Friday, October 16, 2009

Word is Spreading

Today marks the first time that this story has gotten any serious coverage off of Butler’s campus. Inside Higher Ed ran a story this morning (I’ve linked to it on the right) and the story was picked up by a number of blogs. (I’ve linked to some of them, too.) Just a week ago, I wasn’t sure that I wanted my identity to be public. Oddly enough, Butler largely made the decision for me by talking to a local television station earlier this week and then by having the president accuse John Doe (and, remember, I am “John Doe”) of outrageous things that I did not do.

Now I’ve had the chance to see what a national audience thinks about this bizarre situation.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Inside Higher Ed gave their readers access to the original True BU blog and let them draw their own conclusions. While I certainly believe what I wrote was appropriate and well supported by evidence, it was encouraging to read positive comments. The blogs that resulted from that news story are diverse commentaries ranging from a philosophy club at McNeese State University discussing the need for dissent and discussion to Mikhail Emelianov, in his blog titled “Perverse Egalitarianism,” wondering what it would be like to live in a world where faculty members acted like Butler administrators.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had a sense of freedom when I revealed myself as the author of The True BU and today, after reading a number of comments and getting a number of other emails and text messages, I am very grateful that others are willing to speak out, not just about my situation, but about the precedent that it might set for university communities across the country.

Of course, not all comments were positive. That was to be expected. I was intrigued, though, that many of the people who took issue with me did so because I wrote The True BU under a pseudonym and not for anything that I actually said in the blog. Indeed, many of the people who criticized my anonymity also agreed that there was nothing libelous, defamatory, or harassing about anything that I wrote while anonymous. I firmly believe that the tool of anonymity should not be lost: In addition to legal precedent, as posters both here and on Inside Higher Ed pointed out, anonymous writing has tremendous precedent in American and world history. Historically, it has given a voice to those who have not felt empowered to speak.

Regardless of the opinions you hold, I hope you take the time to read all of the documents that are now available. While I’m optimistic that you’ll think what I have to say is interesting and you keep coming back to read my thoughts, I also hope that your opinions, whether they agree with mine or not, are well supported.

1 comment:

  1. As a former student at Butler who was also involved in student government, I feel that Butler should take a step back and realize the bigger picture here.

    We are protected by the first amendment right to free speech, but as blogs and social media become more prevalent it becomes difficult for students and young people to adapt to what constitutes as libel or slander today.

    Everyday, young people are faced with more opportunities than ever before to voice their opinion in print. Read any comment section following news stories, blogs, youtube, etc., and you will see countless examples of possible libel and slander.

    The lines have become blurred. It is the prime responsibility of universities and schools to educate. Therefore, students should be educated in what constitutes libel or slander. Whether the university is right or wrong, administrators should realize that their reputation will suffer far more by pursuing this lawsuit than by taking the opportunity to educate students on how to avoid libel and slander.

    This has the chance of ruining the future for a bright young man and costing his family and the university a considerable amount of money, all for an anonymous blog where criticisms were presented in a far more intelligent manner than they are in most of mainstream society today.

    I hope that positive steps will be taken.