Privacy concerns about access to student-conducted oral histories

Sue VerHoef's picture

Hello, all--

My institution has an incredible collection of about 1500 audio interviews conducted between 1966 and 2014 by local university students as part of their coursework on folklife in the South.  These interviews were required by the professor as part of the course.  The students conducted the interviews with men, women, and children across the Southeast on topics including superstitions, remedies, songs and ballets, folklore, and etc.  Some of the interviews have interviewee release forms without interviewer release forms and vice versa.  Many recordings include the name of the student doing the interview.  Some of the manuscript materials associated with the project also contain student names and grades.  

I wondered if any of you have similar collections and if so, how you handled the issue of student privacy.  It would be relatively simple to redact student names and, of course, grades from the paperwork, but how do you handle 1500 interviews that may or may not include the student saying his or her own name over the course of the interview?  Does including the student's name in the interview and/or accompanying release forms violate the student's right to privacy?


Thanks in advance for any insights--

Sue VerHoef, Director of Oral History and Genealogy, Atlanta History Center


If the professor obtained IRB approval prior to students' conducting the course-related interviews, there should be no privacy issue. I had a similar experience as the professor in whose course students conducted interviews; my IRB stipulated I must give the students an option to do the interview or some other assignment. Also, our archive does not include student grades on retained transcripts.

Thanks so much, Gail—appreciate this.

I believe we have sorted this out satisfactorily.

Thank you all—

I can certainly understand not wanting to make grades available, but I'm having trouble understanding why there would be an expectation of privacy on the part of an oral history interviewer, regardless of their status as a student. The standard for oral history is one of transparency, including the names of interviewer and narrator, except in unusual circumstances. In other words, what is it about the interviewers being students that assumes a right to privacy? And would they have a right to privacy in perpetuity?

Mary Kay Quinlan
University of Nebraska-Lincoln