It was an event hosted by Race.ED and was very good.
During her talk Angela mentioned Chris Brand and his time at Edinburgh, and suggested it was worth having a think about why he was here so long. I was a student at the time. I remember Chris Brand. The anti-nazi league used to protest his lectures and security was brought in to protect him. He was fired after 27 years in 1997.
I thought I remembered that there had been quite a long, drawn-out process to remove him, because of academic freedom. In the end, I think I remembered that it was the IT regs which brung him down, because he was writing offensive stuff on the university hosted website.
I was not 100% sure on this memory so I had a little rumage today. According to contemporary reports, he was fired for conduct that “brought the university into disrepute” but the University had to change its statutes to do so.
“The procedures Edinburgh University used in the case of Mr Brand were new and designed to protect the interests of both the staff member and the institution. They were modified in the wake of the Education Reform Act of 1988 and subsequent 1992 Ordinance of University Commissioners, which established model statutes designed both to protect academic freedom and ensure that university disciplinary codes are sufficiently rigorous.”THES April 1998
He sued and the university settled. The thing is, it also meant that “Statutes [were] changed to allow institutions to remove tenure, so that new staff could be fired because of financial exigency and not just good cause.” and that, as the man himself said, means that “Edinburgh University and any other university can sack any academic for any ****ing thing it likes at any time of the day or night.” THES April 1998
So, the work the University did in getting rid of him changed the landscape for academic freedom forever. It would be interesting to research this in the University archives.
At the recent WikimediaUK AGM the work of the Wikimedian in Residence team at University of Edinburgh once again received awards from their community. Ewan continues to work across the University to embed wikimedia skills in the curriculum, with some considerable success. His work in producing a new publication including case studies of how this can be done won an honourable mention in the Partnership category (we have won the partnership category before, so it would be inelegant to win again).
We also had success in the ‘Up and Coming Wikimedian’ category – A joint win for Emma Carroll (for the phenomenal work on the Scottish Witch Data project) and Laura Wood Rose (excellent work supporting the Women in Red events). I am particularly pleased to have success recognised in this category because a huge part of our commitment to the digital skills of wikimedia at Edinburgh is an investment in training and empowering new Wikimedians to join the community.
In University of Edinburgh Information Services Group we have convened a reading group so that we can discuss books, articles and news stories which influence our work. We are approaching this with a technology slant, because we want to think and learn about the bigger issues which shape the context in which we create new technology and services for staff and students in the university.
Obviously because of Covid, we are meeting online and we are using/reading online resources. Our first reading group theme was the phenomenon of online shaming, which is highly relevant to the world of social media and understanding it is vital for providing support to our students as they navigate staying safe in the online world.
Our next topic was racism and racism in technology. We have created a resources list to support this topic. We’ve used our Library resources list tool and we’ve licensed the list openly, so you too can use it as a resource.
I am looking forward to providing a keynote presentation at the University of South Wales’ internal learning and teaching conference on 15th July.
Even though I don’t get to travel down there, it’ll make a nice change from so much Teamsing and Zooming with colleagues in Scotland. The title for the conference is ‘Building Connections and Embracing Diversity’ – How does technology help?‘ I’ll be talking about the Edinburgh experience of digital education and the ways in which technology teams can work alongside academic teams and students to deliver active and inclusive learning.
Coincidentally, few days before this event, on 9-10th July, The Celtic Knot conference will also be answering some of these questions, focusing on minority languages in Wikipedia. This is a conference we were happy to host in Edinburgh a few years ago as part of our partnership with WikimediaUK.