the question to the students in class or on an e-mail or discussion list.

I like the privacy issue. I think if the request appears here again I'll use it and damn it's hard to keep track of those lists.

Dan Donnelly
University of Minnesota Library
Digital Media Center