When is it okay to use recording devices on campus? This is a common question asked by members in a variety of situations.
In Oregon recording other people is covered by Oregon Revised Statute 165.540- Obtaining Contents of Communications. While recording conversations and events are generally prohibited in Oregon, there are significant exceptions both in this statute and PSU policy that are relevant to us.
ORS 165.540 (6) states:
The prohibitions (against recording) in subsection (1)(c) do not apply to persons who intercept or attempt to intercept with an unconcealed recording device the oral communications that are part of the following proceedings:
- Public or semipublic meetings such as hearings before governmental or quasi-governmental bodies, trials, press conferences, public speeches, rallies and sporting or other events;
- Regularly scheduled classes or similar educational activities in public or private institutions; or
- Private meetings or conferences if all others involved knew or reasonably should have known that the recording is being made.
In plain English:
Students Recording Classes
Students may record lectures or other educational event as long as the recording device is not concealed. The student may not use the material for anything other than their own educational purposes.
Audio Recording of a Class as a Disability Accommodation
The PSU Disability Resource Center (DRC) can order the use of an audio recording device as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. If the DRC issues such an order, PSU policy allows the instructor to protect their intellectual property. The instructor may require the student with the accommodation to sign a use agreement for each course during which recording equipment will be utilized. Here is a recording use agreement template.
Recording of non-public meetings and conferences
The statute allows anybody to record a private meeting or conference as long as the recording device is not concealed (permission to record is not required). That, however, is not what is expected of PSU-AAUP members at Portland State.
Recently PSU Administrators decided that no non-public meeting (in-service, conference, or non-public event) may be recorded unless everyone in the meeting has granted permission for the recording. They based this decision on an interpretation of the Professional Standards of Conduct policy to apply to employees recording other employees. If a member commences recording with an unconcealed recording device and is asked to stop recording, the University will expect the member to immediately stop recording. The University will likely find a member who does not immediately stop recording to be in violation of the Professional Standards of Conduct policy provision, which states that all members treat “everyone with respect, courtesy, and appreciation.” The failure to stop recording immediately would not create “an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for the rights and dignity of each individual.”
PSU-AAUP notes, however, that there may be situations where it is not reasonable to deny someone the ability to record a meeting due to objections. For instance, if recording was the only means for an employee to “take notes” of the meeting due to a disability, a recording denial would not be reasonable. The DRC does not grant accommodations for employees, and the employee may not have sought reasonable accommodation for their disability to record meetings if their job generally does not require them to attend meetings. A hard and fast rule, thus, could have adverse consequences and we would encourage prudence around the matter.