Category Archives: abortion

more on blogging and academe

Hi there, this is Lisa Lynch. I’m new to the Institute and I’ve introduced myself over on the Institute’s Next/Text site, where I’ll be spending much of my time. Come on by!
Just in time for Friday’s conference, this article from Inside Higher Ed describes a Nov. 2 blogspat that may adversely impact the academic career of one of the bloggers. According to Inside Higher Ed, the trouble began after Paul Deignan –a 41-year-old mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate at Purduewho writes a blog called Info Theory — posted comments attacking the pro-choice posts of blogger Bitch PhD, a junior professor who won’t disclose the name of her university. Bitch Ph.D. deleted his comments:(according to a policy stated clearly on her site, she deletes rude comments and will ban the IP addresses of trolls. Before the posts were deleted, however, they attracted the attention of University of Northern Iowa history professor Wallace Hettle, who decided to report Deignan to his Ph.D. committee for unethical behavior.
Now Deignan wants to sue BOTH Hettle and Bitch Ph.D. for libel — Hettle for reporting him, and Bitch Ph.D for suggesting on her site that Deignan might have tried IP spoofing to suss out her identity.
This episode is troubling on many levels, but for me the most sinister aspect is the suggestion that this might represent the dark side of academic debate on blogs; increasingly, academics (and other folks, of course) may start to see one another as lawsuit fodder and will begin squirreling away blog entries as material evidence.
As much as I admire a knight in shining armor, I’m also troubled by Hettle’s actions. Deignan’s posts were really none of his Ph.D. committees’ business. If Deignan was really IP spoofing, than his behavior was criminal, not simply unethical, and Bitch Ph.D. could have pursued legal options. If he wasn’t spoofing? Academics consider themselves accountable to certain ethical standards, but (alas) politeness is usually not one of them. Apparently, Deignan’s advisors asked him to refrain from “exceeding his bounds on a private site.” But should they have? Is there a slippery slope here between reining in Deignan and establishing a policy banning blogging and/or commenting on blogs in academe?