Forget the Footnotes

Gagging orders

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A current LSE student just sent me this story:

I have an interesting detail to add to the free speech discussion at LSE: There’s a volunteering programme called ‘email-a-student’: It allows prospective students to send a mail to the LSE with questions about student life etc. which are then answered by a current student. So being a current student I went to the introduction meeting for this thing today, and I found something odd about the programme: All incoming AND (!) outgoing mails have to be sent via a LSE admissions official and will be screened. So I guess I can’t really write about everything I want to. I mean, this programme is no use if I just tell prospective students what they already know from the website!

Compare this with an email I got from the LSE undergrad administration the other day:

I am writing to you regarding a number of requests from prospective applicants to meet with academics, received recently by the Undergraduate Admissions Office, Selectors and Departmental Managers and Administrators.I would like to remind all staff that the School Policy states that contact details for academic staff should not be released to prospective applicants/students. In addition to this, all requests for meetings with academic staff should be forwarded to the undergraduate mail-box so that the UG team may deal with any queries that applicants may have.

Let me re-assure you that in the vast majority of cases, the undergraduate Admissions staff are able to answer any questions applicants may have. In cases where they are unable to do so, they will be happy to contact the relevant academic and liaise with the enquirer appropriately.

I am sure you understand that these measure are put in place so that academic colleagues are not placed in a difficult position where conflict of interest may become an issue. Thank you for your understanding on [sic] this matter.

In other words: prospective LSE students can communicate with current LSE students only if the emails are censored by the LSE undergraduate office; there is to be no contact at all between prospective students and staff. We are all gagged.

Is this in the best interest of prospective students? Is it in the interest of the LSE? What about … well … the freedom to communicate freely?

I wouldn’t believe any of this was possible at a first-rate university like LSE if it hadn’t been for the way I was treated by the very same people. They have the mentality of prison wardens.


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