[unisog] Academic Freedom

chris mccraw chrism at ticam.utexas.edu
Thu Oct 17 14:51:23 GMT 2002

On Wed, Oct 16, 2002 at 10:37:07AM -0400, Bill Mowery wrote:
> I now find myself out of a senior management position with a drastic salary 
> cut and no job (here it's called the "Penalty Box" although I'm the only 
> one to ever have a salary cut while I have Time Out).
> The rule is: it doesn't have to make sense, it doesn't have to be ethical 
> or honest, and it doesn't have to do with the common good. The only thing 
> that matters is that you don't think about anything that might tarnish the 
> reputation of the institution and don't dare infringe on rights, real or 
> perceived, of the academic community.

the corollary to this rule is, it's time to find a new institution.  they're
not *all* that bad.  i am blessed with a departmental head who listens to
tech staff, and an environment where my users respect both staff and
community, but i am not alone.  i know of at least 2 other departments on
campus in similar situations, and the campus networking team have
unilateral and unchallengable final say in networking matters ("that
computer is locked out of the network until *we* verify that it is
and, it seems to me, there are many others on the list who are fairly
autonomous and/or well-managed enough to do what they need to do regardless
of potentially pissed-off faculty.

i've been unwilling (and refused) to deploy inferior solutions, and would
not violate users' email sanctity in absence of a gun to my head, and my
department head supports me in these decisions.  i don't act like a BOFH,
but i have the power and will to do what needs to be done, and "what needs
to be done" often upsets someone who is higher in the food chain
(academically, age-, tenure-, and salary-wise).  it's life, and people
live with it (in my department, at least).
i give the analogy of the maintenance crew...when asbestos must be removed
from the building, everyone leaves, because they have to, even though the
abatement crew is doing nothing to further anyone's particular academic
mission, rather they are taking care of the community-at-large.  which is
what we do, whether or not your management realizes it.  someday their
upstream provider will turn off their link in response to their allowing
DOS-type activity to emanate from your site, and you'll be able to shake
your head and let them stew in their own mess.

it's tragic that management disagrees with your well-reasoned, sane, and
in the end, workable views.  easier said than done, but i wouldn't tolerate
that environment for another minute.  

i think the #1 goal of anyone truly interested in security needs to be
real support from management for policies which protect the community
(both the local community, and the net at large).  there are some battles
which will be lost, but without support from above, we have no chance in
the war, and should probably look for a less depressing career...

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