Editorial

This quarter, the administration made photos of students available to faculty and staff via StudentLink. The Guardian reported on Oct. 11 that members of the A.S. Council met to discuss concerns that the placement of the pictures on the Web violates students’ privacy rights.

The move to provide pictures of students on StudentLink was motivated by an understandable and honorable intent to improve the university’s academic environment.

The photos are useful to professors in that they can help them put faces to names. However, their availability presents possibilities of abuse and could give rise to serious infractions of personal rights. These factors require a compromise on the issue of StudentLink photos that would make all students comfortable.

While we would all like to believe that professors are unbiased and impartial in their grading, it cannot be assumed that this is always the case. Giving a professor a roster that not only has students’ names, class levels and majors, but also their images, makes racial bias much easier to carry out.

Also, professors would be able to identify students who participate in class discussions, regardless of whether the student wishes to be known by name. Professors may develop unfavorable impressions of students based on their behavior in class or the opinions they express in discussion and allow this to influence evaluations meant to reflect only the quality of the work the student produces.

While it is certainly possible now for a professor, with a little finagling, to find out a student’s name against his or her wishes, the StudentLink photos make it much easier and create a widespread potential for abuse.

StudentLink representatives claim that they explored the legality of the new policy, perhaps anticipating challenges from privacy-minded students. It is generally understood that one’s likeness is the property of whomever takes the photograph, and so the university has the right to use these photographs as it wishes.

However, when the potential for unintended negative repercussions runs high and carries such high costs, alternatives must be considered.

While some students dislike the feeling of being lost in the crowd and would be pleased to have their professors know their names, others came to UCSD precisely because they treasure anonymity and the freedom it affords. Their preference to remain anonymous should be respected.

The A.S. Council is considering providing students the option to remove their photos from StudentLink. This option is a sensible possibility in that it allows students who are uncomfortable with the idea of faculty and staff having access to their images via the Internet to avoid it, while it still provides a chance for other students to let professors personalize their academic experience.

The university must work hard to make sure that students have the option to tailor their educational experience to suit their goals and comfort levels and allow those who want the personal attention and familiarity characteristic of a small college to have their wish as readily as can those looking for anonymity.

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