No, Transparency Benefits the Academy
Mizzou Professor of Spanish Literature Michael Ugarte recently wrote an op-ed published in the Columbia Daily Tribune where he voiced his opposition to a bill that would require public universities to post course information online.
From Ugarte’s commentary:
[T]he reason I’m against SB 465 is that I don’t trust the motivations of those who are proposing it. It’s a bill with an agenda that goes far beyond a desire for transparency. It provides an opportunity for those determined to question, debunk, attack and diminish the pedagogical and research projects of university professors. I don’t think the effects will be positive; rather, we will have more of the same: animosity and lack of understanding.
As someone who has written on and testified in support of curriculum transparency for Missouri’s public universities, I can tell you that my motivation for supporting proposals like this comes from a conviction that public universities—and all public institutions—should be candid and open with the public about their affairs. Members of a public university should abide by the same transparency laws as everyone else who works in our public sector.
My motivation for supporting this bill doesn’t stem from a desire to “question, debunk, attack or diminish” the university, but I find it odd that a scholar would view someone questioning his work as a problem. Scholarship thrives on debate and challenges. As a student at Mizzou, you can bet I questioned my professors. They questioned, attacked, and debunked me right back. And I got a great education because of it.
I disagree with Professor Ugarte’s contention that an open academy will breed animosity and lack of understanding between it and the rest of society. On the contrary, I believe an open and honest discourse is the way you build trust and understanding. And there’s no reason why open and honest discourse can’t involve questions, debate, and, yes, sometimes even debunking.