Lecturers photograph students attending university courses with headscarf

Published 21.10.2010 10:24

Some lecturers at universities take photographs of students attending their courses with a headscarf to attach to their records, drawing the ire of most students who see the practice as a “violation of their privacy.”

The lecturers argue that the Higher Education Board (YÖK) allowed them to track covered students in class, and they should take their photos to "prove" that the students attended the course with a headscarf on. YÖK recently sent a circular to a university in İstanbul to warn teachers not to send students who are not dressed in a manner consistent with the dress code out of class. In the circular, YÖK argued that records should be kept of a student who attends university courses in attire against the dress code, but the student should not be ordered out of class. The circular has set an example for all Turkish universities.

"I attend courses with a headscarf. I know that teachers cannot send us out of class due to the YÖK circular. The other day, one of the teachers took note of this. Later he took a photo of me in class. He was hoping to prove that I attended the 180-student class with a headscarf. But he did not ask my permission before taking the photo. I have 15 records now," stated a covered student at İstanbul University's Faculty of Medicine. The student wished to remain anonymous out of fear that she would get punished by the university administration for speaking to the press.

The student also added that 50 of her class friends wear the headscarf but only three of them attend the classroom with a headscarf because they are afraid that they will draw the ire of teachers and eventually fail class.

Another student at the university's faculty of medicine said she cannot decide whether to attend courses with a headscarf or not due to mixed reactions from teachers. "I do not know how I will be met in class. Some teachers keep track of covered students and others do not. I hope they make up their mind soon," she noted.

Ayşenur Bülbül, a freshman at Marmara University, said she did not face a "hostile attitude" from her teachers due to her headscarf, but she is afraid that she will receive poor notes.

Lecturers are divided about taking photos of covered students in class. Some say they need "evidence" to show that the student really entered class with a headscarf, while some others say taking a photo of a student is a violation of privacy if the student does not allow the practice.

"The YÖK circular says records should be taken against covered students and visual evidence should be attached to the records. We first warn the students. We tell them that they put us in difficulty [due to their headscarves.] Then we take records against them. I do not like doing this, but the circular orders us to do so," stated a lecturer at İstanbul University's department of biology.

In the meantime, YÖK head Yusuf Ziya Özcan told reporters on Wednesday that students would be allowed to take all centralized state examinations with a headscarf. He said students would not be forced to take their scarves off when applying for and taking the tests. The statement follows an earlier YÖK change in the guidebook for the Selection Examination for Academic Personnel and Graduate Studies (ALES). The ALES guidebook posted on the YÖK website this week showed that "taking the examination with one's hair exposed" is no longer required for the test. Previous guidebooks used to read that students have to apply for the test with a photograph that shows their hair and attend the exam hall without a headscarf.

Özcan said the new guidebook would be applied in all centralized tests.

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