Monday, December 27, 2004

Watch what you say, dear student 

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy wonders whether students know faculty read their blogs.
If you are a student and you blog about a professor, you should always assume that the professor will read the post and will know who you are. Even if you blog under a pseudonym and don't refer to the professor by name, you're probably leaving enough information behind to identify the professor and yourself. Even if you keep your own identity secret, there aren't that many professors out there: particularly critical or juicy posts are likely to lead to someone recognizing the professor and tipping off him or her to the blog. The professor may then take some effort to figure out who you are. You may never know about it, either: I know professors who regularly read their students' discussions of class on their blogs, and don't want the students to know it.
I have a similar problem, as students now tell me they listen to NARN. One came up to me on Monday last week and said how much he enjoyed listening to the David Liss interview with Trunk, Mitch and myself, and that he was a fan of Liss. This student and I exchange reading ideas often. Well, I never heard of Liss before Trunk set up the interview, but afterwards I mentioned it to my family, and Littlest went and got me A Conspiracy of Paper as my Christmas gift. I opened it up last night, and it's great. (I guess I'll have to buy Blog for myself. I hear it's pretty good.)

I have some alumni blogging (like Liz at A Blonde Moment -- it appears Kevin Ecker has stopped blogging) but I do not know of any of my own current students' efforts. Will Baude seems not too concerned about students blogging about professors and classes, because much of what is said in a private conversation with a student eventually gets around to the rest of the class. He's right, and sometimes we use that to send a signal to a class without making a public statement. I assume what I say as a department chair gets around to the rest of the faculty when I say it to some of my department members; others are known to be tightlipped. Good chairs and good faculty know the difference between them. Likewise on our campus, people know that what gets said on a faculty discussion list could show up on, say, this blog. Can we say some discussion is off the record? I suppose if it's in my office, but if you put it up on a discussion list you're stuck. (And yes, I have a new one today coming up.)

So if you are a student at SCSU, and if you have a blog, we're looking out for you. And it's not like you can say anything about me I haven't heard before. Or even printed myself.