I am an academic at a large university. I have been asked to produce some videos to be used in an online component of a departmental service course. This is a course I am currently teaching, and the videos are meant to be used in future iterations of the course (which I will probably not be teaching) to reduce the number of weekly lecture hours.

I don't have a strong opinion either way about whether this plan is good for the course, but I do not want to appear in the videos for reasons of personal privacy. I am a very private person, and I have always tried to keep a light online footprint with minimal social media activity. The idea of hundreds or thousands of students whom I don't know watching videos of me for years to come makes me very uncomfortable.

It has been pointed out to me that the university already records lectures, and that the videos that I'm now being asked to make are if anything better since they will help me produce them in a recording studio and I can do multiple takes. This is a fair point, though I am also not so happy with the current lecture recordings (it may be technically possible to opt out but is not practically possible since students would complain). But I still think the videos I'm now being asked to record are more invasive of my privacy. The lecture recordings only capture audio and the projector/document camera, and are only accessible by the students in the course I teach. The videos I'm being asked to produce will show my face and be uploaded to the university youtube channel, and remain as a central component of a large course for years.

I realize that it's always been the case that certain careers require being recorded (politician, actor, professional athlete, news anchor, journalist), but I didn't think of academia as being one of them. To what extent are academics public figures / performers that should be required to make recordings of themselves?

Am I being unreasonable by refusing to appear in these videos?

  • 1
    This seems like an opinion based question and might be closed on those grounds. In the meantime: As it stands, I don't believe academics should be required to make recordings of themselves, but I accept that this may change in the medium term, and I don't consider you being unreasonable by refusing to participate.
    – user2768
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 10:43
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    Not sure why they want to record the lecturer. It will obviously most effectively mimick a live lecture, but perhaps you can arrange recording of nice draw material on the black (white) board with your voice and pointer calmy teaching. As a learner I would even prefer it, as for the face of the teacher does not give me anything because I can't stop him/her nor ask. Emotion is conveyed by the flux of the teaching and pitch, not much by facial expression.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 11:09
  • Sorry. I read your comment just after posting mine.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 11:12
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    Note that uploading these videos to Youtube is another major concern. Youtube is a for-profit third-party site, with questionable privacy and copyright policies, aggressive ads whose content cannot be controlled, mildly moderated comments which can become toxic pretty fast, and is owned by a company which has ties with the US military and secret services. Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 8:08
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    @FedericoPoloni Yes the youtube factor is actually a serious concern for me as well. I was told that they would likely be uploaded to the department's youtube channel and put in a section which is not publicly searchable but can be accessed with a private link, which would only be sent to students in the course. But thousands of students will take this course over the next few years, and of course the link could easily be posted anywhere. I would have also have no rights if they decide later to make it fully public, since the university would own the copyright, not me. Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 8:53

3 Answers 3


The answer to this question is extremely simple and clear-cut. No, you are not being unreasonable. You don’t want to appear on YouTube, so don’t - this is not a job requirement for a professor (or for a graduate student) anywhere. You don’t owe anyone any explanations. Do not let yourself be guilt-tripped or manipulated into giving up more of your privacy than you feel comfortable doing. And do not get drawn into a debate about the nuances of precisely which careers require agreeing to be a public figure and which don’t - this just opens the door for other people to try to manipulate you with irrelevant sophistry.

Just say no.


This answer will be complex and may take more than one edit.

First, you have a moral right to refuse. Whether you also have a contractural right or not you haven't said.

Second, if you make these recordings for future use, you first need to work out the compensation for doing them. Ideally you should receive a royalty for each showing and it might also involve the size of the audience. If they offer nothing, they you are just being exploited. I assume that you will hold no copyrights on the produced materials, so you need to protect yourself with a contract. If the content is at least partly yours and not created entirely by other people, then I would insist on royalties, not just a one time payment. The contract might even have an expiration date after which it needs to be renegotiated.

Third, examine why you don't want to do this. If it is just that you are "uncomfortable" then I recommend that you find a way to become more comfortable. But if you have a principled objection then be sure that you can express it so that others can understand. I would, personally, support such an objection, but my opinion on the matter might be overridden.

Note that by overcoming it, I don't necessarily mean that you should force yourself to do it. But if it is fear or over-shyness that makes you reticent to do this, your career would probably be enhanced by coming to a more neutral stance. Otherwise you can be driven by feelings that aren't necessarily in your best interest. If you can take-it-or-leave-it then you can examine the reasons more explicitly.

Such videos can, in principle be very valuable. But since they are being monetized, you have a right to share in that system. You could, of course, choose to donate your efforts, as anyone could, but I don't believe that it should be required of you.

(I may want to update this as I think a bit more about the issue.)

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    I think the "royalities" path is really only feasible if OP is an adjunct or in some other way a temporary lecturer. For a tenure-track or tenured professor, asking for additional money to teach in a specific way seems unlikely to go over well.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 15:57
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    @xLeitix, but not if they intend to keep "using" you to avoid paying you to teach the course.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 16:25

First of all, I think it's a terrible idea to make people participate in recorded lectures against their will - it won't come out as good, and you may well not have them.

The answer to your question really depends on the kind of relationship you have with your colleagues, and the kind of relationship you want to have in the future. Do you have any clout in the department? If you say no, what repercussions will you face? Are you willing to face them?

If you refuse you may be perceived as not being a team player, which may or may not hurt your prospects in the department. If yours is a teaching position, it may well be argued to be part of your responsibilities. If you are a research faculty, then perhaps you have more of a case. If this is a key to you getting a promotion/being the face of the school for some initiative, it may be a good idea to forgo your privacy policy in favor of a career boost.

If you really don't want to do it, you can purposefully do a terrible job during the recording. After one day of awful takes (and the subsequent waste of money paid to the studio), I'm sure that no one would consider taking you on for this role! Plus, I can't really see how anyone would fault you for this, you had already said that you didn't want to do it, perhaps pushing you to do it made you do it really terribly...

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    Sorry. Sabotage is a bad career move.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 14:19
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    This “team player” nonsense is just a code word for manipulation, intimidation and guilt-tripping. See here and here. As I said, @Anoncademic, if you don’t want to be in the videos, it’s a bad idea to even open the door to this sort of debate. Say no, and refuse to discuss it further no matter what emotionally loaded phrases your colleague starts throwing at you.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 21:15

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