February 19, 2007

BGSU Professor "Caught in the Network" of Academic Freedom

The February 9th Chronicle of Higher Education featured an article authored by Dr. Paul Cesarini from BGSU's College of Technology.

The issue centered on ITS's concern with Paul using Tor, or The Onion Router, which masks online activity from others (including ITS). Being that it is one of ITS's charges to be aware of activity on the university network, they obviously felt the need to look into Paul's usage and express their concerns. Here are some snippets from the article (reprinted with permission):
"My reason for downloading and installing the Tor plug-in was actually simple: I'd read about it for some time, was planning to discuss it in two courses I teach, and figured I should have some experience using it before I described it to my students. The courses in question both deal with controlling technology, diffusing it throughout society, and freedom and censorship online.

...Their (ITS) job is to protect the network that allows me to do my job: to teach classes that are mostly or entirely online, and to conduct research. If they weren't here as the first or even only line of defense against the unscrupulous elements of our technological society, my university would cease to function. It's as simple as that.

...A moment later, I heard another knock on my door. One of the detectives had come back to ask if I would reconsider my position. I told him that while I would think about giving up Tor, I honestly felt that this was a clear case of academic freedom, and I could not bow to external pressure. I reminded him that Tor is a perfectly legal, open-source program that serves a wide variety of legitimate needs around the world."

• As a faculty member, have you had to defend your academic freedom? If so, how?

• Where does one balance the institutional needs (rules) with student needs and professional ethics?

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