Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ken Anderson on Discretion

Ken Anderson (of Geology) asked us to post this piece, and we're happy to oblige, even if we don't share all of Ken's sentiments (or at least I, Dave, don't--but that's for another post).

A request to those who consider posting here…

Dear all,

I have a request of those who consider posting (or commenting on another’s post) on this site. Please look at the URL of this site. It is a public site that can be, and will be, found by anyone with access to Google or other search engines and an interest in SIU. Access to this site is not limited to SIU faculty, nor can anything that is posted here ever be truly removed or withdrawn. It is ultimately inevitable that what is posted here may be read by potential students, their families, the general public, alumni, legislators and policy makers – people upon whose good will we all depend.

Even when we disagree, SIU is an institution in which we must all share, both in its triumphs and its tribulations. It is shared space; it is our mutual proverbial sand box. I ask that you please not piss in our sand box.

We are a diverse faculty, with a wide range of opinions on many issues. Some among us hold some of those opinions very strongly, but regardless of your personal passion concerning any issue, please keep in mind that your views are no more, or less, than your own opinions. Passions ebb and flow as the tide, but what is posted online is forever and whenever it is read, it will always be read in the context of current events. Not current events when it is posted, but current events when it is read.

With that in mind,

· Assume that whatever you post will be read by people outside the university community. Ultimately, there is a good probability that it will be.

· Please do not state as fact that on which there is an absence of unanimity, and especially, do not write as though you speak for the entire faculty – you do not.

· Post nothing that may be a disinducement to potential students or their families. We ALL depend on our ability to attract high quality students in large numbers. Post nothing that will turn them away because doing so harms us all.

· Post nothing that may diminish the reputation or public perception of our shared institution. You have no right to do so because so doing diminishes and devalues us all and lessens the perceived value of the qualifications earned by our alumni.

In short, take a deep breath before you post anything and consider the consequence of your words on your fellow faculty, including those who do NOT share your views. In public forums, like this one, we are all better served by discretion than by diatribe.

17 comments:

  1. This piece sounds like a plea for censorship. The public has the right to now what is going on at this institution. It is, after all, a 'public' institution. If students are scared off, it is because of what is happening, not because we are talking about it publicly. If we strike, the public is going to know anyway.

    Moreover, nobody on this blog has ever claimed to speak for "all" faculty; that is a false accusation.

    The faculty at SIUC is being faced with contract terms that would eliminate tenure and academic freedom. Not only is this extremely serious and in need of more attention and debate than it is getting in any of the local presses, it undermines this university more than any blog, no matter what is being said on that blog.

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  2. Whether he knows it or not, Ken Anderson is playing a very familiar role. When it comes time to negotiate a contract, some people within an institution get nervous. They fear that the labor unrest will rock the boat, cast an organization in a bad light, or drive away potential customers, supporters, or students. They counsel discretion, and they want the rabble rousers to just be quiet. In the meantime, active members of a union--rarely enjoying the uncomfortable climate either--put themselves in the line of fire by trying to push hard on behalf of the employees' rights. When all sides play fair, a good contract is negotiated on behalf of all the workers, and people like Ken Anderson enjoy the benefits of higher pay or a more secure job situation This is exactly what happened 7 or 8 years ago at SIUC when a strike was close at hand. People said "I hate the union." When a decent contract emerged, then they quietly enjoyed the benefits that the union had fought for. Without a hint of irony, they then took up their "I hate the union" refrain, as if their good working conditions had just emerged out of thin air. I am NOT saying that Ken Anderson is writing in bad faith. I have no reason to doubt that he loves and admires this university, just as we all do. But he is a very familiar figure in the long history of the labor movement--the person who thinks that if the union folks would just shut up, everything will be just fine.

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  3. The non-public avenues for faculty who are concerned about making the university a better place have become extremely narrow.

    The recommendations of university committees on issues such as sexual harassment are ignored. Search committees have been stripped of powers that they ordinarily would have.

    Complaining to the union is futile because the union cannot bargain during an impasse when there's no one to bargain with.

    If Ken doesn't want us airing dirty laundry in public, where does he propose we clean it?

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  4. Ken,

    You make some good points. Civility is very important. Although in your letter to the DE you implicitly claim to be speaking for a majority of the TT faculty which violates the spirit of your second point.

    As a faculty member with tenure I have an obligation to protect the public from harm even if doing so may harm SIUC. For example I have in the past seen SIUC make public statements about the ACT scores of the Freshman class that are only based on part of the Freshman class. I have seen educational practices that promote student retention but undermine student learning. Should I not speak up about these things? Not only does tenure give me the right to speak out, it obliges me to or it fails to serve a purpose.

    Mike Sullivan

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  5. Ken:
    When are you going to learn to shut-up? If you trust this administration so much that you are willing to defend its actions time and again, why don’t you, Chancellor Cheng, and other administrators give-up tenures right now to be role models and demonstrate to everyone that they do not need to be concerned.

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  6. To Ken and To April 24, 2011 8:01 PM Anonymous:

    "Post nothing that may diminish the reputation or public perception of our shared institution. You have no right to do so..."
    "When are you going to learn to shut-up?"

    We are citizens of a country which still guarantees freedom of speech, including freedom of speech regarding state-supported institutions like SIUC.

    Moreover this blog, at least if you believe the URL, is intended primarily for faculty at a university. Could you please be better role models for the kind of reasoned debate we would like to see from our students?

    Trying to silence your opponent is not persuasive and makes you look like a jerk.

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  7. Yes, I don't think "would you shut up?" is the kind of discourse we should be engaging in here.

    However, it is ironic, since it would have served as an appropriate title for Ken Anderson's blog. He's "ordering us" (notice the command forms) to be silent because "he" doesn't like what we are saying. And he says we "have no right" to speak up, when actually we do.

    Also problematic with Ken's logic is that he claims nothing is fact, and worthy of being expressed, unless there is absolute unanimity. When is this ever the case? The administration sends out its version of events (hardly factual and certainly not accepted by all) and Ken himself issues an opinionated decree with factual errors including a denial of our first amendment right of free speech, and has the gall to tell others, who don't think like him, they must be silent unless "all" (meaning Ken) agree.

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  8. Greetings all,

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post. It was clear even before the post was written that it was not likely to change hearts or minds - we are (unfortunately) far too deeply divided and polarized for that - but I am grateful that a few souls at least took the time to read what I took the time to write.

    It was never my intent to "command". (Nor was it my intent to prevent anyone from expressing any point of view.) My post was intended as a request, or perhaps even a plea, to try to choose words with care and to avoid posting material that may unintentionally damage fellow faculty that may not share your views. There are many of us and in the current climate on campus, poorly chosen words have the potential to more deeply divide us.

    I tried, apparently unsuccessfully for some, to strike a non-confrontational tone. Some of the comments I do not agree with (I am sure that comes as no surprise), but one I will acknowledge as an error on my part. The word "please" is in bullet 2, but really should have followed, "with that in mind", such that it applied to all that followed. (i.e., it should have read, "with that in mind, please..."). I do not back away from my intent but I regret that my intent was not expressed more clearly.

    Sincerely

    Ken Anderson

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  9. Ken,

    It is the tone of your entire letter that is troublesome and that is not mitigated by the inclusion of the word "Please". I believe that your posting would have been more likely to have had a positive impact if you had also made a plea to the administration--not to tarnish the image of SIUC.

    The valuedrivers of any university are its students and the faculty but unfortunately that has not been the case at SIUC for quite some time now. How else can you explain the wholesale "BUDDY-NOMICS" that has been set in motion by the SIUC administration (present and recent past) instead of "ACADEMICS". This is the real problem and its destroying this university.

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  10. Ken,

    You are directly responsible for the loss of tenure on this campus by refusing to enter into discussing an issue that affects ALL faculty! Another poster made a good point above. Why don't you put in writing that you voluntary relinquish tenure? Better still, why don't you return the salary increases that the Union got for you to Rita so she can have another Coronation next year? This forum is designed for open discussion not for sweeping ugly issues under the carpet.

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  11. Justin Schoof, Geography & Environmental ResourcesApril 26, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    I'm clearly in the minority here, but I largely agree with Ken's sentiments. Furthermore, it seems that his message has been misunderstood by most of those responding. I wouldn't have imagined such vitriol aimed at Ken for suggesting that people think carefully about what they post. I think it is good advice.

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  12. Justin,

    I think some of the vitriol directed at Ken has to do with other things that Ken has said or done in the past and not directly with what he posted here. It may not be fair, especially given the limitations of a blog format, but it is what it is.

    With that said, Ken's admonitions to "post nothing..." take his suggestion beyond the level of "think before you type" to the level of "don't type anything negative about SIU ever." To take it to that level is essentially saying that no matter what happens at SIU, or how harmful we think those things are to the long-term success of the university, we should keep silent, or at least not let the tax-paying public know about it.

    That might be fine if SIU's problems were minor and faculty and administrators were working together to fix them, but that is not the current climate that we're in.

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  13. The phrase "piss in our sandbox" seems reminiscent of Crocodile Dundee and Rupert Murdoch as well as the stereotyped loud mouthed, beer guzzling Aussie. My country, right or wrong" now becomes "MY SIU, right or wrong", something aptly suited to an institution that has removed tenure and will now move towards firing those who disagree with its move towards authoritarianism. Beware of using your actual names on this from now on since Big Brother (Ken) is watching you and will immediately name names to someone who will reward him with that six figure salaried position in higher administration.

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  14. "Waltzing with Rita,
    Waltzing with Rita,
    We'll go a waltzing with Rita today.

    As I go to fill my billybong,
    Rita will end tenure by sounding the gong.
    But I'll be safe since I'll still go a waltzing with Rita today."

    (With apologies to Barry Humphries and Barry MacKenzie)

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  15. There were murmurs in the union for the word had passed around
    that the ringer had gone off his meds again.
    He was raving, wild and ranting, and his mind was badly canting
    So his balance was in doubt to other men.

    He thought himself so clever but to others he just never
    seemed to grip the reins of reason tight enough.
    As he choked out all his bluster all the others at his muster
    wondered “has this bloke gone off his bleeding duff?”

    Should we rally ‘round our mate or should we show him to the gate?
    ‘les his rantings drag us with him through the slush.
    Yes, he’s of our plenum, but his quill is dipped in venom!
    And we all might soon be tarred with that foul brush!

    Soon they’ll put him in cell with padded walls and ring a bell
    to warn bypassers of the bedlam locked away.
    And as they walk by gawking at the loony shrieks and squawking,
    they’ll ask “who else among us shares that blighter’s sway? “

    (Apologies to Ken and A.J. Patterson)

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  16. Ken,

    I don't agree with those insulting you here. But, to better understand how you are being perceived try this experiment. Read your original post as a memo from ENRON to it employees. Here is how your last two points would read:

    · Post nothing that may be a disinducement to potential costumers. We ALL depend on our ability to attract lots people to give us their money. Post nothing that will turn them away because doing so harms us all.

    · Post nothing that may diminish the reputation or public perception of our shared institution. You have no right to do so because so doing diminishes and devalues us all and lessens the perceived value of our investments.

    Even your second point is problematic: Can we not assert evolution as a fact even though there do exist people who do not accept it?

    Of course I am only speaking for myself. I would never say that your free speech harms us ALL!

    -Mike Sullivan

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  17. Pompous post, if you ask me.

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I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.