Over the past couple years, I have had growing concern about the use of anonymous posters here at the Harold Lounge and Don’s Desk. My concern initially began with some of the Realist posts over the past 18 months or so. But lately, with 12keystrokes’ critiques, the anonymous snipings against 12keystrokes and The Realist, and some anonymous snipings against Don at his blog, I believe it is time to raise the question publicly, and have a serious conversation about the utility and ethics of anonymous postings in our small community. After all, many of us will be working here for the next 10 or 20 years, together. We have a noble, if difficult goal, in the education of our students. It only makes sense to fight for the functionality and harmony of Harold Washington, and it seems foolish to let something flourish if it has a potentially harmful effect on our community.
So these are my questions:
Is the use of anonymity a good and useful thing at The Harold Lounge and Don’s Desk?
When posting anonymously, what are you protecting? What are you sacrificing? Is it worth it?
I am preparing a longer post on anonymous postings, but my stance is that anonymous postings, in general, are more harmful than helpful. The motivation for posting anonymously seems to have more to do with an excessive fear of retaliation, and to create a safe space from which bad or belligerent comments can be made without accountability. It is my belief that, in order to be a good citizen of the college (or any institution), it must be the goal of each person to contribute to the functionality and harmony of the place. Criticism, in general, is not contrary to this goal, obviously. But certain kinds of criticism are. My concern is that anonymous posters in general might hinder this goal. What is the motivation for anonymous posters? Do tenured faculty at a public institution have the duty to make criticisms with their name attached? Isn’t that what tenure is for? Isn’t that what justifies tenure?
(As a side note, none of this should be taken as a vote to remove the ability to post anonymously. Having the ability to post anonymously is a different question than whether it is a helpful or harmful practice.)