18 Aug Position on Academic Freedom and IP Rights
- Academic Freedom in Regard to Course Delivery: Per Statutes and the UIC Faculty Handbook, faculty have the right to deliver courses in a manner they deem most appropriate, within certain constraints which should be defined through shared governance.
- Student Expectations and Accommodations: As communicated to students recently, many classes require in-person attendance and accommodations are not guaranteed. Accommodations should be worked out with students at discretion of faculty. We encourage faculty to work with individual students wherever reasonable, and so long as it does not degrade the learning experience of other students.
- Recording: Per prior policy announcements, course recording and/or streaming is encouraged by UIC to aid students who may be unable to attend in person, but is NOT required.
- Intellectual Property: Faculty have a fundamental right to ownership of their intellectual property such as course materials and lectures. Recording, streaming, or using digital tools to deliver course content does NOT diminish this right or transfer rights to the university or any third party.
This is the third installment in our series of policy positions on critical elements of UIC’s fall reopening plans. We have already covered remote/alternate work accommodations, and masking and distancing policies in prior communications. With each of these policy statements, we aim to share and clarify existing university policies as they stand today, describe the union’s stance relative to these policies, and offer direct guidance to faculty for navigating day-to-day with regard to these policies.
Today, we are discussing positions on academic freedom and intellectual property, especially as they intersect with varying course delivery methods, online vs. in-person learning, and class recordings.
Academic Freedom and Ownership of Intellectual Property in Teaching
Current Policy: The University of Illinois Statutes (Article V, Section 2) articulate the University’s policy on academic freedom. The UIC Faculty Handbook (Section VI) elaborates: “Faculty members are expected to teach their assigned courses in a manner consistent with the scheduled time, course content, and course credit as approved by the faculty (emphasis ours). Within these constraints, they are entitled to freedom in the classroom in developing and discussing—according to their areas of competence—the subjects that they are assigned.”
In an announcement on July 22, 2020, the Provost did ask faculty to consider recording sessions if it might benefit students. But this was not a mandate, and continues to be optional at the discretion of the individual faculty member.
In addition, the University Administration told students in a communication on July 28, 2021: ”Due to the nature of some courses, students should be aware that not all courses can be streamed and/or recorded. Some courses do require in-person participation. If enrolled in a course with a required in-person component, the student should immediately talk to their faculty advisor to determine the best course of action for continuing degree progression. However, for many academic programs, progression may not be possible without attending in person.”
Regarding intellectual property rights on materials developed for online delivery, the university has extended through December 31, 2021, its policy statement granting individual faculty full and exclusive ownership of all online materials developed for their classes. For undetermined reasons, the updated policy is no longer on the UIC website, but we have confirmed its approval by the UIC Senate, and have hosted it on our website for reference. This policy also reiterates the U of I’s General Rules on some circumstances, including when faculty create courses using university resources beyond “those usually and customarily provided,” under which the university may assume licensing rights. What constitutes usual and customary resources is not clear in university statute or the handbook, but generally is understood to go beyond the use of digital delivery methods or classroom management software.
UIC United Faculty Position: Academic freedom and intellectual property rights are bedrock commitments of UICUF. Control of teaching rightly rests with individual professionals in the classroom, and with the faculty collectively via shared governance in determining appropriate curricula for their programs. Ownership of course materials belongs to those who develop those materials as part of their ordinary work commitments. It is the right of each faculty member to decide if they record, stream, or share recordings of their classes.
Regarding intellectual property (IP) rights, it remains UICUF’s position that IP rights for traditionally copyrightable academic work must remain with the faculty member who creates them, in accordance with University General Rules. Exceptions exist, as outlined above (i.e. using university resources beyond “those usually and customarily provided”), however any such transfer of rights MUST be entered into with the full foreknowledge and uncoerced agreement of the faculty member in question. Typically this should be presented as a negotiated work-for-hire agreement describing the specific rights and properties being transferred, and the compensation due to the faculty member for their work.
Guidance to Faculty: The decision to record or stream class sessions for the purpose of sharing with students unable to attend in person is one appropriately made by faculty, individually or through shared governance where appropriate. If you are feeling pressure to record or stream your classes against your better judgment and want support thinking through how to respond, please reach out to UICUF leadership or staff.
Further, recording your class or using online delivery methods does NOT entitle the university to the rights to own or license your intellectual property, whether it be course syllabi, lecture notes, or class recordings. Such rights transfers should only occur with your foreknowledge and consent. If you feel that your intellectual property is being shared or used inappropriately, please contact UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com to get in touch with a union rep ASAP.
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