System draws criticism from Free Speech Union, which is wary of a growing trend of higher education institutions allowing ‘sousveillance’

Students at Britain’s oldest drama school have been urged to report teachers’ “microaggressions” using QR codes placed in classrooms.

Lamda introduced a system of anonymous reporting for perceived slights or discrimination after consulting with its student body of trainee actors, directors and technicians.

Students have been able to report their tutors using QR codes placed around the school, which they can scan with their smartphones to access official complaint forms for “microaggressions”.

Microaggressions are considered acts of subtle and possibly unintentional discrimination, which may range from making assumptions about a person based on race, to the use of incorrect gender pronouns.

Policing these incidents by means of easily accessible QR codes has been branded “totalitarian surveillance” by critics who have raised concerns about a potential “culture of denunciation”.

Students who feel they have suffered or seen a microaggression have been able to scan QR codes that give instant access to “Lamda’s Micro-Aggression Reporting Form”.

This allows them to anonymously describe problems they have “experienced” or “witnessed” at the 160-year-old drama school, which boasts Benedict Cumberbatch as its president.

The form asks students to recount incidents of microaggressions “in as much detail as possible”, and suggest what they “would like done in response” to these perceived aggressions.

The complaint form for these incidents informs students that they will all be logged, and will also be tracked to see whether “patterns are emerging” in behaviour at the school.

Microaggressions typically include things such as asking “where are you from?” of someone from a minority ethnic background, or using the wrong gender pronouns for someone who is transgender or non-binary. 

QR codes used as a trial

Lamda documents instruct tutors to use “preferred methods of communication, preferred pronouns and name” when interacting with their students.

Lamda has said that the QR codes were used as part of a trial to test a system of anonymous reporting for microaggressions, and have been taken down.

However, the school plans to roll out a new reporting system for the 2022/23 academic year, and has not confirmed whether the QR codes will be included or dropped entirely.

A spokesman for the school said: “We have a number of ways for our students to give feedback and report any concerns they have. We have previously trialled QR codes to facilitate this.

“Following a review, we will be introducing an updated approach in the autumn term.”

It is understood details of the new system are yet to be finalised, but reporting procedures remain in place in the interim.


The reporting apparatus has drawn criticism from members of the Free Speech Union, which has legally represented academics whose speech has been policed or silenced.

Byrn Harris, legal counsel for the union, said the group is wary of a growing trend of higher education institutions allowing “sousveillance” – surveillance conducted by members within the group being monitored.

He said: “This can include procedures that facilitate students telling tales on one another – even by encouraging the disclosure of private social media messages – as well as the sort of “sousveillance” reported at Lamda.

“Sousveillance is particularly insidious, as it makes teaching staff beholden at any given moment to the most hyper-sensitive (or vexatious) student in the seminar room. It openly cultivates a culture of fear-induced blandness.

“It is overwhelmingly obvious to most people that surveillance not only will result in dull and unambitious teaching, but also carries deeply unpleasant reminiscences of totalitarian practice.

“Academic careers have been ruined by universities tolerating, and even inducing, a culture of student denunciation. This is not a merely hypothetical risk. Some higher education institutions have recently woken up to the new culture of intolerance and intimidation. Lamda should join them.”

Lamda is the oldest specialist drama school in Britain, and notable alumni include Donald Sutherland, David Suchet, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Harris, and Jim Broadbent. Maureen Lipman and Ruth Wilson were also taught there.

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