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Lack of openness in workplaces

Over the recent past I've heard too many tales of turmoil in the workplace, for people trying to improve the status quo. It seems a lot of folks are reluctant to speak out about environmental issues, these days, for fear of repercussions in the workplace due to a lack of openness among their colleagues or on the part of management and administrative folks. But they may be justified.

In one case I shared in an e-mail to John, someone familiar to friends who works for a state agency wrote a book that promotes sustainable practices - which should be applauded. Unfortunately; it created problems for this person instead - where they were accused of being critical of common practices and attempting to compete for a better job - which I am told was untrue in both cases.

Even though this person's main aim was to create a thought-provoking work which might influence future planners, or awaken a few people to a better way, it was perceived as an attack against the department. So I am inclined to bring up in this forum the question "How can people safely champion efforts to help the environment or evolve improved sustainable practices, when even purely academic efforts may be seen as a possible threat to the system which sustains people?" There are of course many other aspects to this matter, all of which should be tossed around - in my opinion.

How much responsibility does one have, for example, when carefully thought-out plans are made and approved - but what is done does not match what was specified or intended? Let me just say that I happen to know the soil scientist who spec'ed out the Great Lawn in Central Park saw too many corners cut for his comfort. And I know he left that job, not long after. So how well-situated and determined must one be, before one becomes willing to speak up for environmentally sound and sustainable practices? Or must one instead be independent of organizations, as I am?

I'd like to hear people's thoughts on this. To some extent, these kinds of questions have deterred my more ardent participation in this forum - as I've encountered too many 'horror stories' when talking with people about Environmental issues, and the Azimuth project.

All the best,

Jonathan

Comments

  • 1.
    edited February 2011

    Hi Jonathan,

    welcome! First things first :-) When starting a thread on the forum, you have to choose a category, the category of this thread is now "latest changes", this is reserved for threads that are about changes of the content of the Azimuth wiki. I'm not sure what the best choice for this thread would be, maybe "chat"?

    The anecdote that you shared seems to have a straightforward interpretation: If you work for a company that specializes in X, and you write a book about "how to do X right", you'll piss of your employer. Since I'm employed by a company that offers IT consulting, I'd better not write a book about "IT consulting done right". A better choice would be to team up with my boss and his boss etc. and write a book about "How we do X right", then there would not be a problem (colleagues of mine have done just that).

    Another point is of course that you should not spawn controversial discussions at your workplace about topics that have no relation to your work, this includes politics and religion, or general "thought-provoking" topics that provoke thoughts about topics that distract others from doing what they are paid for.

    When I'm at work, I'm not just "Tim", I represent my employer. That's what I'm paid for, and that means that certain ways of behaviour are expected from me, and certain ways are outright unwanted. That's the way the cookie crumbles, and if you can't stay what is expected from you, you're free to quit any time.

    You wrote:

    I've encountered too many 'horror stories' when talking with people about Environmental issues, and the Azimuth project.

    There are horror stories about the Azimuth project?!

    Comment Source:Hi Jonathan, welcome! First things first :-) When starting a thread on the forum, you have to choose a category, the category of this thread is now "latest changes", this is reserved for threads that are about changes of the content of the Azimuth wiki. I'm not sure what the best choice for this thread would be, maybe "chat"? The anecdote that you shared seems to have a straightforward interpretation: If you work for a company that specializes in X, and you write a book about "how to do X right", you'll piss of your employer. Since I'm employed by a company that offers IT consulting, I'd better not write a book about "IT consulting done right". A better choice would be to team up with my boss and his boss etc. and write a book about "How we do X right", then there would not be a problem (colleagues of mine have done just that). Another point is of course that you should not spawn controversial discussions at your workplace about topics that have no relation to your work, this includes politics and religion, or general "thought-provoking" topics that provoke thoughts about topics that distract others from doing what they are paid for. When I'm at work, I'm not just "Tim", I represent my employer. That's what I'm paid for, and that means that certain ways of behaviour are expected from me, and certain ways are outright unwanted. That's the way the cookie crumbles, and if you can't stay what is expected from you, you're free to quit any time. You wrote: <blockquote> <p> I've encountered too many 'horror stories' when talking with people about Environmental issues, and the Azimuth project. </p> </blockquote> There are horror stories about the Azimuth project?!
  • 2.
    Thanks Tim, for sharing your thoughts;

    First - I suppose I was trying too hard to 'follow instructions' by my choice of category. You are quite right; 'chat' would have been better. Still getting used to the conventions here, I guess.

    So far as I know, there are no horror stories about Azimuth specifically. But I have heard many workplace horror stories lately, and it would seem that the depressed economy has had a general 'chilling effect' on people speaking out about issues in general - for fear of losing their jobs. And as you indicate; sometimes we must use discretion, or recuse ourselves from certain types of expression, or outreach and participation.

    In the example I shared with John, there is a definite element of "what was published relates to what's done in the workplace." But the book was an extension of the academic work which might have gotten this person hired in the first place. However; the real issue for me is finding the message of the book helpful to understanding sustainability issues - and wondering if it is safe to invite the author's Azimuth participation, given that the book's publication has already caused some turmoil at work.

    So; in that way the 'horror story' does have a direct impact on what we can discuss here.

    All the Best,

    Jonathan
    Comment Source:Thanks Tim, for sharing your thoughts; First - I suppose I was trying too hard to 'follow instructions' by my choice of category. You are quite right; 'chat' would have been better. Still getting used to the conventions here, I guess. So far as I know, there are no horror stories about Azimuth specifically. But I have heard many workplace horror stories lately, and it would seem that the depressed economy has had a general 'chilling effect' on people speaking out about issues in general - for fear of losing their jobs. And as you indicate; sometimes we must use discretion, or recuse ourselves from certain types of expression, or outreach and participation. In the example I shared with John, there is a definite element of "what was published relates to what's done in the workplace." But the book was an extension of the academic work which might have gotten this person hired in the first place. However; the real issue for me is finding the message of the book helpful to understanding sustainability issues - and wondering if it is safe to invite the author's Azimuth participation, given that the book's publication has already caused some turmoil at work. So; in that way the 'horror story' does have a direct impact on what we can discuss here. All the Best, Jonathan
  • 3.

    Maybe I should mention that I'm in Munich/Germany: There is not much of an impact of the economic crisis of 2008/2009 any more, quite on the contrary, we get more orders than we could possibly serve.

    Anyway, I don't think that the economic situation would influence what people think about my engagement for or against something as long as I do it in my spare time and do not let that interfere with my work. On the other hand there is not much of a controversy about, e.g., climate change in Germany, the overall political situation is very different from what I hear about the USA. It is very unlikely that anyone would criticize my engagement for something like Azimuth over here. (From a US-perspective we are all leftist atheistic socialistic liberals, from the utter right conservative political spectrum occupied by the CSU to the most leftist party of "die Linke").

    Comment Source:Maybe I should mention that I'm in Munich/Germany: There is not much of an impact of the economic crisis of 2008/2009 any more, quite on the contrary, we get more orders than we could possibly serve. Anyway, I don't think that the economic situation would influence what people think about my engagement for or against something as long as I do it in my spare time and do not let that interfere with my work. On the other hand there is not much of a controversy about, e.g., climate change in Germany, the overall political situation is very different from what I hear about the USA. It is very unlikely that anyone would criticize my engagement for something like Azimuth over here. (From a US-perspective we are all leftist atheistic socialistic liberals, from the utter right conservative political spectrum occupied by the CSU to the most leftist party of "die Linke").
  • 4.
    edited February 2011

    I'm impressed if Germany isn't feeling any economic effects any more. In the UK, there's still big problems. As someone who used a long-term pseudonym until John Baez made it clear he really wanted real name contributions, I'll explain my initial reluctance.

    Due to the laws on unfair dismissal in the UK, I wouldn't have any worries about workplace tension or being dismissed from an existing job due to Azimuth activities. However, when it comes to hiring it's much easier for someone to see something on a CV or on the web that's non-work related that nevertheless they don't like and move that CV to the reject pile. For example, I imagine that reading that I write a lot about Peak Oil (even if looking at the details I'm still more equivocal about it than many) would probably hamper me getting a job as a car salesman, to pick an extreme example. I think Azimuth is worth the risk to my prospects to drop the pseudonym, but I'm being careful what I say not to be hyperbolic or go beyond what can be reasonably well backed up with facts.

    Comment Source:I'm impressed if Germany isn't feeling any economic effects any more. In the UK, there's still big problems. As someone who used a long-term pseudonym until John Baez made it clear he really wanted real name contributions, I'll explain my initial reluctance. Due to the laws on unfair dismissal in the UK, I wouldn't have any worries about workplace tension or being dismissed from an existing job due to Azimuth activities. However, when it comes to hiring it's much easier for someone to see something on a CV or on the web that's non-work related that nevertheless they don't like and move that CV to the reject pile. For example, I imagine that reading that I write a lot about Peak Oil (even if looking at the details I'm still more equivocal about it than many) would probably hamper me getting a job as a car salesman, to pick an extreme example. I think Azimuth is worth the risk to my prospects to drop the pseudonym, but I'm being careful what I say not to be hyperbolic or go beyond what can be reasonably well backed up with facts.
  • 5.

    I'm impressed if Germany isn't feeling any economic effects any more.

    Germany depends on exports mostly, which seem to have a 7 (+- 2) year boom-depression cycle. The 2008/2009 economic crisis was a crisis of the financial markets, which hit the banks, but the industry had a quick recovery. The major part of the industry is the automobile industry which made it through the crisis with almost no help from the government (unlike the situation in the USA). I'm sure we'll see a cyclic downturn in about 4 years...

    However, when it comes to hiring it's much easier for someone to see something on a CV or on the web that's non-work related that nevertheless they don't like and move that CV to the reject pile.

    Of course I won't be fired for what I do in my spare time either, but it would still be possible to deny any promotions and salary increases - but I don't think that my bosses care. It's a bigger problem that I don't have a car, don't care for cars at all but work for a car company :-)

    Nonetheless, it should be unproblematic to write about peak oil and blame the car industry, and work for a car company at the same time - companies over here are well aware that business as usual ain't going to work for long, and are quite active in developing alternatives like electric cars (although the Japanese seem to have a head start).

    Anyway, I wouldn't want to work for a boss who does research about me beyond my job application, in order to find out what I do in my spare time and what I think about politics or whatever, and reject me for saying what I think. If my application gets dismissed on that basis, that will actually be a favor. This would save time I'd have to spend to find out that I'm working for the wrong crowd.

    Comment Source:<blockquote> <p> I'm impressed if Germany isn't feeling any economic effects any more. </p> </blockquote> Germany depends on exports mostly, which seem to have a 7 (+- 2) year boom-depression cycle. The 2008/2009 economic crisis was a crisis of the financial markets, which hit the banks, but the industry had a quick recovery. The major part of the industry is the automobile industry which made it through the crisis with almost no help from the government (unlike the situation in the USA). I'm sure we'll see a cyclic downturn in about 4 years... <blockquote> <p> However, when it comes to hiring it's much easier for someone to see something on a CV or on the web that's non-work related that nevertheless they don't like and move that CV to the reject pile. </p> </blockquote> Of course I won't be fired for what I do in my spare time either, but it would still be possible to deny any promotions and salary increases - but I don't think that my bosses care. It's a bigger problem that I don't have a car, don't care for cars at all but work for a car company :-) Nonetheless, it should be unproblematic to write about peak oil and blame the car industry, and work for a car company at the same time - companies over here are well aware that business as usual ain't going to work for long, and are quite active in developing alternatives like electric cars (although the Japanese seem to have a head start). Anyway, I wouldn't want to work for a boss who does research about me beyond my job application, in order to find out what I do in my spare time and what I think about politics or whatever, and reject me for saying what I think. If my application gets dismissed on that basis, that will actually be a favor. This would save time I'd have to spend to find out that I'm working for the wrong crowd.
  • 6.
    edited February 2011

    Sweden is also starting to increase a bit (a tad slower than Germany) but the large export companies (and banks :-) are reporting huge profits and growth - but employment are not growing in proportion to this and I think it will stay so for long due to outsourcing and what not.

    Comment Source:Sweden is also starting to increase a bit (a tad slower than Germany) but the large export companies (and banks :-) are reporting huge profits and growth - but employment are not growing in proportion to this and I think it will stay so for long due to outsourcing and what not.
  • 7.
    edited February 2011

    The UK appears to be in the situation where private sector job losses and public sector cuts soon to lead to job losses, particularly since they're "concentrated" in geographic areas rather than unifromly distributed, will be big enough to mean there's a loss of money being spent putting other private businesses out of business, intensifying the cycle. IMO, it's at the point where the nationwide effect would be described as "big" but not yet "severe".

    Comment Source:The UK _appears_ to be in the situation where private sector job losses and public sector cuts soon to lead to job losses, particularly since they're "concentrated" in geographic areas rather than unifromly distributed, will be big enough to mean there's a loss of money being spent putting other private businesses out of business, intensifying the cycle. IMO, it's at the point where the nationwide effect would be described as "big" but not yet "severe".
  • 8.

    I am pleased that this thread is getting some action. I am also quite pleased that things are a little better in Germany and Sweden, than here in the US.

    I hear about more and more lay-offs, and plant closings by technology companies, instead of hiring. My partner Caroline worked the last 3 years an engineer with the DOT but was laid off the 1st of this year, and her prospects have been slim. Likely a down-scale move will be required, just to have a job, and even those are scarce. I'm trying to remain upbeat, and help her to pursue other options.

    But there are real concerns for those in the American workplace, that their participation outside the job in environmental causes could have repercussions. And there is no hard and fast rule, but there is a definite 'chilling effect' on the flow of information and in the willingness of folks to offer opinions and assistance, because some employers are looking for excuses to fire people - in general - and are extra aware of reasons why not to hire certain people, these days.

    And I wonder how much needful commentary goes unspoken, because people are too afraid to speak up. On the one hand; if you are really an expert on a given subject, but work for a company or an agency that deals with that, you may be compelled to keep your mouth shut, unless you are designated as a spokesperson for that organization. On the other hand; if you are expert in another field, and speak out about the environment, you may get into trouble for stepping over boundaries of specialization.

    Too many interviewers on the News, these days (especially in America), are quick to jump on anyone who speaks outside their discipline or area of expertise. In the "Chat" topic of this forum, I commented about how Roger Penrose was raked through the coals for doing this. The man is brilliant, and deserves better treatment. But any bona-fide expert who takes a seat on a News talk program has to expect some harsh criticism masquerading as critical thinking, as that is what's normal these days.

    So it is good there is a conversation going on here.

    All the Best,

    Jonathan

    Comment Source:I am pleased that this thread is getting some action. I am also quite pleased that things are a little better in Germany and Sweden, than here in the US. I hear about more and more lay-offs, and plant closings by technology companies, instead of hiring. My partner Caroline worked the last 3 years an engineer with the DOT but was laid off the 1st of this year, and her prospects have been slim. Likely a down-scale move will be required, just to have a job, and even those are scarce. I'm trying to remain upbeat, and help her to pursue other options. But there are real concerns for those in the American workplace, that their participation outside the job in environmental causes could have repercussions. And there is no hard and fast rule, but there is a definite 'chilling effect' on the flow of information and in the willingness of folks to offer opinions and assistance, because some employers are looking for excuses to fire people - in general - and are extra aware of reasons why not to hire certain people, these days. And I wonder how much needful commentary goes unspoken, because people are too afraid to speak up. On the one hand; if you are really an expert on a given subject, but work for a company or an agency that deals with that, you may be compelled to keep your mouth shut, unless you are designated as a spokesperson for that organization. On the other hand; if you are expert in another field, and speak out about the environment, you may get into trouble for stepping over boundaries of specialization. Too many interviewers on the News, these days (especially in America), are quick to jump on anyone who speaks outside their discipline or area of expertise. In the "[Chat](http://www.math.ntnu.no/~stacey/Mathforge/Azimuth/comments.php?DiscussionID=224&page=1#Item_17)" topic of this forum, I commented about how Roger Penrose was raked through the coals for doing this. The man is brilliant, and deserves better treatment. But any bona-fide expert who takes a seat on a News talk program has to expect some harsh criticism masquerading as critical thinking, as that is what's normal these days. So it is good there is a conversation going on here. All the Best, Jonathan
  • 9.

    Tim wrote:

    Another point is of course that you should not spawn controversial discussions at your workplace about topics that have no relation to your work, this includes politics and religion, or general "thought-provoking" topics that provoke thoughts about topics that distract others from doing what they are paid for.

    Of course things are a bit different for people like me who work in universities: to some extent we're paid to say thought-provoking things, and when someone tries to shut us up we fight back by brandishing our 'academic freedom'.

    But, even this has limits, as Ward Churchill (for example) discovered. He was the chair of the ethnic studies department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Most Americans will have heard a bit of this story:

    In January 2005, Churchill's work attracted publicity because of the widespread circulation of a 2001 essay, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens". In the essay, he claimed that the September 11, 2001 attacks were a natural and unavoidable consequence of what he views as unlawful US policy, and he referred to the "technocratic corps" working in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns".

    In March 2005 the University of Colorado began investigating allegations that Churchill had engaged in research misconduct; it reported in June 2006 that he had done so. Churchill was fired on July 24, 2007, leading to a claim by some scholars that he was fired over the ideas he expressed. Churchill filed a lawsuit against the University of Colorado for unlawful termination of employment. In April 2009 a Denver jury found that Churchill was wrongly fired, awarding him 1 dollar in damages. In July, 2009, a District Court judge vacated the monetary award and declined Churchill's request to order his reinstatement, deciding the university has "quasi-judicial immunity". In February, 2010, Churchill appealed the judge's decision. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, "The Colorado Court of Appeals has upheld a lower-court judge’s ruling that the University of Colorado officials sued by Ward Churchill were immune from his lawsuit accusing them of violating his First Amendment rights when they dismissed him as a tenured ethnic-studies professor on the Boulder campus, the Denver Post reported."

    This is a pretty unusual case. Much more common are the internal conflicts we face when deciding how much to discuss controversial aspects of religion or politics in class. And in the United States these days, evolutionary biology impinges on religion, and climate change impinges on politics.

    David wrote:

    I think Azimuth is worth the risk to my prospects to drop the pseudonym,

    That's good!

    but I'm being careful what I say not to be hyperbolic or go beyond what can be reasonably well backed up with facts.

    Of course this are two reasons I like people to avoid pseudonyms.

    I've always gone by my own name on the internet, and while I started out exaggerating and being obnoxious at times (as you can see, if you know where to look), I quickly learned that I should always try to be friendly and helpful, careful with my facts, and eager to admit mistakes. And overall that's been a good thing!

    Comment Source:Tim wrote: > Another point is of course that you should not spawn controversial discussions at your workplace about topics that have no relation to your work, this includes politics and religion, or general "thought-provoking" topics that provoke thoughts about topics that distract others from doing what they are paid for. Of course things are a bit different for people like me who work in universities: to some extent we're paid to say thought-provoking things, and when someone tries to shut us up we fight back by brandishing our 'academic freedom'. But, even this has limits, as [Ward Churchill](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ward_Churchill) (for example) discovered. He was the chair of the ethnic studies department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Most Americans will have heard a bit of this story: > In January 2005, Churchill's work attracted publicity because of the widespread circulation of a 2001 essay, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens". In the essay, he claimed that the September 11, 2001 attacks were a natural and unavoidable consequence of what he views as unlawful US policy, and he referred to the "technocratic corps" working in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns". > In March 2005 the University of Colorado began investigating allegations that Churchill had engaged in research misconduct; it reported in June 2006 that he had done so. Churchill was fired on July 24, 2007, leading to a claim by some scholars that he was fired over the ideas he expressed. Churchill filed a lawsuit against the University of Colorado for unlawful termination of employment. In April 2009 a Denver jury found that Churchill was wrongly fired, awarding him 1 dollar in damages. In July, 2009, a District Court judge vacated the monetary award and declined Churchill's request to order his reinstatement, deciding the university has "quasi-judicial immunity". In February, 2010, Churchill appealed the judge's decision. According to _The Chronicle of Higher Education_, "The Colorado Court of Appeals has upheld a lower-court judge’s ruling that the University of Colorado officials sued by Ward Churchill were immune from his lawsuit accusing them of violating his First Amendment rights when they dismissed him as a tenured ethnic-studies professor on the Boulder campus, the Denver Post reported." This is a pretty unusual case. Much more common are the _internal_ conflicts we face when deciding how much to discuss controversial aspects of religion or politics in class. And in the United States these days, evolutionary biology impinges on religion, and climate change impinges on politics. David wrote: > I think Azimuth is worth the risk to my prospects to drop the pseudonym, That's good! > but I'm being careful what I say not to be hyperbolic or go beyond what can be reasonably well backed up with facts. Of course this are two reasons I like people to avoid pseudonyms. I've always gone by my own name on the internet, and while I started out exaggerating and being obnoxious at times (as you can see, if you know where to look), I quickly learned that I should always try to be friendly and helpful, careful with my facts, and eager to admit mistakes. And overall that's been a good thing!
  • 10.
    edited February 2011

    John wrote:

    Of course things are a bit different for people like me who work in universities: to some extent we're paid to say thought-provoking things, and when someone tries to shut us up we fight back by brandishing our 'academic freedom'.

    I was thinking about the situation where you are paid by a customer to do a certain job and start discussing XY instead. How would you react when a plumber - who should fix something in your appartment - starts discussing feminism with your wife for two hours instead and bills you for it?

    As a student I would not like the professor to start a discussion about what scientists could do to save the world in a class that is about an introduction to mathematical statistics, for example.

    But I'm happy to discuss all kinds of topics with my collegues over lunch, of course, despite the fact that there is a "code of conduct" written by my employer and addressed at all employees, that explicitly forbids the discussion of any controverse topic from politics, religion etc. at the workplace. If any of my collegues filed a complaint, I'd get a call to order.

    But, even this has limits, as Ward Churchill (for example) discovered.

    The difference of "freedom of speech" in the USA and certain other countries is that in the USA you lose your job for saying something inconvenient. There are other countries where you end up in some alley with a bullet in your head instead :-)

    Comment Source:John wrote: <blockquote> <p> Of course things are a bit different for people like me who work in universities: to some extent we're paid to say thought-provoking things, and when someone tries to shut us up we fight back by brandishing our 'academic freedom'. </p> </blockquote> I was thinking about the situation where you are paid by a customer to do a certain job and start discussing XY instead. How would you react when a plumber - who should fix something in your appartment - starts discussing feminism with your wife for two hours instead and bills you for it? As a student I would not like the professor to start a discussion about what scientists could do to save the world in a class that is about an introduction to mathematical statistics, for example. But I'm happy to discuss all kinds of topics with my collegues over lunch, of course, despite the fact that there is a "code of conduct" written by my employer and addressed at all employees, that explicitly forbids the discussion of any controverse topic from politics, religion etc. at the workplace. If any of my collegues filed a complaint, I'd get a call to order. <blockquote> <p> But, even this has limits, as Ward Churchill (for example) discovered. </p> </blockquote> The difference of "freedom of speech" in the USA and certain other countries is that in the USA you lose your job for saying something inconvenient. There are other countries where you end up in some alley with a bullet in your head instead :-)
  • 11.

    In some ways the more contentious issues arise when you're known for certain views that are relevant enough to your employer that you "threaten their worldview". To pick an extreme example, I imagine an American college professor who wrote extensively about how he believed that currently the balance between the cost of a US university education and the benefits (including non-monetary ones) made it a better decision for young people not to go to college might have... difficulties. In a way for a university employer that's a more explosive topic than politics or religion.

    Comment Source:In some ways the more contentious issues arise when you're known for certain views that _are_ relevant enough to your employer that you "threaten their worldview". To pick an extreme example, I imagine an American college professor who wrote extensively about how he believed that currently the balance between the cost of a US university education and the benefits (including non-monetary ones) made it a better decision for young people not to go to college might have... difficulties. In a way for a university employer that's a more explosive topic than politics or religion.
  • 12.
    edited February 2011

    Tim wrote:

    As a student I would not like the professor to start a discussion about what scientists could do to save the world in a class that is about an introduction to mathematical statistics, for example.

    Vaguely similar things happen quite often, but mostly in humanities courses. In large undergraduate math classes (mainly calculus) I often spend a few minutes talking about random subjects while people are slowly drifting into the classroom. Sometimes it's about ecology, sometimes about black holes or the big bang, sometimes about miscellaneous fun math topics. Nobody has ever complained, and lots of students say that's the part of the course they liked best.

    What students seem to hate the most is professors who mix anecdotes with course material in a disorganized, self-indulgent way that makes it hard to figure out what they're supposed to be learning.

    The difference of "freedom of speech" in the USA and certain other countries is that in the USA you lose your job for saying something inconvenient. There are other countries where you end up in some alley with a bullet in your head instead :-)

    Sure, one thing I love about the USA is how free I feel to say what I think. If Ward Churchill had been just $\epsilon$ more cunning he could have made his point without getting fired.

    A more interesting case is Singapore, but I don't want to talk about that. :-)

    Comment Source:Tim wrote: > As a student I would not like the professor to start a discussion about what scientists could do to save the world in a class that is about an introduction to mathematical statistics, for example. Vaguely similar things happen quite often, but mostly in humanities courses. In large undergraduate math classes (mainly calculus) I often spend a few minutes talking about random subjects while people are slowly drifting into the classroom. Sometimes it's about ecology, sometimes about black holes or the big bang, sometimes about miscellaneous fun math topics. Nobody has ever complained, and lots of students say that's the part of the course they liked best. What students seem to hate the most is professors who mix anecdotes with course material in a disorganized, self-indulgent way that makes it hard to figure out what they're supposed to be learning. > The difference of "freedom of speech" in the USA and certain other countries is that in the USA you lose your job for saying something inconvenient. There are other countries where you end up in some alley with a bullet in your head instead :-) Sure, one thing I love about the USA is how free I feel to say what I think. If Ward Churchill had been just $\epsilon$ more cunning he could have made his point without getting fired. A more interesting case is Singapore, but I don't want to talk about that. :-)
  • 13.

    I am very happy to find some useful comments and helpful discussions here. I started this thread out of concern that some important voices were being silenced, in relation to climate issues, largely out of fear for repercussions at work, or even the elimination of their employment. In addition, I recently have seen in my area; agencies and organizations to help the environment are being de-funded, and green technology companies are closing their factories. So those who would be working officially to help the environment are fewer in number, and that makes it all the more important for other voices to speak up.

    There are thankfully a few victories. One person I know who used to work for the DEC now works doing virtually the same job, in the same office, but for the EPA instead. And I'm also glad to hear about the positive experiences of some of the other writers on this page. But I drove past a once-thriving facility the other night called the Cary Arboretum and Institute for Ecosystem Studies - which is now almost deserted. Almost all of the programs for the public benefit, including the Cornell University Cooperative Extension programs, have been eliminated - due to budget cuts.

    Unfortunately; that leaves the care of the environment to folks like ourselves. And if we were not free to speak up - it might be hard to be optimistic. But I am instead encouraged. I shall read the stories above in more detail - and return to this thread later with further comments.

    Regards,
    Jonathan

    Comment Source:I am very happy to find some useful comments and helpful discussions here. I started this thread out of concern that some important voices were being silenced, in relation to climate issues, largely out of fear for repercussions at work, or even the elimination of their employment. In addition, I recently have seen in my area; agencies and organizations to help the environment are being de-funded, and green technology companies are closing their factories. So those who would be working officially to help the environment are fewer in number, and that makes it all the more important for other voices to speak up. There are thankfully a few victories. One person I know who used to work for the DEC now works doing virtually the same job, in the same office, but for the EPA instead. And I'm also glad to hear about the positive experiences of some of the other writers on this page. But I drove past a once-thriving facility the other night called the Cary Arboretum and Institute for Ecosystem Studies - which is now almost deserted. Almost all of the programs for the public benefit, including the Cornell University Cooperative Extension programs, have been eliminated - due to budget cuts. Unfortunately; that leaves the care of the environment to folks like ourselves. And if we were not free to speak up - it might be hard to be optimistic. But I am instead encouraged. I shall read the stories above in more detail - and return to this thread later with further comments. Regards, Jonathan
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