Public Health

Comment policy: a personal statement

April 10, 2008

A statement repeated around town in the last couple weeks concerns me greatly: The gist is that my blog isn’t really a blog, because we don’t post comments, and I don’t really want feedback. Nothing could be further from my intentions. I write to address these issues and share a draft comment policy on which I welcome comments.

Why I blog

My integrity is about my most important possession. I don’t write this blog to be a mouthpiece for official positions or to “spin” administrative messages. I started the blog, because I wanted another communication channel for me, the School and beyond. At one time, all the School’s faculty, staff and students could convene for a barbecue in Dean Rosenau’s front yard or the front steps of the Rosenau Building, as many alumni recall with fondness and wistfulness. We’re too big for that now. The blog is partly a way of extending to a broader community the conversations I would like to have with many of you individually. I welcome both positive and negative comments as I have said on many occasions.

One of my goals as dean is to foster discussion about difficult topics. I hope this blog will spark some of these. Now that I have been doing the blog for awhile, there’s another reason I keep it up. Photographers sometimes say they are better observers, because their cameras make them so. Similarly, I find that thinking about the blog and what I will write makes me listen more intently, read materials I might not otherwise have read and formulate opinions that might have gone unstated.

Over the last few weeks, I have contacted bloggers I respect and asked them about their review policies. I have gone to the websites of blogs from other schools, industry, the DTH and Huffington Post. There is general agreement that there must be some moderation to assure that spam is not posted (I get dozens of spams every day, and many of them are sexually explicit.), and that comments that defame other individuals or are racially or otherwise discriminatory don’t get through. Frankly, this takes time, and Mae Beale helps me do it. It is possible that every now and then an honest message will be missed in the spam. If so, I regret it, and assure you, my readers, that it will be a rare event. Get back to me if you don’t see a post. In a couple of cases, I have responded directly to an individual and asked if this cleared up the issue, and if they still wanted us to post their comment. We followed their preference. I never want to embarrass someone by pointing out that they misunderstood me or were misinformed.

A few weeks ago, the format of the blog changed. To my surprise and chagrin, I learned today that during this process, comments were removed for a week or so while they were being transferred to the new system. This has been resolved. In the future, changes will not be made without notifying me first so I can inform readers. I apologize to all anyone whose comments disappeared during this time. They were restored by early March.

That’s the background. Here’s the policy I crafted after getting the input described above. The policy statement will appear on the site menu. . Thanks to the DTH, Bernard Glassman, Huffington Post and the brilliant Paul Jones for input. Let me know if you have any suggestions about this policy. Consider it a draft for now.

Draft comment policy

I review and must approve all comments posted to my blog, primarily to keep out spam. We do not censor comments based on political or ideological points of view. We encourage divergent points of view, respectfully stated. We will not post comments that are abusive, off-topic, use foul language, or include ad hominem attacks. Because of the sheer amount of spam, it may take a couple of days before we post a comment. I may not respond to every comment individually. In some cases, I will respond through the subsequent week’s blog posting. In such cases, so as not to violate confidentiality, I will not mention the sender by name but will repeat the issue that prompted the comment.

I take full responsibility for what is written here. I will acknowledge my mistakes. If we alter published posts to correct mistakes, we will indicate that this has been done. Monday Morning represents my point of view. I am not speaking on behalf of the University nor the School as a whole, nor on behalf of the faculty, nor the staff, nor the students.

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.