How to prepare for YouTube video crises: the case of the lecturer video at the University of Florida

October 5th, 2006 Karine Joly 3 Comments

Yesterday afternoon, I got an email from a reader asking my opinion about a piece published in Inside Higher Ed earlier in the day: Whoa, Dude

In his article Paul D. Thacker illustrates the power of YouTube in particular and video sharing websites in general:

“Whoa… dude… Code of Hammurabi. I’ve seen this in … I’ve seen this in a British Museum.” If only these words came from someone goofing off in a high school class. Instead, they were uttered by a lecturer, John Hall, during a class he gave in September to more than 1,000 students taking a business course at the University of Florida.

Within weeks, highlights from the lecture were uploaded onto numerous Web sites, including Break.com, where the video is labeled “Stoned Professor,” and YouTube. And shortly after that, the university placed Hall on paid administrative leave.

This is at least the second time IHE runs a story based on a YouTube video. While your boss might not be watching YouTube during her free time, chances are she reads IHE.

So, how can you get ready to handle this type of situations?

Obviously, what happened at the University of Florida with this video isn’t a major crisis – although the lecturer was put on paid leave, so I guess the crisis lies in the eye of the beholder.

After my email exchange with my reader yesterday, I sent a quick note to Joe Hice, Associate Vice President for Public Relations & Marketing — with whom I presented at a CASE conference last month — asking for a brief comment about this mini-YouTube crisis.

Here’s the comment Joe sent me this morning:

“The professor involved was put on leave immediately after the incident occurred — right at the beginning of the fall semester, or about six weeks ago. The video popped up on boingboing only last week.

Regarding YouTube, we didn’t even think the material might be copyrighted so we did not contact them. In hindsight, that’s something we missed and will be more aware of in the future.

Our general policies in this area, however, are to err on the side of openness.”

What would YOU have done?

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