Saturday, December 31st 2005

Good riddance 2005!
posted @ 4:05 pm in [ - ]

Okay, more good stuff happened this year than bad stuff, but the bad stuff was really big and destructive, like Mothra. Speaking of Mothra, I think he has a lot to teach us.

Everything I needed to know in 2005, I learned from Mothra

True, if you swing into action right away, you get to wear sporty helmets and ring a giant siren until every last person’s cochlea falls out. However, if you just light a gigantic candle and wait, the problem will most likely take care of itself. Okay, patience and clear thinking are useful every year.

Everybody likes a little bling. You gotta love Mothra’s glitzy “eyes.” If they were any bigger, he’d look like a humongous flying arthropod hooker, but he kept it tasteful. I bought my first sequined garments this year, but followed Mothra’s example and did not let them become outlandish.

Not everybody has the same sense of humor you do. For example, when the entertainment manager gets his mitts on the teensy women, he doesn’t do either of the two obviously hilarious things he could have done: Put them on a teensy little casting couch, or ask them if either one plays piano, because he has always wanted a 12-inch pianist. Instead, he sticks them in that sparkly little coach on a wire. Funny, perhaps, but not funny ha-ha. Still, I understand it killed in Peoria. This year, I refrained from giving the eulogy for my father-in-law that I originally wanted to because it would have been seriously unfunny to some. I was rewarded for my restraint by subsequent time spent with fun family and friends who thought Clone Robits were hilarious.

If you have to swim a really long distance to pick up your friends, best to do that while you’re still a larva, and then change for a night on the town when you get there. This is good fashion advice as well as a reminder that formatting your dissertation is much easier to do earlier than later.

Even though it seems like lepidoptera are benign and fluttery, giant irraidated moths have terrible tempers. You never know what kinds of symbols, or things you do far away from them, are going to piss them off. Best to assume they would rather just eat you and not blog under your own name.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30th 2005

First a-who-ment, now?
posted @ 7:38 pm in [ ]

Inspired by some of the conversations I’ve had in the last few days (public and private), I just wanted to further clarify an item related to my experience and subsequent commentary. Let me connect the dots on this First Amendment dealio, here.

When I talk about the First Amendment and its relationship to my experience, I am not saying that I think DeVry has the same standards as to what free speech means within its organization as Congress does with regard to governance of the nation, and that DeVry therefore failed to adhere to those standards. I don’t think that. At most, my free speech in a public space was ostensibly held against me by a private employer. That’s a major issue in my mind to be sure, but not quite what I’m getting at when I say that I believe my First Amendment rights were flouted.

What I’m referring to is my freedom of expression. What I do and write and think on my own time should not be regulated by my employer. I’m really talking about about more of a lifestyle issue, not necessarily about private corporations respecting free speech in the same way that the government does. Believe me when I tell you that I could not be more aware that they do not. What I’m saying is that, if I like to go home, fix myself a drink, and release my own personal, well-cared-for and properly licensed band of musical live weasels into my living room while I sing “MacArthur Park,” my employer shouldn’t give a rip, so long as I show up and do good work. Furthermore, if singing “MacArthur Park” with live weasels is considered a firing offense–and that’s up for debate, because let’s face it, “MacArthur Park” is a pretty terrible song–an employer should make that clear, as well as what kinds of things constitute a violation. I have to say that I also would not want to BE the employer who has to deal with trying to enforce that particular policy.

The only legislative piece here (that is, any congressional tie-in) that I see to the First Amendment as I am conceptualizing it with regard to my personal beef is the at-will law, which incidentally, can be superseded by several statutes. It is not quite as absolute as one might think.

Anyway, in the spirit of this being a question of my freedom of off-the-clock expression, whatever I wrote that was deemed as making me suitable for firing like a freshly-thrown clay pot is not just elusive, it’s unimportant. I do think that educational institutions have a special responsibility to take any espoused commitments to free speech and free thought to heart through their actions as well as their words. If universities stifle their professors, students, and other thinkers, a major source of our society’s new ideas is extinguished, and that’s not good for anybody.

Better? Clearer? Good, because I have something else to tell you: I’ll never have that recipe agaaaaaaaaaain… oh, nooooooooooo!

So looking around the blogosphere today…

Blog Goodies “Is Blogging a fireable offense? Yes. If bloggers could better monetize their marketshare then perhaps it would not matter.”

What an interesting statement. I’m not quite sure what that would look like. A blogging union, perhaps? Just selling a lot more advertising? I don’t think it’s getting your market share to resemble “Water Lilies,” but that would be delightful. I think it would really take some of the ugliness out of capitalism, and an impressionist would definitely be the way to go with economic forecasting, what with it looking a lot more cohesive from far away and all that. But seriously, do you think something like that would work, or would it wreck the community experience? Thoughts?

Donny B joins the “dooced” club with a beautifully written post about Rachael Ray visiting the store where he worked. In his case, he was fired over comments other people left on the blog. They weren’t even his words. Sheesh! Our condolences, Donny.

Finally, the last few days have been really exhausting and weird, if often filled with wonderful surprises. I might write about something else tomorrow, or take a day off. My all-weasel revue needs me. Something about a cake left out in the rain.

Thursday, December 29th 2005

Dude, where’s my freedom?
posted @ 1:59 pm in [ ]

Well, first of all, a number of you have asked, in comment form and by email, whether you should still blog. That is of course completely up to you. I won’t think you’re a virtual cowering weenie if you decide not to based on what happened to me, and Mark, and all too many others, although it might make me a little sad (about the world, not about you). I’ll tell you why I’m still doing it, though. I’m still doing it for two fundamental reasons: one, I like it. It’s become part of my life, and I’m really enjoying all the nifty new friends I’m making. Two, I think the best remedy for censorship is not silence, but more free speech. Light repels darkness, and as one of my favorite professors would say, laughter repels bullsh*t.

Some kinds of sticky situations are remedied with more freedom rather than less, and I think this is one of them. Lots of chaoticists, myself included, would tell you that trying to keep a stranglehold on order is a losing proposition. Often saying, “Nobody can do this!” is impossible to enforce and takes a lot of time and energy, whereas saying, “Fine, everybody do it, then,” and letting the system reach its own equilibrium works pretty well. It often works in the classroom: make a ton of rules you have to enforce all the time, and the class is deadly and miserable for everyone. Have basic ones, though, that allow for appropriate movement and freedom, and you get a better experience for everybody as well as some wonderful things that might not have otherwise come up.

What happened to me was no afternoon at Six Flags, but what has begun happening in its aftermath is amazing. If I had to get canned for this public conversation to happen, and that conversation brings out ideas and guidelines that help us all out, so be it. I may ultimately come to believe it was the most incredible thing that ever happened to me. So I think that if you want to blog, you should–and that comes from me, Dooced in Denver.

If you want to avoid the stress of never knowing when your butt might be hustled out of your workplace, you might consider blogging anonymously. Some people think that’s a cop out, and some of those people can afford to think that. Sometimes it’s a necessity. I’m still mulling over what I think about it (in a hindsight kind of way–this blog will probably never be anonymous again), but I’m sure that blogging anonymously and getting your voice out there–even if it’s an echoing godlike voice from nowhere–is a LOT better than not blogging it at all. If you want my advice, I think you should go ahead and blog, and figure out for yourself whether you need to do it anonymously or not. Hey, for all I know, you have a job herding wolverines and your anonymity is the least of your worries. If your boss isn’t trying to maul you, smells okay and reads, though, spend a little time thinking about where your comfort levels are about him basically reading your journal.

Here is some good advice about blogging anonymously from my friend and avitar, Lisa. Posted elsewhere in comment form, it bears reposting here:

Meg, you should post a link to this, too, for readers/bloggers who will be coming to your blog with questions: The EFF’s Guide To Blogging Safely About Work (Or Anything Else).

While I think it’s terrible that any employer — PARTICULARLY a university — isn’t on the side of free speech, I think anonymity has a legitimate and vital place in the world of blogging. It’s not anybody’s job to educate their employer about the value of the First Amendment unless they volunteer to do it. The EFF guide gives information about how to blog in a way that avoids confrontations with an employer.

For those people who are blogging under their own name, I think it’s worth thinking about setting forth a clear statement in your own words about what you think your blog is and isn’t about. Most employers have absolutely nothing to fear and a lot to gain from their employees’ online presence. What’s your corrections policy? Privacy policy? Do you blog about work? All questions to think about. Here’s an overview of blog policies with links to plenty of examples of different ones that take different views on the subject of privacy, transparency, rules for comments and corrections.

In today’s news, then, is a piece from Dave Harsanyi, columnist at the Denver Post. I also spoke with a news reporter from the same paper today, and that article will likely be available later this week.

I enjoyed talking to Dave, and we didn’t agree about everything, but hey, I wanted public dialog, not necessarily public agreement, because, as we’ve already established, I like free speech. I think he asks good and important questions, and okay, says nice things about me. But that’s not why I like the column. I’m also going to pay it another compliment here, because I think it’s tight and well-written, and therefore kind of tough to excerpt. So here’s the link. Check it out for yourself.

What might there be to disagree with, you ask? I think Lisa articulated it best:

The column points out, correctly, that in Colorado an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason. Harsanyi says that this means that they can fire people for exercise of their right to free speech, but I’m not sure this is true. Even in an at will state, it’s not legal to fire people because they are black, or female, or for other reasons that would violate federal laws. Harsanyi says that people should demand to know why, but I don’t think that really matters: either DeVry University is on the side of free speech or they’re not. It doesn’t matter what they’re “offended” by — I’m offended by their officious meddling in the legitimate free speech rights of an employee in their private, off hours activities. Asking them what they’re offended by buys into the idea that they get to decide what people get to say. Even if what DeVry is doing is legal, it doesn’t make it right, and students have every right to demand that their University stand with them in support of fundamental American rights — it’s the FIRST amendment for a reason! — rather than standing against it.

There’s only one question for DeVry University: What kind of “University” doesn’t believe in free speech? There’s only one question for the administration: Are you for the First Amendment or against it?

Nicely put, Lisa, and good questions, Dave! What do you think about that? C’mon, comment–this is a dialog.

Since yesterday, we’ve had several folks weigh in, so check yesterday’s and the 16th’s comments, too, to keep the conversation going. We’ve also gotten:

Woman of Heart Fight for your right to blog without limitations This is a small sample of this hilarious posting. I’m proud to say it’s another former student of mine, a terrific writer and admirable woman:

The First Amendment guarantees our right to free speech. It doesn’t say anything about free speech so long as everyone agrees with what you have to say. If we want to prevent the Constitution from becoming a useless piece of paper, then we have to stand up and fight for it!

I’m sure you’re well aware that I am a proponent of freedom in all its forms; speech, religion, press… you name it. I believe in the right to have and make our own choices regardless of whether others are in agreement or not. If we start letting others dictate what we can see, say, and hear then we might as well tattoo “Property of Communist China” on our asses. We’d be reduced to a nation of mindless slaves watching re-runs of “Barney” and “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” (Won’t you be my comrade?), and reading only “Dick and Jane”, at least until someone is offended by the word “dick”. Wah! Cry me a river, build me a bridge, and GET OVER IT! I’d rather be impaled than give up the ability to make my own choices!

Ohmigod, I love “Won’t you be my comerade!” The posting concludes by suggesting people read the stuff and make up their own minds. Good on ya, WoH.

Stuart Glendinning Hall Makes all this an international incident by blogging from England.
“My friend Meg was fired from her job as Department Chair of Communications and Composition at DeVry University in Westminster, Colorado, U.S.A. because of her blog. The administration didn’t tell her specifically what she said that they found so offensive. There’s a brief explanation in the Blogspotting section of Business Week, including a comment from the guy fired from Google for blogging, Mark Jen.”

Thanks, Stuart!

Lisa, our favorite pundit, has a compilation of some of these same items as well as an intro. Thanks, Lisa!

Wednesday, December 28th 2005

I took the green pill
posted @ 4:09 pm in [ - - - ]

For the first couple of days after my firing (details in my December 16 posting) I wasn’t sure what to say about it, or how to tell the folks who had been so supportive of my new job what had happened. I talked to some state agencies, but they were pretty much concerned with things like gender, age, and religious discrimination. (Valuable work, but not applicable to me as far as I know.) I talked to a few lawyers, because I honestly had no idea whether what happened to me was legal or not. One guy was pretty wishy-washy and unenthused, and another one wanted $250 just to come say howdy. It seemed a little perverse to me that someone who ostensibly makes his living off folks who have just gotten fired would charge so much, but like I said, this is all new to me.

I treated the situation much as I would any other that I don’t understand: I started doing research and writing letters. I started telling my friends.

Early on, I spoke on the phone with a gentleman involved in a university journalism project in another state, and he asked if I would be willing to go public. Honestly, it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would be interested enough in my experience to alert the public about it, but two things did occur to me:

  1. There is currently nothing in place to protect citizens of Colorado (or many other states) whose employers don’t like their blogs for whatever reason and decide to fire them, nor is there much obvious recourse. Just about everybody I know under the age of 45 has some sort of blog, even if it’s courtesy of a social web community or dating service. For most of us, at least some sliver of our lives is visible from Google, and there’s nothing stopping employers from using it against us, even if there is nothing “bad” on the blog. That’s something we should talk about, because some sort of guidelines about this are sorely needed. Not only does the current lack of guidelines allow employers to essentially regulate employees’ off-hours activities and thoughts, it also offers them an “out” for firing just about anybody my age or younger they don’t much cotton to. If my lousy experience in any way helps the dialog that will help us as a society develop some fair guidelines, it’ll be worth it.

  2. Folks the age of most of my now-former students at DeVry are frequently referred to as being “apathetic,” and that’s just not true. It’s really more that they don’t think their voices will count for anything in the larger political structure. In my native Massachusetts, it’s easy to see how regular folks impact politics on a daily basis: people call and write their elected officials frequently, even about minutia (such as someone having moved the couch they left in their parking spots and parked there themselves, thus having “stolen” said parking spots), and there is a great deal of public dialog. It’s not difficult to find people talking politics in bars. In Colorado, and in most of the country, it’s not so visible. For example, when I’ve written to my elected officials here, I haven’t even always gotten a response. I frequently encouraged my students to vote, to express themselves, to blog, to make themselves heard, and to stand up and say something about it when they didn’t like what was going on. What the hell kind of example would it set if I didn’t stand up? Sure, folks, I can say you should write to people, and make your voice heard, and stand up for what you believe, but in practice, you should go home and curl up in a ball when something lousy happens.

I took the green pill. I went down the rabbit hole. I went public.

The first thing that amazed me was that there were literally thousands of people who were behind me. Total strangers sympathized with me and offered kind words of support. I mention my first experience with activism in one of my early “TISA” (Things I Suck At) postings, when I was about 2. I had been punished for something I hadn’t done, and I was outraged. I stood up and said, “Hey kids, let’s all pee our pants!” Every adult in the room froze at the thought of 30 wet kids, but I was the only one with the grapes to do it. Since then, I have always been leery of accepting spotlit leadership roles–suppose I stand up to fight and nobody is back there? Suppose nobody else is really willing to pee their pants in solidarity?

This time, I look around me in the virtual world, and it is as if I stand with legions. I’m overwhelmed by the support, the interest in my story, and the passionate response. Here’s what I know about so far:

Business Week Stephen Baker writes: Blogger Meg Spohn describes her firing from DeVry University in Colorado. (Thanks WhatIsTheMessage) But according to her account, she was not told what post, or even what blog, was considered offensive. If that’s the case, what’s next? Can people be dismissed for unspecified speech they engage in?

Unvarnished Travis Smith notes, “Megablog’s owner, fired for ‘blogging.’ Bloggers love this stuff.”

A Corn Farmer in Colorado On a more personal note, The Corn Farmer (a now-former student of mine) adds, “I AM SOO MAD! MY FAVORITE TEACHER IN THE WHOLE WORLD WAS FIRED TODAY! I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY DID THIS TO US! THE WHOLE SCHOOL IS GOING TO BE DEVASTATED!”

What Is The (Next) Message As part of a very clever and pointed critique, Mark says: Them’s Firin’ Words! Among many other people, this teacher was fired from her position at DeVry “University” in Colorado, apparently for something she had put on her blog. I say apparently, because the DeVry administration chose not to tell her specifically what they found so offensive. Nor did they give her any warning, a chance to say goodbye to colleagues and students, nor an opportunity to defend herself. Apparently, there are no laws against wrongful dismissal in Colorado.

Joho the Blog D. Weinberger is right to the point: Summarily dooced Lisa Williams points to a friend who was fired from DeVry University in Westminster, Colorado, for what she had written in her blog. They didn’t warn her, nor did they tell her what they found so offensive. That sucks.

There may also be a story about it in tomorrow’s Denver Post. I’ll keep you, er, Post-ed on that. (I’m sorry. That was almost as bad as the chinchilla jokes, wasn’t it?)

Thanks again, everybody. I was in the middle of an amazing community, and I didn’t even know it.

DeVry Dooced

Friday, December 16th 2005

posted @ 1:17 pm in [ ]

As you doubtless already know, I was dooced this week–that is, I was fired because of my blog–from DeVry University in Westminster, Colorado. Indeed, this very text. Here are the Cliff Notes on the affair from my point of view. Some of you have seen part of this already.

First, here’s what happened:

I got called into the Academic Dean’s office late Monday morning. The Human Resources person who hired me joined us. She said they had become aware of my blog, and that I had made disparaging comments about DeVry and about its students on the blog, and that because of that, I was being let go. I was then escorted to my office, where I packed up everything in there while the HR person watched (and to some extent, helped) and then to my car.

Here’s what didn’t happen:

- Any specific mention of a particular posting or even particular blog (as many of you know, I participate in or run about half a dozen blogs).

- Any warning, disciplinary procedure, discussion, or any other process by which I was notified of the “problem.” This was especially egregious, as previous instances of faculty having “objectionable” postings on their blogs have been treated by discussing it with the faculty member. I was fired outright without any opportunity for discussion at all.

- My being allowed to say goodbye to anybody or talk to anyone on the way out, ostensibly for the purpose of “confidentiality.” I was hustled out of there in a surprisingly furtive fashion. Nobody even knew I was gone.

- ANY disparaging comment about my students, on ANY blog, EVER! That is just not accurate at all. My students are my heart. But you knew that.

Was the blog so bad?

First of all, it doesn’t matter, because companies should not be in the business of regulating their employees’ off-hours activities. That being said, I sure didn’t think so, but hey, see for yourself. Email me for access to any of the protected posts: Once you convince me you won’t be too badly damaged by my dangerous, dangerous thoughts, I’ll give you the passwords. I haven’t edited ANYTHING, even where I looked back and found some typos, and you know that drove me crazy. DeVry does have a policy about employees not putting anything in personal blogs that could hurt their stock prices. It literally begins with the phrase, “DeVry is a publicly traded company.” Their interests are clear. However, to my knowledge, nobody reading my blog is big into playing the market, or owns or has considered owning stock in DeVry, I never had access to that kind of information, and I don’t own stock or stand to benefit, so it does not fit the definition of insider trading. I did not violate that policy, but that wasn’t what I was fired for anyway.

I honestly don’t know which postings were supposed to be so offensive. My personal blog is largely about whatever is on my mind, and occasionally, it was my work teaching at various programs, including DeVry’s and as many as four others. If one searches for the word “devry,” in every one of my archive pages, through hundreds of postings, there are only a couple of things that aren’t glowingly positive. Those are no more than water-cooler kvetching (for example, about being told not to give my students good grades, or about DeVry hiring practitioners rather than teachers–which they proudly do–or about having to fill out a lot of paperwork, or having to waste a bunch of time on unnecessary online training), and not the sort of thing one generally gets fired over. Come on, fired for bitching about paperwork?! The entire government would be out of work. Furthermore, they weren’t things I hadn’t mentioned to the administration already, so if it offended them, they should have fired me then, asked me to shut up, or not hired me later.

Any more pointed critiques did not mention the name of the institution, and, given that I’ve been teaching for a few different programs, do not give specific evidence of being about DeVry–one would have to infer it, and might not infer correctly. “Driver, throw this man off the bus! He’s humming the tunes to dirty songs!”

Finally, because all those posts were months (to years) old, I was basically fired as an employee for something I had “done” many months ago as an independent contractor–essentially in a completely different job. Yup, fired for something I ostensibly “did” at MY LAST JOB, not at that one. Furthermore, subsequent to those postings, I was re-hired as an independent contractor (potentially multiple times, depending on the age of whatever posting they claim is the problem) and then hired as a full-time employee. How jacked up is that?

What really bothers me about all this, though, is that the wrong people are getting punished. The messages I’ve been getting from my students are anywhere between absolutely outraged and wrenchingly heartbreaking. They have been confronting the administration, offering me endless kindness and support, and a few are even leaving the program, saying this was the last straw. The work we did together was important to all of us, and the students feel really ripped off that it won’t continue. It’s one thing to punish an employee for doing something you don’t like. It’s another thing to punish your own clientele.

Can they do that?

Maybe. Colorado is an “at-will” state, so I can be fired for any reason, because my mama dresses me funny, or no reason, without notice. Local and state agencies here don’t really address this sort of thing yet, either: they handle things like discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age, religion, creed, etc. Nobody but the ACLU seems to handle First Amendment issues, and they’re ironically impossible to get through to. This might very well be a good opportunity for a public dialog about this issue, though. We could start here: How come Ward Churchill gets to keep his job when the things I said were not even said in class, or to my students, or anywhere near as inflammatory? How can someone be fired not for her actions, but for her THOUGHTS? Where does an organization so hostile to free speech and critical thought get off calling itself a university?

So do I wish I had done some things differently?

Maybe. For one thing, I had a lot of trepidation about applying for the job in the first place. I liked my previous relationship with DeVry and didn’t really want to mess with it (sort of like deciding to date a friend), but the lure of financial stability was pretty seductive, and I was getting a lot of encouragement to do it, which was flattering, and as you know, I’m a sucker for flattery. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t apply. I was not okay with some of the things I observed going on there, and I had a few “what-have-I-done” moments just in the first month at that job. Now, of course, I am thoroughly creeped out.

I wish I had known that some people take this stuff so seriously. As one student pointed out after I told him what had happened, “But a blog is just an opinion. It’s not even a reliable source.” Right! Good man! It didn’t occur to me that people who so fundamentally didn’t get it would have the slightest interest in my random noodlings. I would have offered more selective access to the blog, or taken down my profile and posted anonymously. And, had I been given the opportunity, I would have implemented those or a range of other changes sooner.

I might have clarified a few things. For instance:

1. I have had pedagogical contact with literally hundreds of students over the last year and a half, and they ranged in age from 18 to somewhere in their 70s. They are all old enough to decide for themselves whether or not I am a good writer, whether or not they agree with me, and what they would like to infer from what I write. Furthermore, when a student plays as much Grand Theft Auto as some of my students at DeVry do, nothing I could possibly write is going to offend them. To imply that they somehow need to be protected from my words is not only censorship, it insults their intelligence.

2. When I say “my students,” I’ve had as many as a hundred or so students at a time in various programs, not counting the ones in dance classes at the studio where I worked for over 6 years. Could be anybody. When I mentioned earlier this year in one posting my awareness that some of my students were interested in my blog, those were mostly graduate students, my age contemporaries and older, and not my students at DeVry. My grad students had asked me how I handled self-censorship, and I told them about my one and only experience with it: when my mom had found my blog the previous summer. I showed them a few postings from that time period–none of them racy–the disclaimers, and the silly one about my mom’s email, and how stilted the ones were where I was trying really hard to write to please somebody else. They asked me an important question as a writer and as a colleague, and that is exactly the spirit in which I answered them. Some of them later wanted to follow my writing, and they sought out my blog. I did not point them to it, but I knew from their questions that a few were reading it, and I let them be their own judges of my work. As for my students at DeVry, I don’t think they were reading it–but they sure are now! Since last week, I’ve had a number of questions about the blog and how to get at it that lead me to believe they hadn’t looked for it before. So if firing me to protect the little dears was what DeVry had in mind, they fired me for nothing, and in fact generated both animosity toward themselves and student interest in the blog where previously, there hadn’t been much to speak of. It may actually be one of the best things that has ever happened to my blog–it’s like having a banned book, and it’s made me something of a folk hero. In the future, I now have something to tell students who ask me about good, old-fashioned censorship by others, too, and then I’ll tell them all about banned books.

3. Apparently, the sharpie who discovered my blog did not read the “disclaimers” section. In a way, that’s pretty funny: so busy looking for something “bad,” he or she completely avoided information. This is a vain enterprise, purely about my own thoughts, and one shouldn’t read the parts that offend one. He or she also should consider eating more fiber, as it is very good for the colon.

Finally, none of all that really matters, because nobody should be fired for her thoughts or opinions. Certainly, her critics are free to disagree with her, or even, hey, call her a total idiot or try asking her to modify her behavior as a condition of employment–that is their right as well. I love America, I love the Constitution, and I loved working with the students (and the vast majority of employees) at DeVry. I could not be more proud of the students’ resistance to what has happened. They are questioning the administration, and exercising their own rights to free speech in the face of the violation of another’s.

Now, for their sake as much as anyone’s, the time has come for a public dialog about this issue. Talk about it, blog about it, communicate about it, and do not be silenced until some resolution is reached. If an employer fires someone in violation of her basic Constitutional rights, it should expect some publicity about that.

In parting, I will share with you my favorite ethical rule of thumb. My father-in-law, whom we lost in July, and for whom I have two eulogies posted here, worked as a corporate executive for most of his life. He negotiated any number of business deals over the years, and when they got tricky, he always used to tell his team, “Don’t bring me a deal I can’t tell my mother about.” If you don’t want to explain to your family or to Mike Wallace what you did, you probably shouldn’t have done it. I told my family all about what happened to me, and I’d be happy to give Mr. Wallace a jingle. They all believe in the First Amendment.