I came across this article, “UAB’s editor’s blog raises legal questions,” while surfing around and stumbling across yet another “anonymous” blogger telling sassy stories about the underbelly of academia, Playing School, Irreverently.
The newspaper article is about a guy named Doug Gillett who works for the University of Alabama at Birmingham as an editor in the “creative services department,” whatever that is. Gillett keeps a blog called “George W. Bush, Will You Please Go Now?!” and he got in trouble for spending “company time” working on this blog. To quote from the newspaper article:
Election law prohibits public employees from using “state, county or city funds, property or time, for any political activities.” The state ethics law has a similar prohibition….University of Alabama at Birmingham spokeswoman Dale Turnbough said Thursday Gillett will face disciplinary action. “UAB has clear policies against using university time and resources for partisan politics or non-university business and takes violation of those policies seriously,” Turnbough said. “We began to look into this matter as soon as it was brought to our attention today, and we will follow up with appropriate disciplinary action in a timely fashion as soon as we conclude our review.”
Several thoughts come to mind:
* As I’ve always said, this is one of the reasons why I have always maintained an “official and academic” blog and an “unofficial and rant ‘n rave” blog.
* This is also one of the reasons why I have for several years owned my own computer. I used to have an EMU-owned laptop as my main computer, but that always made me nervous– not because of a free speech issue, but because if the computer had been lost or stolen on my watch, I would have owed EMU for it. If the laptop I own is stolen, that’s a different kind of problem. Plus I can play games and goof-off with this computer without a tinge of guilt.
* One of Gillett’s problems (as far as I can tell from the story) is he was an “on the clock/regular” employee of UAB and not a faculty person. That doesn’t mean Gillett doesn’t have his right to an opinion or anything like that; but the nature of the work habits of many faculty, I don’t think they’ll getting many tenure-track folks on this same “policy” against using university time and resources.
* Every person I know who has a “real” job (and I must admit, I don’t know that many people who do have “real” jobs) spends at least part of their office time surfing the web.
* I doubt this sort of thing would happen at EMU. I don’t want to be too critical of the folks at UAB, but it doesn’t surprise me that a policy like this exists in Alabama. And it also doesn’t surprise me that they’re coming down hard on an anti-Bush site. I’m just speculating here, but I wonder if folks at UAB posting to the anti-Kerry blogs on company time are getting a “pass?”
* Finally, the blog “Playing School, Irreverently” is like the second or third blog I’ve come across lately that is written anonymously by someone who claims to either have another blog with their name on it and/or that they are “successful” and “well-known” academics in their more “visible” lives. Inevitably, these anonymous blogs are set up as a space to complain and gripe and vent about things.
A while back, I thought about setting up a blog that focused on my “happy academic” theme of posts. But I got lazy and I decided I could just post those things on this blog. But now I’m rethinking that. I don’t want to be anonymous for reasons I’ve written about before, but I’m beginning to think that it might be kind of fun to have that separate space, and maybe to invite some folks to post their own “happy academic” stories. Just for a change of pace.