Monday, June 09, 2003

Private discussions for public institutions 

Cold Spring Shops notes a battle going on at Univ. of California at Irvine, at which a student government legislator who got a resolution passed calling for viewpoint diversity has been rebuked in an email from a dean for not discussing the issue with enough faculty members. The dean's memo to every member of the faculty and staff along with the student and the Irvine Review student paper concludes: is disappointing that these public allegations have been made against our School prior to the completion of the consultation process that I had recommended to David. I am copying David on this message, and I again encourage him to follow up with our chairs and with our elected faculty chair, as I recently recommended. The publication of Mr. Asuncion's article, including the allegations made by David in his proposed resolution, have publicly called into question the integrity of our faculty without our having an adequate chance to respond to David's concerns, and this is most unfortunate since it is always best (and most fair) to address concerns privately prior to airing them publicly.
I refer to this as "the death of a thousand small meetings". They will not only be stonewalled, but when the students become frustrated enough to resume trying to pass the resolution the faculty will claim shock and surprise: "I thought we had reached an understanding on this; I'm disappointed to see that ..." And of course, you can get to the end of the school year and run out the clock.

And is it "always best (and most fair) to address concerns privately prior to airing them publicly"? At a public university, no. That's why this blog exists. For example, we're still waiting to read this preliminary report the St. Cloud Times editorialized last week. I fully expect it to come out in the fall, wrapped in that cheap waxy paper with the legend "Sanitized for your protection."