One of the joys of working as an educator at third level is the academic freedom that we enjoy. This isn't a licence to do whatever we like, but in my case it allows me to run a YouTube channel (which I would not have been able to do in my previous job because it would have been in competition with the company's business), and to blog. Even in my blog I do not write disparaging comment about the College, its students, or any of my colleagues. Even if I wanted to do this - thankfully academic freedom does not stretch this far. I can give my own opinion on the likes of educational matters and my own experiences without fear of sanction from the College. I suspect that very few people in the College read this blog - in the near 10 years that I have been blogging there have only been a handful of comments from colleagues about something I wrote. Nevertheless, I don't think I would get away with it if I slagged off the College.
|Dr Inger Mewburn.|
Image source: The Conversation.
How far should academic freedom go? In an article by Dr Inger Mewburn (The Thesis Whisperer) entitled "If you blog, will you lose your job?" mention is made of a case in La Trobe University in Australia where an academic (Roz Ward) was stood down after a Facebook post in which she suggested a red flag should fly over state parliament instead of the “racist Australian one". She was later re-installed. Dr Mewburn asks "if you are an academic, should you blog or otherwise be present and opinionated online?". She doesn't blog about matters that she has no expertise in for fear of being "hung out to dry by university management" - she freely admits that she just doesn’t "have the guts" to do so. But what she does do, and I'm fully behind her on this, is "support academics who blog on controversial and risky topics, even if I don’t agree with everything they write".
Academics must be allowed to express their opinions. Whether it is via a blog, Twitter, or Facebook - comment should be part of what we do. As Trinity College academic Professor Brian Lucey puts it about academics he states they "need to man and woman up, start doing press releases, contact journalists, cultivate contacts in the media, do newspaper articles and columns, start blogging… They need to get engaged".
Opinions expressed in this post, and all other posts in this blog, are my own and do not represent the opinions of the National College of Ireland in any way.