Keele Uni threatens legal action on students

Thursday, 24th May 2007 at 16:23 UTC 2 comments

Some students at Keele have gotten dissatisfied with their lecturers.  So they’ve gone on Facebook and told the world what they think.  And then the University have threatened to sue them, because they didn’t use the right ‘channels’ for voicing their concern.  First it was School children who weren’t allowed to discuss their teachers, now its us Uni students.  And I thought attempts to curb Freedom of Criticism against religion was worrying.

I have done a thorough-as-can-be-done check of Keele network, as two major problems prevent me from doing anything more: firstly, I’m not in that network, and so can’t get at a lot of the information, and secondly, I don’t know the names of the teachers, so can’t accurately search for the groups, if they still exist.  Sadly, while Facebook is excellent at contributing to the Open-Source Community, it does err a little too much on the side of caution when it comes to reporting content.

One of the key things the internet was supposed to offer us was the chance to share our experiences of products, not to have to rely on the biased words of companies, but instead on a kind of peer-review.  Lecturers provide that kind of service, however, because of the individual nature of these ‘reviews’, it seems that the educational world feels it can get away with silencing critics.

Students-to-be have a vested interest in the information being spread.  Usually its pretty easy to tell what is meant as a real critique and what is meant for (albeit weird) amusement.  The real critique stuff needs to go out there so that new students know to go elsewhere when a course is being taught by someone who cannot communicate the material properly.  Universities like Keele feel the need to constrain this kind of information spreading because it could damage them.

But if this was information about a new model of washing machine or a new novel, yes, the creators wouldn’t want it spread around, but surely we would see it as important that people could find out before they bought the product.  Sadly, many students ‘buy the product’ of crap courses which are badly taught year in, year out, and from which they could have been disuaded had they seen more than just the glowing prospectus advertising said course.

Had the students ‘used the right channels’ this would have meant one of two things.  First, that they actually trusted those channels in the first place, which would be odd, seeing as most ‘real’ students I ask are completely oblivious to the channels around them, and have no trust in the ones they do know of.  Second, that the situation was handled and smoothed over and nothing was done about it.  At least, thats what has happened in my experience when a lecturer has had complaints made against them (I shall refrain from commenting on specific cases right now).

It seems that Under-Graduate learners are still being expected to put up and shut up with what is thrown at them.  The lecturer/teacher always knows best, and how on earth could you possibly know enough to criticise their teaching skills.  Case closed?  You wouldn’t accept being told not to tell your friends and those who might buy a product after you that you couldn’t warn them of its failings, why accept this with a teacher or lecturer?


Entry filed under: Education, Free Speech, Social Networking.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Helen B  |  Thursday, 31st May 2007 at 14:20 UTC

    Meep, sad news. I remember at school we were told to help out with a very poorly managed sponsored walk that the school had organised to pay for a new cricket pitch. I told my Dad I was going to write to complain but he said, “No, you’ll get a black mark!” Which may be something like a black spot. Anyway, Dad reckoned I couldn’t complain because I’d get a bad record. Sigh. I also meant to complain about one bloody awful teacher but people told me to get over it.

    I am sort of hoping, though I myself am a bit late for it, that YUSU get off their arses and protest at an open day. Then they might get their porters/bars back 🙂

  • 2. Helen B  |  Thursday, 31st May 2007 at 14:24 UTC

    But on the other hand…. (sorry, if I didn’t have two hands I’d really be stuck when it comes to discussion), there is a difference between legitimate criticism and defamation. If I told a friend that “Dr Smith is a rubbish lecturer and it’s not worth doing his course” that would be one thing, but “Dr. Smith is a gay nazi pawn of al qaeda who sucks Dr. Jones’s cock” would be defamation. Unless it were true.


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