I floated the idea for this blog last week, and I received some encouraging feedback and also some strong cautionary remarks from people I respect a great deal.
On the encouraging side, there seems to be a general desire for more transparency and communication on campus, and this may provide one route toward that goal. There was a suggestion that I open the blog up to chairs of committees on campus, which I think is a good one. I am going to take it a step farther (see below).
On the cautionary side, several people suggested that it would be difficult to maintain my role of neutral mediator as clerk of faculty if I were posting opinions on issues here. A couple people suggested that having any discussion of faculty issues in a public place could be dangerous.
As a result of these recommendations, I’ve re-envisioned this project to be something a little bit different. Here are my new thoughts:
- I’m shifting this from being a personal blog to being a community forum. I’ll ask committee chairs (or their colleagues) to post periodic updates on the work their committees are doing. I’ll also open the forum up to any faculty member who wants to contribute something related to college policy, teaching, faculty life, or campus issues.
- To facilitate this shift, I’ve changed the name from ClerkBlog, which was inappropriately centered on me, and changed it to The Moon Room, the physical space on campus where we hold our meetings, share our business, and communicate our ideas. It’s my hope that in this online version of the Moon Room, more people will be able to express their opinions, especially those who feel silenced at meetings or who prefer expressing themselves in writing. At the very least, this version of the Moon Room will have more comfortable seating.
- I’ll moderate and edit the site, and I will post here when I have something to say, but I’ll try hard to avoid taking sides on any business the faculty is considering.
- I’ll also experiment with posting queries here. My understanding of the Quaker religious tradition is that queries are to promote self-examination and reflection (see one set of examples here). I’m still working on this idea, but I think posting questions and asking faculty to share responses would be an interesting way to start discussions outside of the constraints of faculty meetings.
One suggestion I’m going to reject for now is making this a more limited-access forum, for example hosting it on our Moodle site, accessible only to faculty. One person I spoke with felt strongly that this should be the case because the issues we discuss are often private, and another suggested that having this site visible to the public might lead to press attention or unfortunate quotations appearing elsewhere.
While these are valid concerns, I think having an open discussion in public helps. I’ve heard a lot of desire for more transparency and communication, and having this forum out in the open should help us be transparent not only to each other but also to the whole community, even if it comes with some dangers. While there are some discussions on campus that should be confidential and closed, I think we keep more hidden (either intentionally or unintentionally) than we should. Openness and transparency is the more difficult and challenging choice, but in my experience it is usually the healthier one. Plus, logging into Moodle is a pain.
If you decide to post or comment here (and I hope you will) please remember that you are speaking in public and representing the college as well as yourself. If you would like to be added as a contributor, please let me know.
As I said in my first post:
It’s an experiment, and it may fail. I may not update it regularly enough to be useful. Nobody may read it. It may give rise to hard feelings and conflict. If so, I’ll give it a merciful, swift death. But for the time being, we’ll give it a go.
I like the idea of this site and of a virtual Moon Room. Thanks for encouraging more dialogue among faculty. I understand the concerns about privacy, but I really agree with the need for more open, transparent, public conversation. We already have opportunities for private conversation–chatting around the office, sending e-mails to individuals and groups, gathering in the real Moon Room for faculty meetings. These private conversations are important and necessary but can also have negative consequences. An open, public forum will encourage us to be more careful and restrained in what we say. It will also help us practice (and perhaps even model) thoughtful, civil discourse, something increasingly rare in our society and something our students should be learning about.
I do wonder if the results of the faculty survey should perhaps remain a little bit more private.
Hi, Tom, and thanks for the kind words. If others think the survey results should be private, I’m happy to restrict them. However, my hope is that we can start to move away from our institutional tendency toward hiding things.