I recently posted personal reflections on my time teaching a module at Ruskin College, Oxford. I have decided to remove that post for various reasons. Here, I reflect on the ethical errors of judgment – some of them grievous – that I made that have led me to decide to remove the post and I offer an apology to those I have upset.
Before I published the piece on Ruskin, I sent it to three people to proofread. All three fed back with positive, encouraging comments and gave me kind words about the value of the piece. Consequently, I published. In no way do I blame my kind proofreaders for my own errors of judgment.
The first and most grievous error I cannot mention.
My second error was to write from a personal, more experiential and anecdotal, even emotional, perspective. I tried very hard in the piece to avoid recent and current controversies and to avoid commenting on issues I was not qualified to comment on. However, in certain places, the nature of my observations and feelings – though legitimate – were not appropriate to publish without following them up with proper research.
My third error was to believe naively that my criticism, intended to be leveled at an organisation, would not be taken personally by its long-standing, dedicated, and passionate employees. There is a sense that folk at Ruskin feel besieged right now and, in this context, my belief was even more naive.
The only mitigating thing I will say – not in my defence, but in the name of fair reporting – is that quite a few people ‘liked’ this post; three or four more wrote to me to tell me that the post resonated with their experiences in higher education; and one former Ruskin figure told me that it had moved them profoundly.
Nonetheless, I came on here this evening to remove the post for all the reasons set out above and for one final and overarching reason – everything I want to try to do in this world I want to be an expression of non-violence, of peace, and love. Through my error, I created violence. I had, then, to do the best I possibly could to make amends and right the wrong.
Just before I went to remove the post, I noticed a comment from a student again directly arguing that the blame for the bad experience at Ruskin was not the students, nor neo-liberal higher education, but solely mine. Consequently, I cannot delete the post since that would involve deleting their comment and censoring them. Please see their comment and my response at the end of this post.
I made a mistake. It was a very naive one, but it was a genuine mistake. I have apologised to the relevant parties. It begs the question how one criticises an organisation in a genuinely loving and non-violent way. I clearly failed. I think the answer to that is very contextual, but I need to learn much more about non-violent communication and myself before I endeavour again. When I reflect now, I was writing from too emotional a space. My friend had been made redundant and I had heard of a culture of bullying. My own experiences of small, subtle things convinced me that there was substance to what I’d heard. However much I claimed to be writing from a position of love, I was not.
So, I offer a sincere apology to all those I have upset. This was not my intention. I thank all those who responded positively and negatively, particularly those who responded negatively. I learned most from you.
Onwards and upwards,