Members agreed the following motion at the emergency general meeting on 12 May and the annual general meeting 14 May 2020 in response to the changes to the University of Leeds policy on recording of lectures. See also the detailed submission sent to senior management at the start of the consultation
This branch notes
- That at the start of May the University began a consultation of members about the change to the Audio Visual Policy 2014.
- That the UCU had already passed a motion on lecture capture in the academic year 2019-20 expressing many concerns about its use in teaching and highlighting the inappropriate use of lecture recording by management to carry out disciplinaries against members of staff by ‘fishing’ for evidence from the recording rather than starting disciplinary following students complaints.
- That the new policy further expands and legitimises management use of lecture capture to carry out performance management and disciplinaries in breach of the local agreement reached with UCU that audio visual recording will not be used for this scope.
- The implications of the new policy in terms of increased workload for staff (producing and editing the audio visual material) are missing from the policy which shows little consideration of staff’s terms and conditions and H&S.
- That there is not consideration of the pedagogical effects of lecture capture: e.g. the lack of synchronous interaction and its impact on student learning, critical thinking, lower attendance etc. already evidenced and cited in the same policy.
- That video and voice capture may be valuable in supporting students with certain accessibility needs.
- That equality and inclusion of disabled staff and students is very important.
- That the balancing of legitimate rights and interests against the goals of lecture capture raises complexity that ought to be acknowledged and navigated with care.
- That disabled staff and students likely use lecture capture in different ways and to different ends. They should be actively involved in creating a policy that plays a major part in the university reasonable adjustments strategy.
- That evidence about the experiences of disabled staff and students should be sought and used to inform this important aspect of the university’s approach to inclusion.
- That access to recordings of teaching may be an important plank in a strategy for inclusive learning but it doesn’t of itself make the learning environment inclusive. It lends itself to the sharing of accessible information rather than the cultivation of accessible learning environments.
- As a good standard practice all teaching staff should be encouraged to let the student record the audio of their lecture upon request and for exclusive use of disabled students, but this should still not exclude the possibility of opting out for special categories if they wish so.
The branch believes
- That the right to opt out from lecture capture should be dependent on the will of the individual member of staff and student, and not be automatically processed or be left to the discretion of the head of school/service as outlined in the new policy.
- The new policy may give rise to differential treatment of staff and students across campus and also create sense of isolation among colleagues who are being pressured to opt in.
- That the language of the new policy creates a hierarchy between staff and student rights, which reproduces the idea of students as customers rather than learners and is disrespectful of the work, safety and academic freedom of staff. It especially imposes non-negotiated terms and conditions on staff not currently determined in our contracts (e.g. university ownership of our performance right, currently broadly associated with copyright and broadly considered under the ownership of the University).
- That the new policy removes the editing power from the author to the unspecified ‘person responsible for the activity being recorded’ and gives an undefined, but certainly too short window of time for the staff and student to request any change. This has detrimental implications in terms of workload and removes control of the author over their own content.
We believe that the university has not conducted Equality Impact Assessment or Health and Safety Risk Assessment regarding these new proposals (e.g. requirements on disabled staff or victims of domestic abuse for example). We believe there are major equality issues that the new policy raised for staff and students who do not wish to be recorded.
- That the University’s assumption that it owns the Intellectual Property of its staff’s research used in teaching is contrary to law, since the University is not a signatory to contracts entered into with academic journals or individual publishers. In fact, the University subsidizes Gold Open Access publishing precisely because it has no contractual or other rights in respect of these publishing agreements, some of which have been entered into prior to employment with the University of Leeds.
- That the University’s assumption that it may similarly retain recordings of staff after their contract of employment ends is contrary to law, since it relies upon contractual rights and obligations that are no longer lawful. Retention of such material amounts to a restraint of trade upon academics and it contrary to academic freedom which is the overarching principle of all academic contracts under Statute.
- Routine recording plus scripting and captioning is only one model of inclusive practice. It lends itself to the delivery of information rather than the sharing of ideas / a learning experience.
- The university should promote and develop a multi-dimensional approach to inclusivity and develop a range of alternative solutions about the relational aspects of inclusive practice as well. This proposed model of inclusive practice is limited and risks impacting the wider student experience
The branch resolves:
- To reject the new policy as it is currently drafted, and either (i) to maintain the current one with any minor adjustment to further encourage colleagues to record audio for disabled students, or (ii) to negotiate an improved version.
- A staff/disabled group ongoing forum should be established to develop a range of alternative strategies to develop effective inclusivity and not use LC as a panacea solution for disabled students’ obstacles to learning, including the disabled working group of UCU and LUU.
- Any proposal for blended learning should first seek the opinion of teaching staff taking consideration of both workload and pedagogical implications, and that all members of staff should be invited with reasonable notice to actively engage in the design and delivery of teaching online or through pre-recording.
- That in the exceptional context of online teaching delivery next academic term 2020-21 because of students unable to attend in person or reach campus because of the pandemic, the staff member author of any teaching content should retain the right to chose the modality of delivery (synchronous or asynchronous, recorded or not) and when not possible have the absolute autonomy of editing and removing the file with a reasonable time window (72 hours as for the current policy).