BlogOfTheMoon

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Academic Freedom

Apparently the University of Glasgow put gagging clauses in some redundancy deals it made during the recent round of voluntary severance. Apparently it was just a small number of staff, but this worries me considerably. Commercial confidentiality, I can understand (I don't like it, but I can understand it), but this order contains a "non-disparagement" clause, stating: The Employee agrees that he has not and will not make or otherwise communicate any disparaging or derogatory comments whether in writing or by spoken word and whether or not they are considered by the employee to be true, concerning the university. So in exchange for a huge wodge of cash (about £100,000), you agree not to say anything nasty about the university, even if you consider it to be true. Now, for a hundred grand, I have to say that I'd be very tempted myself, despite my principles! The newspaper article implies that the clause was there to prevent whistleblowers, which, as it points out, is ironic since our current rector Mordechai Vanunu is one of the most famous whistleblowers in the world.

I would like to discuss this further, including the university's attitude to criticism and the direction that it's taking under current management, but I'm not going to. Given past reaction of employers to blog posts by their employees about their workplace, I don't think it's worth the risk. I will, however, note that higher education in general is becoming more commercialised and businesslike. I don't like this intrusion of the business world and the marketplace into education. I don't think that they mix well with the idea of learning for the sheer pleasure of it, or research only for the betterment of the species. But then, I've always been an idealistic kind of guy.

On another note: apparently I've been spamming LiveJournal again. Apologies to everyone who reads this blog through their LJ friends list. I got "upgraded" to New Blogger today when I logged in, despite explicitly asking it not to, since I thought something like this might happen. There's nothing else I can do but apologise, which I do unreservedly.

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