academic freedom

Does an academic library or it’s librarians have a role to play in advocating for academic freedom and freedom of expression at a university?  Or is it too dangerous to ‘bite the hand that feeds you’, as libraries and librarians are beholden to their host institutions, and usually not particularly powerful members of it.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Hopkins reverses order to remove blog post about NSA:
Professor criticized NSA in blog post about how agency gets around online encryption

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/north-baltimore/bs-hs-hopkins-blog-20130909,0,3976680.story

The Johns Hopkins University ordered a cryptography professor to remove from its servers a blog post critical of the federal government for circumventing the encryption that protects sensitive material on the web — only to reverse course after a review.

Matthew Green, an assistant research professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, said in Twitter posts Monday that the interim dean of the university’s engineering school, Andrew Douglas, asked him to remove the post.

The request came after Green wrote a post about a New York Times article that outlined how the National Security Agency circumvented encryption to gain access to private information. Green had talked to a reporter recently about how this hypothetically might happen, but never quite believed it would, he wrote on his blog.

O’Shea said there are certain policies Hopkins employees have to follow when using university equipment, including not endorsing political candidates and not doing anything illegal. No policies seem to have been violated in Green’s case, he said.

For now Green will keep his blog off Hopkins’ servers, he said on Twitter.

“I’m baffled by this entire thing,” he wrote. “I hope to never receive an email like that again and I certainly believe JHU … is on the wrong side of common sense and academic freedom, regardless of their obligations under the law. That said, I have no desire to cause trouble for any of the very good people at JHU so I’ll keep my posts off JHU property.”

A columnist at the Guardian asks:

Who at Johns Hopkins is speaking up for these priorities? And why isn’t the Johns Hopkins faculty roaring about this issue?

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