I had a recent scare. Last week, I received an email from the university about a tutor who had blogged about tutoring and had inadvertantly revealed a little too much information, making it possible for readers to easily identify the university and the unit. This email was sent to all the tutors on a particular mailing list. Also, the post had revealed a certain amount of personal information about a student – although not named as such, if the student had come across the post he/she could very well identify him/herself. I’m sure even close friends of the student might be able to identify him/her. The tutor was not named in the email. The email was a friendly warning to all of us tutors (but of course especially to the tutor in question!). The email was not an actual official statement from the university, but written and sent to us all by one of the senior tutors for the unit, and as such was not actually disciplinary action. As I’ve said, it was a friendly warning. I got the impression if the ‘offending’ content was removed, there would be no further action taken and it would not be mentioned again.
Initially I panicked and thought maybe the email was about my blog, as I’ve written about uni and tutoring stuff. Then I calmed down and went through my old posts and confirmed that it definitely couldn’t be me they were talking about in the email. Still, I went through and removed all the posts that mentioned anything about uni, tutoring and my PhD. I’ve never explicitly named my university here, but of course, anyone with any sort of investigative ability could probably work it out. I’ve decided it’s just too risky to have anything that could even remotely be linked back to the university, and so all the uni posts are gone – the positive and the negative. I don’t feel that anything I posted was really that bad, but I did make some negative comments on various uni-related issues.
For now, I’ll stick to food, computer and other non-uni-related topics. I need to have a think about it a bit more and work out definite boundaries. I do like writing about uni stuff, as it’s a big part of my life, and it’s been exciting and everchanging these past couple of years. Uni may even continue to be a significant part of my life after the PhD – and here I was very conscious of being careful about what I wrote and not mentioning any names, or ever saying anything too damning (I don’t want to end up dooced), but yeah – I don’t want to take any risks and jeopardise my position at the university, both as a student and as a sometime-(and maybe future) employee. I also don’t want any of my students to find this blog by accident and work out who the author is. While I am myself with my students, I’m a limited version of myself. It’s still authentically me, just carefully filtered. I guess while I like writing here as me but I need to maintain a certain level of anonymity.
I’ve kept a copy of my deleted posts. It seems a shame to have them hidden away in a .txt file on my hard drive. Maybe one day it will be ok to put them back where they belong, on the blog. For now, as I said, I need to think about exactly what I can/can’t and will/won’t write about here. So some of you may think the blog is suddenly lacking the ‘personal’ content that you’ve gotten used to reading, a lot of which revolved around stuff happening at uni. Of course, I presume that some of you don’t give a rat’s arse about the personal/uni stuff, and you only drop by for the food porn pics. Whatever. I was actually seriously contemplating just ditching the blog completely at the end of last week because I didn’t like feeling that I can’t write freely (within reason).
Do any of you have any thoughts on this? Should I forget posting about my uni life?
P.S. Oh yeah, I did find the mystery tutor’s blog too – I won’t post the link, but yes, I understand why the senior tutor was concerned enough to send the friendly warning email. Having read the ‘offending’ post, I’m 100% on the senior tutor’s/uni’s side. I have no problem with critical, honest posts about tutoring and the university, but the personal, identifiable information about the student that was posted definitely crossed the line. Really, the post could have made its point without the need to include that personal info about the student. I feel that problem with the post was more to do with issues of professionalism, ethics and confidentiality than censorship. Anyway, I’ve noticed that the ‘offending’ material has since been removed by its poster.
EDIT, 24th March 2006: having had a good think about this I’ve decided to continue posting about my uni life. I’ve reinstated the deleted categories of Uni and PhD as well as most of the deleted posts. Of course, as always, I will take care to post with discretion.