When do we get to talk in private?

So apparently this week’s news is that administrators at the University of Illinois used personal email accounts to discuss the Salaita case. I have to say, I don’t blame them one bit. They had a situation in which whatever they did was going to be dissected and every word was going to be criticized and parsed for evidence of wrongdoing, no matter what decision they made. The only surprising thing about this is that they wrote anything down ¬†at all.

I’m in favor of transparency, in principle. But I’m also in favor of people being able to say what they really think, somewhere, sometime – if only so their friends can tell them what’s wrong with it. And I don’t know where decision-makers can do that nowadays. They’re not supposed to hold closed meetings, or to meet informally to hash out policies. They’e not allowed to keep their work emails private, and aren’t supposed to use their personal emails. So somehow, perhaps through divine intervention, they’re supposed to come to enlightened and wise decisions without ever discussing their preliminary ideas and concerns with anybody else who knows about the issues.

This sure isn’t how I work, but maybe that’s why I’m not academic administrator material.

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