Lecturer reprimanded for 'defamatory' blog postings

Dr. Ringmar, from the LSE, has been officially reprimanded for his blog. This actually seems to be the end of a story, and one that’s got several aspects to it.
From the summary on the Guardian Website, he’d said during an Open Day (for prospective students), that most lecturers were busy doing research, and they would be far more likely to be taught by PhD students. The Guardian notes though that,

his remarks were part of a passionate plea for a “great institution” and he went on to tell his audience in March that as LSE student “you will be a part of this extraordinary multicultural collection of bright and fun and ambitious people”.

The crunch point though was when he put his lecture notes on his blog; for which he received an official reprimand. Ringmar regarded the request to close down his blog as prevention of free speech, and the current post (the blog still exists) shows that he firmly believes in free speech. Further, his previous post gives his view of what he said, and from that it would very much seem that it was an administrator who took offence at him diverging from the official line. Without having heard the original speech, it’s clearly hard to know exactly what was said, what was meant, and, critically, what was understood & remembered by the audience.
He seems to be up against the problem that a number of bloggers have had – where they’ve posted about problems at work in a personal blog, and then been sacked. Though that’s happened more in the US, Waterstones in Edinburgh sacked Joe Gordon for his comments.
A university would generally be seen as the one place you could have the freedom of speech (though there are some boundaries), but, as Ringmar pointed out:

“The big story here concerns freedom of speech at a time of the commercialisation of education.”

I suspect that there could well be wider implications for academic bloggers, so many organisations see “problems” long before they see the benefits.

4 thoughts on “Lecturer reprimanded for 'defamatory' blog postings

  1. Dear Emma,

    Good points. As you noted, I’ve been getting into serious trouble at the LSE. We need some kind of charter that protects bloggers’ rights. Do you have any good links or references?

  2. Gosh, that was quick!

    As to charters etc., those that I know about at present are primarily drawn up for school age bloggers; I’m not sure about any that are aimed at academic bloggers, but, I’m going to be going to the first Blog.ac.uk conference in June – . Those notes are a little dated now, as the final planning meeting took place at the weekend, so they should be updated soon. However, drawing up guidelines for educational bloggers – be they 5 or 105 (with appropriate sections!), is one thing that we hope will be able to be drawn out of that conference.
    There will also be more about the conference on Josie’s blog as the plans progress.

  3. Hi there, thanks a lot. That sounds great. I’m trying to convince assorted powerful people at the LSE that this is crucial. At the moment there is no protection whatsoever from intimidation and threats. Of course I want the rules to be very close to something like the UN Charter on Human Rights, but even a fairly repressive code is better than no code at all. At least a repressive code can be changed. I’d really appreciate any future feedback on this. I’m thinking of putting up a wiki on my blog (http://ringmar.net/forgethefootnotes/) where people interested could collaborate on a draft of a charter. Coordinated efforts are always the best — and how coordinate better than through blogs, right! I’ll check out Josie and her blog.

  4. Erik is disingenuous. His account of events at LSE does not give the full story and he has made comments about the School which present a highly misleading account of its history and activities. For instance he claims, inter alia, that LSE does not promote its foreign staff, when one of its distinguishing features has always been the prominence it has given to its overseas academics. Its history, indeed its recent history is studded with the names of famous academics born outside the UK, and it probably has a far higher proportion of foreign staff than any any other leading British university.

    He also is very unfair to the School’s Director, a figure who has stood up against the government when it recently tried to muzzle his own academics, after they criticised the government’s plans to introduce ID cards-a measure which would be directly contrary to a society in which people speak and act freely. When it matters the Director has a much stronger record on freedom of speech than someone who has basically made some crass remarks about doctoral students and his colleagues at a recruitment day, of all things!

    And Erik unfairly makes LSE carry the can for the practice of getting doctoral students to do some teaching-every university in the country does this, and remedies for it lie with the government, not underfunded universities, however elite they may be.

    Incidentally, Erik is such a believer in free speech that he actually blocked the detailed and factual posts in which I made the above comments. Some libertarian…

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