Saturday, May 16, 2009

To-Do List: When Admins Fret about SL

Location: Richmond Island

It's never happened to me on my campus, but I hear stories from elsewhere. "To protect our students," some institutions restrict use of SL or other work online. In some cases, students are not even authorized to leave campus sims!

It's ironic, and we really put the "loco" into "in loco parentis" with policies to protect young people who are old enough to die in combat (yet not drink, legally, in the States). Faculty and I.T. folks who teach or work with SL, if you ever get any pushback because of adult content or violence in SL, try these approaches:

1) Remind them of the new Linden Lab policies regarding adult zoning and age verification.
2) Show class policies, release forms, and other documentation to prove that you do not authorize students to do anything non-academic for class. As I once told a student who wanted to become an exotic dancer, "that's not part of my class. What you do in your own time is your business."
3) If they agree, develop with your inquisitors and the campus legal people appropriate release forms and waivers for students to sign.
4) Show your inquisitors Tutankhamen's tomb, The International Spaceflight Museum, or Genome Island.

Nuclear Options:

5) Take a look at the films showing in your student commons. If the "Hostel" or "Saw" series have been on the schedule, let your inquisitors know, then ask if seeing graphic tortures, rendered with photo-realism, is worse than a glimpse of full-frontal pixelated nudity or video-game-style splatter.
6) Go over their heads to a senior administrator who actually knows something about life online and has been sympathetic in the past. Play the academic-freedom card and see if a bone-headed policy can be subverted or overturned.

You will likely make enemies with this last option. If so, especially if you are younger than your enemies, relish the notion that you'll work (maybe live) longer than they will. Virtual worlds and open-access online are bigger than any university. We'll win on this one, if we act responsibly.

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