I felt compelled to write this article after a friend shared a video with me last week where one college professor’s faux pas cost him his job and reputation. In the video, during an online video conference, students noticed an opened bookmark on the professor’s screen showing a pornography site.
How did this happen you ask?
The professor shared his screen with his students during the online lecture when a few students noticed the partially hidden bookmark and brought it to the attention of the other students over the microphone. As if this wasn’t bad enough, one student recorded the screen and shared it on the popular social media platform, Tiktok, which went viral. How horrific!
According to news reports and online sources, the professor has since resigned. But whether or not it was a voluntary or an involuntary resignation is the question many people are asking. The incident has sent some folks in an uproar with some petitioning for his reinstatement.
According to the Miami Herald, the Change.org petition, started by Austin Torres, says, “People make mistakes, are sexual beings, and should not be fired when no true porn was shared. We no longer live in the 18th century and individuals are allowed to have a personal, sexual life. This was obviously a mistake.”
Do you agree? This is not the first video chat mishap I have come across in the last few weeks and I am almost certain it will not be the last. The first I saw was of a woman who during a video call with her colleagues, placed her phone on the bathroom floor as she used the toilet. Unfortunately for her, the angle at which she placed the phone failed to hide her activity, but rather expose everything.
Another was of a man in his boxers who forgot to end the video call, proceeded to get up, and scratched his bum in front of the camera with his colleagues having a front-row seating.
Let's not forget the half-dressed news reporter who wasn't aware viewers could see him in his black briefs.
I’m sure there are more such scenarios and some may have even hit your Whatsapp groups. And although as viewers, we may have found ourselves laughing once or twice. The fact is we live in a new world and we must all be aware to take certain precautions while participating in video calls.
We are in uncharted territories thanks to the Coronavirus. Who am I to judge the university on their actions if indeed they were behind the professor’s resignation? After all, we do not know the extent of the incident and the damages it has caused. Nor do we know of other infractions committed by the professor. In either event, here are some key takeaways that can keep you from facing such precarious circumstances.
1. Dress appropriately. 2. Be mindful of the opened tabs on your internet browser or contents on the screen of your laptop. 3. Use a presentable background. 4. Mute your audio if you are not speaking. 5. If you are using a shared laptop or computer, observe and clear the browser history on occasion.
As an HR professional, I cannot help but wonder if the university provides the professor and other staff with video lecturing measures and guidelines prior to or during the lockdown. If they did not, then was it fair to have lost his job with no grounds of accountability? Sure, as an adult he should have known better but at the workplace that is not a good enough reason to discharge someone. At what point are we protecting the privacy of our staff?
Something to be greatly considered when we incorporate technology into our daily work culture. We must have policies that protect the privacy of our employees and in this case the security of our students. This will help prevent or minimize the occurrence of such incidents.
Welcome to the future of work where new policies must be created to guide our new work culture.
While you wait for your employer to draft their online and remote work policy, protect yourself by following the five simple video conferencing tips above. Don't let a video conference call be the reason you end up on the unemployment line.
Best of luck as you try to navigate your way around the digital sphere!
Rita Kusi is the CEO and Sr. HR Consultant of KUSI Consulting. She has over 15 years of experience in the field of Human Resource and Marketing and is an active member of The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Global Chapter. In 2018, she was featured in Forbes Africa as the ‘Ghanaian who brought HR Corporate America To Ghana’. She is passionate about mentorship and working with SMEs.