You may have traveled to this corner of the Web expecting to see my scribblings about the new UCE logo and how I was concurring with what many other people had already roundly described as a big waste of money and a poorly-implemented rebranding. You’ve just got the short version, but if you’re looking for the long version – sorry, you’ll be disappointed – I was strongly advised to remove this from my site (more on this later). So, this post has automagically gone into hiding for the time being, as some people in high places feel it may be sufficient cause for me to receive an official telling off or maybe even removal from my course. I’m opinionated, but I’m not an idiot, so this post will most likely stay in hiding until UCE have stamped my degree.
(And you can count on the fact that I’m quite surprised about this happening now of all times, and I won’t be letting this lie when I have a proper chance to sit back and consider all of this and argue properly in my defence, but now is not the time.)
Some people had put it to me that others may have thought that I was hiding behind pseudo-anonymity whilst publishing my criticism – this is unfair, as I publish any and all information about myself in the public domain for all to see. My name’s at the top of every post I write, this site (and my others) have a big amount of information about me plus links to other sites, and any person with half a brain just has to do a whois on the domain name to find out my name and contact details. When I write something, I don’t go about publishing it under the veil of anonymity, I stand by what I wrote. Part of my criticism was a photoshopped version of the new UCE logo – I even wrote that I’d done it, yet I was told that it wasn’t obvious? Hmm. I know that some may think that I’m being a bit hipocritical, talking about freedom of speech whilst removing my own post, but it’s too much hassle than it’s worth in the short term, and until I have a better understanding of my own rights it was the most obvious choice to make. My original commentary may yet see the light of day, depending on whether I think I have a decent chance of defending what I’d written. Then again, it may not.
I feel this predicament I find myself in highlights the delicate sitation that many students who choose to criticise their universities find themselves in – they publish some criticism about their establishment, someone higher up the food chain decides that they’re infringing a little-known rule or regulation regarding fair comment or criticism of the establishment, and all of a sudden they’re in front of an arbitration committee with potential suspension or expulsion from their course, with little say in the matter should they decide to stick to their guns… Democracy, until someone decides they don’t like what someone else is saying (funny kind of democracy, huh?)
Now, I understand that sometimes there’s good reason for this action (grossly libelous or completely untrue commentary about someone in particular, which isn’t nice) but I felt that my comments did not fall under those ‘brackets’, nor did they infringe on any other rules – that said, I’m going to reread what I originally wrote, and see how it might be interpreted in the ways that were described to me that would bring about the kind of response I’ve received.
A note to all institutions or organisations: the Internet has been around for long enough, and people should realise that individuals or other organisations are always going to criticise or make public their own opinions on these matters. Being a student at a university is not the same as working for a business, where employees can be dismissed for making comments relating to their employer – the idea of a university is that it is an educational establishment which allows students to learn whilst being able to enter into discourse with lecturers and other students – but whilst we are educated by the lecturers, we are not bound by the same rules as a child at school would be. Universities have traditionally been some of the main sources of discourse and criticism, and I believe that’s a very healthy thing. What universities should focus on is the quality of the learning experience, and not become focused on thing outside their remit.
The most perplexing thing about all of this is that if my original article didn’t happen to rank highly in Google when people searched for results relating to the rebrand, my university would have most likely not given a toss either way about all of this, and I would never have been contacted in the first place. Make of that what you will.
I believed my commentary to be fair criticism about the public policy and fiscal decisions of the educational establishment to which I pay several thousand pounds a year to (and I was in the last of the lucky people who entered into the system under the capped fees scheme). What I wrote is quite strongly-worded, but I still feel that it’s fair commentary (I don’t beat about the bush when I have a strong opinion about something, particularly when it affects others too.) The subject of my criticism should be able to take said criticism without then trying to enforce restrictions to prevent this commentary being further disseminated, particularly as it directly involves myself and other students – us being the ones who financed the decisions (and subsequent actions) in question!
That’s all I’ll say for now, before I know it I’ll probably dig myself an even bigger hole. But to all higher education students, be aware – your establishment may present itsself as a democratic, receptive establishment where the students have a fair say in all matters regarding them, but UCE certainly failed spectacularly when they sought advice and comment from students regarding its recent rebranding… And then it wants to censor and punish me for publishing what I believed to be fairly pointed (yet accurate) comments about said rebranding? If you realised just how much it cost, you might feel the same way.
I also hope it explains why I’ve removed my original post for the time being. If anybody higher up wishes to discuss this matter with me in an informal setting, I’m more than willing to do so – in fact I’d be keen to do so. But being told that I either remove what I’d written to avoid further action against me, or leave it up and face the (potentially very serious) consequences… That doesn’t seem very fair, does it?
All comments or criticism welcome. In fact, encouraged.