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Requesting blog policies to support academic freedom

June 21, 2013

This assignment required us to write a letter requesting permission to blog. This assignment did not really apply to me, as we do not need to request permission to blog in a higher education setting. Therefore, I negotiated a different assignment with my professor. I instead wrote a hypothetical memo that requested a more formal blogging policy on campus. This would serve to protect faculty who blog and who are challenged or even sued because of the information or opinion that include in their professional blog. I have included a generic form of this memo below:

TO: Provost
FROM: Beth Transue, Assistant Librarian
RE: Intellectual Freedom in Blogging

I would like to request that X College create and implement a blogging policy in the faculty handbook. Academic blogging is practiced by many faculty members on campus. Many of these blogs have national and international influence. Additionally, courses on campus require or request student blogging to document coursework and reflections.

I blog as a means of communicating professionally with other librarians and colleagues through my blog, TechieLibrarian, hosted by WordPress. This blog explores the intersections between technology and libraries. To date, it has received over 400 views. In the future, I may also use blogs with students to reflect on their information literacy and research strategies if I am able to work with classes over the course of a full term.

Unfortunately in the current litigious atmosphere, academic bloggers have been sued and the resulting high cost of litigation threatens to chill academic freedom for faculty who wish to share informally in blogs. Dale Askey, an academic librarian, provided his professional opinion about the state of open-access journals and the predatory publishers who are now taking advantage of this framework to publish articles that appear to be professional and yet have poor quality and limited or no peer review. Mr Askey linked to a list of these predatory publishers and discussed his disapproval of their practices. He mentioned how they hinder academic communication by reducing trust in quality publications. One publisher named in the predatory publisher list subsequently sued Mr Askey for over $4 million for defamation. Mr Askey has received reluctant support from the administrators in his institution and has spent substantial personal funds to defend himself. More information about this story is available on the Inside Higher Education website:

A closer example is when [radio show host] attacked our colleague for his blog post about President Obama. [Colleague] received threats from fans and calls for his termination. I am glad that the Administration of this college stood by [Colleague]; I would like to see that support formalized in a campus policy.

I believe that continued academic blogging on this campus requires a formal policy that ensures administrative and institutional support, including legal and financial support, for academic blogs that may be challenged.

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