Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blogging and the Academy

An adjunct professor at Texas A&M International University was fired this week for posting the names and grades of his students on a blog. The professor was trying to humiliate them after catching people plagiarizing.

Katherine Haenschen at Burnt Orange Report
calls this "a worrisome precedent." I'm not so sure. This person was an idiot who deserved to be fired. Anyone who publicly humiliates students by name and gives out personal information about their performance is not fit to teach.

On the other hand, certainly the issue of blogging and the academy is on my mind. I blog under my own name. There is a risk involved. Theoretically, a school could google my name, see that I have a blog, and consider that too much of a risk to hire me. I hope this doesn't happen. I try to be professional here. I occasionally talk about teaching. Usually this is to work out a question or issue I am having, but occasionally I am frustrated with students. I would never ever give a name or any personal information. But it is a fine line. Being on the job market right now makes me nervous about everything I write.

Haenschen doesn't defend the said professor either; rather, her concern is that the story was spun so that it seemed he was fired for blogging rather than for violating professors' privacy. Instead of cracking down on plagiarism, TAMIU fired the professor. Personally, I think both sides are right here. Too often, by which I mean virtually always, universities are extremely lax on issues of plagiarism. I have an enormous problem with it. My sense is that professors just don't want to be bothered and don't care enough about teaching to deal with it. I now teach at a school that does it take seriously. It still happens, but it is nice having institutional support to fight it.

Nevertheless, the guy needed to be canned. Freedom of speech battles seem to always take place over cases where the person in question has done a loathsome thing that is hard to defend. And while TAMIU did not handle the matter particularly professionally themselves, there is no excuse for not canning his butt.