back to article University moves to hush Facebook criticism

Keele University has ordered its students to watch their mouths on Facebook, and asked them not to express dissatisfaction with the institution on social networking sites. The administration was provoked by a Facebook group called "James Knowles is a Twat". Professor James Knowles is an English literature academic at the …


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  1. David Harper

    Give the malcontent little buggers more homework

    Perhaps Professor Knowles should give his students a lot more homework. That way, the bone-idle little sods wouldn't have nearly as much free time to waste dissing him via Facebook.

  2. Stuart Van Onselen

    Difficult One

    At first, I was on the side of the administration. I consider that sort of Internet bitching to be scurrilous gossip at best, and malicious bullying at worst. Especially if done anonymously.

    And I considered the "Free Speech" protest groups to be the work of whiny students with too much time on their hands (i.e. Arts students :-)

    Then I read the bit about the administrator's pay increase, and I thought, "Maybe this is a legitimate way to protest. After all, if (and that's a big "if") the top person is corrupt, how on earth can you expect any joy going through the proper channels?"

    As usual, the real world proves itself too complex for pat judgements.

  3. Dan P

    Surely taking on board what is being said about them...

    ...rather than trying to gag the students from expressing their feelings would be a better way of handling things? Attempting to restrict free speech, particularly that of students, is just a red rag to a bull.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hard to sympathise

    The students have hopefully learned that on the internet your behaviouris not private. What seemed a hilarious joke at 2am after a night in the bar won't seem so funny next day when the dean summons you, but in days of yore such embarassments were mostly kept internal. Putting it on the net is like publishing it in the papers or handing out a leaflet in lectures. Imagine how well that would go down...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The University of Bath Has had a similar incident

    there is a group 'Who the Hell is Jane Allan?' This member of staff 'spams' every student at the university with loads of emails with no way to unsubscribe from them and most are not relevant to the students who get them! somebody supposedly posted something quite harsh about her on facebook and was disciplined by the university, I can speak freely now I've graduated!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are computers teaching tools? or are they just "teaching tools"

    Having worked in educational IT, I think the reliance on them as teaching tools is ridiculous. They are one of the biggest distractions to pupils, and the best way forward would be to remove them to locked suites and remove internet access to all but predefined research sites. Sorry to sound like a luddite, but it's true.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical response of management

    have one or a small group behaving childishly - so treat everyone as a naughty child - then wonder why people get agrieved by the management

  8. Bill Smith

    Who cares about the opinions of students

    People who dont work for a living (excepting pensioners) shouldnt expect to have their opinions listened to. Who gives a fuck what an idle useless student thinks - this is all the fault of those namby pamby 1960's liberals who thought that it might be good to 'listen' to the students - just make the bastards work!!!

  9. Marvin the Martian

    Keele? With its superior vice-chancellor? Surely you're joking!

    Of course Keele is beyond reproach --- you only need to look at the vice-chancellor's paycheck, highest in the academic country, to realise what a superior institution it is.

    Given that they're not that big on education and research, they might as well spend their efforts at image building [I propose a new logo and corporate identity] and policing the irregulars.

    For the people suggesting giving more home/coursework to the students: numbers just in from Holland show that students are spending more time on their curricula now than a few years ago.

    In my experience this is true --- you give them half the excercises of 5years ago and it takes them 50% more time. Not that they're dumber per se, just that within minutes they drift off into chat and IM, some mail, oh a java game, wikifiddling... As we sold them the laptops at reduced prices and force them to use the 'net to solve their tasks, I guess we had it coming.

    My point being, giving them extra tasks means them loitering longer on the 'web instead of the bar, and leaving said indelible comments digitally instead of verbally.

  10. Stephen Jones

    Because of course students are there to work....

    ... not to learn.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook, better than any student survey

    University executives expend some effort trying to make their current students happy, mostly in the hope that more future students will want to go to their Uni and make it more successful.

    Now that these execs have access to a slice of genuine insight into students' opinions of their University, some of them seem to want to gag them, rather than address the problems raised. Get a clue, filter through the abuse and obscenities and use the information to improve your institution.

  12. Matt Thornton

    Hurray for the "students are useless" clan

    I'm so pleased that people like Bill Smith have been given yet another opportunity to voice their uneducated opinions about the state of student society and illustrate yet again why these people are such morons.

    I just hope Bill remembers how unimportant, unskilled, ignorant and total wastes of space students really are the next time he needs a doctor (or a lawyer) the next time he falls off a ladder doing his meaningless low-paid blue collar job...

  13. Simon Wells


    ...I was taught by James Knowles (if it is the same chap and it seems to be) many, many years ago at a different university. And we ended up making a complaint about him too.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Give the malcontent little buggers more homework

    Oh yes, what a plan. Stifle their right to express their opinions, great idea.

    You know, it could just be that Knowles is a serious problem, or that it's just students having a bit of a laugh.

  15. Ian McNee

    Re: Give the malcontent little buggers more homework

    ...because of course none of us reading El Reg and posting about this story are doing so in work time when we ought to be toiling away like the loyal little geek wage-slaves we truly are...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lazy students....

    ... Odd that. I must have been on the wrong course because most people I knew doing BEng and MEng were doing 30+ hours a week between Lectures, Labs Coursework and Seminars, without including the 20 hours + a week most of us were putting in at the local supermarket/Pub/chain store just trying to support ourselves. I can understand why they have done this. At work you have a clear policy of what to do if there is a problem with someone you work with, but not at uni.

    I could have been off the day that the grievance procedure was explained, but I doute it because if you missed more than one or two lectures you could not take your exam in some subjects, others you just wouldn’t know what was going on. You dont get sick leave either.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point..

    The university seems to have methods in place whereby students can air their views internally and address issues without having to go onto the internet and throw childish tantrums.

    If they want to be treated as adults maybe they should converse like adults.

  18. Dillon Pyron

    Google is an employer's friend

    Many prospective employers are now Googling applicants. Perhaps students should keep that little factoid in mind.

    I know I Google mine.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More like Internet cafes...

    Working in IT at a university reveals to me one inarguable fact: as going to university is essentially a lifestyle choice rather than a vocation, IT provision is dumbed down to the level of being nothing more than a huge cyber café providing unlimited Internet access. I'm more surprised that given how feeble student disciplinary matters are Keele have chosen to even take this up as an issue. Universities just aren't interested in any kind of discipline, their only concern is to keep students happy at any cost as they keep hoovering up fat fees. IT access at most universities is nothing more than a piss take.

  20. censored

    Legitimate Protest??

    A group called "Keele University Mis-administration" would be fair criticism and a place to share legitimate, democratic concerns. That is freedom of speech.

    A group called "XXX is a twat" is offensive, derogatory and potentially sladerous/libelous (depending on content).

  21. George Brown

    RE: Google is an employer's friend

    That's why I'm glad my name's George Brown - best of luck googling that!

    There are students in the Institution I work in who have quite openly been slagging professors here on facebook - I guess they're just not aware of how easy it is to find..

    With regard to the above, a number of the major political and social changes of the last 100 years worldwide have, in the most part, been instigated by students - Romania under Ceaucescu, Tiananmen Square in China, etc. etc. If they'd all be 'doing their homework' none of that would have happened. Of course they're not directly comparable, but it is in student's nature to question and inquire, and I feel they should be encouraged to do so, though in a positive and constructive manner.

    Highly amusing though.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uni's are a bunch of w****** anyway

    Lets face it, universities are businesses now and like businesses they cant take any sort of complaint. Teaching comes second to looking good.

    I remember when I was at uni and they tried to put up hall fees. Going through all the official channels did nothing, the SU didnt want to know either. It took a couple of us to write to the Chancellor threatening to go to the papers to get any sort of action and a refund of fees paid for everyone in the halls.

    These days we would have used Facebook or Myspace to force the issue. Lets face it, unless you do something VERY public no university will ever get off it's arse to fix a problem.

    Keele is a sh*t hole anyway, dont know why anyone would want to go there. Self inflicted abuse as far as I am concerned

  23. Dave

    RE: "Idle Students"

    I'm sorry but i will not stand by and watch the amount of people saying things along the lines of "students don't do anything, just waste time"

    NO that is not at all true, i agree that any BA is a complete waste of time - for example some BA courses at my university only have around 3 hours of contact time per week, that is ludicrous, but for the rest of us doing real degrees where my contact time is 20+ hours per week, plus self-learning i find it insulting.

    As for not working for a living, i'm sorry but i think i am, 5 years at university, £25,000 of debt plus full time summer jobs (and not in a bar or retail i may add).

    Student's should have the right to criticise a university in whatever respect, but name calling and childish "i think he is Sh**" isn't really acceptable either.

    My university decided to have someone arrested for personally attacking a member of staff on an online forum - without giving any formal warnings first. We are not free to criticise our university and it is a form of opression, the university refuse to aknowledge any problems and so it becomes compounded more and more as time goes on.

    Here the university are out to make as much money as possible from the student population, regardless of how many people they upset.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where did all the unpatriotic traitors come from?

    The ability of individuals to make effective, peaceful protest, and of being able to congregate with like-minded individuals to share opinions - isn't that a fundamental feature of democracy and freedom?

    Doesn't that take precedence over the public image of what appears to be an unresponsive, overpaid administration?

    It's a shame to see the emergence of traitors seeking to undermine core British values, seemingly motivated by envy over the lifestyle of students.

    Having said that, the students are a little misguided in their protest. They're at Keele, what did they expect? Is there anybody, anybody at all in the whole of the UK who put down Keele as their first choice university?

  25. Morely Dotes

    Stifling public participation is an important part of education

    University is supposed to prepare students for their future career and adult life. Since the world is turning more and more into the surveillance society portrayed in dystopian novels like _1984_ and games like _Shadowrun_, teaching students that they need to take steps to protect their identities when protesting the corruption and incompetence of their Uni's administration and staff is critical.

    No university which fails to teach such important life lessons should be considered as an option for a student who wants to be prepared for Real Life. A few object lessons - a student or two publicly and loudly humiliated, then expelled - will bring that important knowledge home for the rest of the students.

    And, as a side benefit, it will serve to reinforce the iron-fisted power of the Uni's administration and staff - so it's a win-win situation, except for the poor sods who actually fell for the old "freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of expression" gag. But someone needs to clean the bathrooms at McDonalds, so they'll have no problem finding jobs.

  26. Aram

    RE: "Idle Students"

    Of course free speech should be supported and upheld, but it doesn't provide carte blanche to shoot your mouth off. There are responsibilities that go hand in hand with that right.

    Additionally, one would hope for something a little more considered and intelligent from uni students (particularly those studying English Literature) than "X is a ****". So much for the pithy epithet.

    Well, one would hope for a lot, but then we are talking about a university system that has been systematically devalued, debased and thrown open to any Tom, Dick and Henrietta (irrespective of the quality and substance of their raft of supposedly 'A' grade qualifications). And it's also Keele "University", so it's not like it counts anyway.

  27. Mike Morgan

    Remember that students are customers

    Where else could you pay so much to be ridiculed? These are not just students they are customers and have a right to complain. Maybe it is different in the UK and higher education is free. But across the pond it cost a lot and many times you do not get what you have paid for.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >>Of course free speech should be supported and upheld, but it doesn't provide carte blanche to shoot your mouth off. There are responsibilities that go hand in hand with that right.<<

    There are laws to protect individuals and institutions when false and damaging remarks have been made. Nobody has claimed that free speech provides carte blanche to say what you want with no consequence. However, it is for the courts to decide what constitutes libel/slander. Keele has ample access and funds to explore that route.

    I am sure that those who have made genuine, articulate complaints about the service they received would also like to see the "X is a ****" style comments removed, as they detract from intelligent, valid criticism. If anything, such comments garner sympathy for the university, and undermine the credibility of more serious points.

    Of course, as a headline for under 21s and retarded elders, "X is a ****" is compelling - anything else may be ignored. In which case, it would be safer to write "Is X a ****?" That has more or less the same attention-gaining impact, but is clearly not libellous by itself - it seeks opinion rather than states a claim.

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