So one of the comments I’ve received since I left Twitter was some conjecture that my bosses at USC got wind of how frank I am on social media, read something they didn’t like, and told me to stop posting.
Guys, I once called USC the “Death Star” in the LA Times. (Thanks a pantload for that one, Nelson). If my bosses weren’t going to go after me for that one, they aren’t going to go after me for upsetting dudes on Twitter. And it’s always dudes. (In the “Death Star” incident, I was referring to USC’s community reputation, which is often unjustly characterized as awful, and at other times, quite justly so characterized.)
Oddly, public universities seem to have been far more likely here recently to get all panicked if somebody is unhappy about something a professor says. I haven’t seen it as much at private universities. Maybe that is observation bias on my part.
I’m generally proud of just how much USC does value and protect academic freedom. I’ve gotten scolded over the years, usually justly, for being an insubordinate little snot when I lose my temper. I hate authority, always have, and it gets me in trouble all the time. I should have grown out of it by now, but shrug. It has inconvenient at times, but it is also the part of me that said “to hell with you” every time some dickweed told me “Well, people like you don’t go to college” or “Girls aren’t good at X” or “You’re smart, but you aren’t smart enough to do X.”
But if my dean or provost were to read the blog, he’d see what he sees when we meet in person: a curious, adventurous, passionate scholar who says what I think and objects when our decisions or actions are going to hurt people (when I am smart enough to predict it).
If they did try to silence me on social media or anywhere else, I’d leave and scorch the earth behind me. But USC deserves respect for allowing me to tell the truth as I see it, again and again and again, even when it’s about us. That’s what scholars are for, and USC has never been anything other than supportive of my scholarly ideas. We have work to do, like most universities, really becoming a place where everybody feels at home and supported, but nobody here has ever told me to be less outspoken than I am.
I hopped on Twitter to boost USC Price’s participation in the gubernatorial debate the other night and noted that there were about 99 notifications on a thread debating whether I knew what rent control is or not. Now, some of those tweets were other men stepping in to say “hey, not cool” which is super-good male ally ninja stuff. But I just don’t have time or patience to deal with the discourse when every time it starts out at that level.