Ursuline College [her employer] has excellent programs in fashion design and fashion merchandising, along with several tangential programs, including interior design and the only master’s program in Historic Preservation in the state of Ohio. I often have students from these programs in my classes, and can’t help but feel a little self-conscious at my own wardrobe, which is classical “preppy”. It looks ok on me, and saves me money in buying new clothes, since I only have to replace things when they wear out. I make no pretense of trying to be in style, and I therefore don’t have to even try. However, last semester I discovered that my own disregard to fashion was not necessarily shared by my students.
I learned, from one of my math majors, that a student in one of my classes had been taking pictures of me in class and sending them to friends at another school. She overheard this student talking in the cafeteria about a new picture she had taken of me, which she was e-mailing to her friend [emphasis Historiann’s.] I realized then that apparently the line about “no phones in class” on my syllabus needs to be put in bold. I was more annoyed that my own academic freedom in the classroom had been violated than that they thought I produced laughable photos; what if I had been discussing some recent, unpublished research that was now “out there” for the world to see? However, without catching the student myself, there was little I could do.
Stories like this are good reminders for why, when classes start week after next, I need to give my speech about how the classroom is a space we all need to respect and feel safe in, and in which we need to know we can trust each other. How incredibly disrespectful of this student to surreptitiously photograph her professor for the purpose of mocking her. Besides: how tacky and juvenile! Who after the age of 14 or 15 spends that much time obsessing about their teachers’ clothing? I’m hoping this is just a case where the offender didn’t think about the implications of using technology in this way. It’s one thing to snicker occasionally with a classmate or a friend about someone’s clothing–it’s another to photograph the object of your derision without her permission and to circulate those photos digitally. (I’d be much less concerned about the violation of intellectual property that bothers Emanuele, unless it were a video with audio rather than just a still photograph. Whatever the goal of this surreptitious photo shoot, it’s a basic violation of privacy and trust.)
We old-timers have opinions about what our students wear, too, although we’re generally mature enough to keep it to ourselves. We’ve also been around long enough to know that what 20 year-olds think is the latest and greatest look and hairstyle will embarass them in another 10 or 15 years. We also will hope that so long as our graduates are presentable and appropriately dressed for the work they do, no one will hold them up for derision because of their fashion choices.
I suppose I’m also shocked by Emanuele’s story because Ursuline College is a small women’s college, not a huge state uni with 300- or 700-person lectures, and therefore it probably is the kind of place where professors like her certainly know their students’ names, and like to think they know their students. I wonder how a student would feel if she learned that a professor was secretly photographing her on a regular basis and sharing those photos with her or his friends (for whatever purposes)? I’m sure that would be an offense for which a faculty member would be disciplined, if not dismissed, because it’s disrespectful, besides being creepy and stalkerish.
Have you ever heard of anything like this before? For those of you old enough to enjoy a little Duran Duran flashback, here’s “Girls on Film.” Dig the big hair and the mullets. For you “cool” younger readers: the Dork Waits for No Man (or Woman). Memento Dorki.