Harvard Is Privately Tracking Student Attendance With Secret Cameras

Illustration for article titled Harvard Is Privately Tracking Student Attendance With Secret Cameras

Everyone's skipped the occasional class here and there, but clearly Harvard University is taking it seriously. It's started tracking the attendance of its students using secret cameras—and it didn't tell them it was doing so.

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The Harvard Crimson reports that the University has been using surveillance cameras to track attendance. The devices take photographs in lecture halls and then analyze the images. While the system can't apparently identify students, it can work out whether a seat is empty or not and then compare the total attendance to what it should be.

While those in charge of the experiment submitted the experiment to a review board ahead of carrying the trial out and deleted the photos immediately, Harvard students are understandably annoyed. The point here is that the 2,000 students on which the system was trialled has no chance to object or opt-out—they weren't aware such a test was even happening.

The issue is now being looked into by a University oversight committee—and in future, such studies will have to be OK'd by undergraduate Dean's office. [Harvard Crimson via Boston Globe via The Verge]

Image by Danny Munnerley under Creative Commons license

DISCUSSION

Whether you need to go to lectures often depends on the teacher.

The first time I went to college, I had two professors in large lectures who wrote their own textbooks. One of them held you responsible for everything in the book, but covered other stuff in the lectures. You'd damned well better be there if you knew what was good for your test results. The second one read from the text book in lecture hall. He took attendance and would flunk you if you didn't go to lectures. His lectures were useless. At least they both wrote the books.

My second time through, I had a prof who's classes consisted of him reading from a textbook he didn't write. I stopped going to class and showed up only for tests. The prof asked me about my attendance. I was older then and more willing to stand up to authority. I told him I didn't go to class because I could also read.