The answer to this question may depend on what your role is at the institution. Recently, it has been said that “criticism” is NOT negative or critical comments. This is a definition recently given to a group of UT academic staff in the UT library system by a consultant assisting with strategic planning. Critical or negative comments of an idea or plan, of course, can be viewed as objecting to the status quo, whether an idea, concept or philosophy.
It is difficult to ask academic librarians to continually assess, critique and become engaged in new trends, change, and modifications within our teaching and research needs and not criticise (?)….isn’t it? In other words, play ball nicely and don’t rock the boat….but isn’t there a conflict here? Is there not a fundamental dichotomy between the two?
The recent comments by CAUT on the AUUC statement on academic freedom, voiced by predominantly those who administer rather than teach or do leading research, points to a growing trend in our academic environment. When thinking about individual responsibilities to our profession and those we serve (today and tomorrow) – is it not vital that we voice our criticisms? Who do we have a responsibility to? I think this question needs to be asked, again and again.
Criticism leads to questioning, skeptical reviews and assessments – these, in turn, lead to new ideas, approaches and a transparent collegiality that promotes trust and a positive movement forward. We should never be afraid to criticize, our academic environments thrive on autonomous thinking, free from outside influences (political, religious, economic and social)…it is called intellectual and academic freedom. Academic librarians are not alone in this dilemma, faculty too feel the pressures of ‘not rocking the boat’. If we cannot speak up because of fear, it means intimidation practices have succeeded. Is this what we support?