Rats. I just lost a beautiful comment that I’d spent ages composing — the ages I spent composing it might tell you something about my nervousness in the face of this issue.
The short version of the message was this: Welcome. Thanks for posting. I’m really glad you’re here, and I’m sorry if I gave you the impression otherwise.
The longer version, which I’ll try to reconstruct: We (and by this I mostly mean professors, though I’m sure the students have a similar line of conversation) talk a good bit here about the periodic sensation that we’re living in a fishbowl — that every move one makes here is immediately visible, either to one’s students or to one’s colleagues — a sensation that took me quite a long time to get used to, having moved here from the relative anonymity of the big city and the big U. Five years on, though, I have adjusted — and you’re right, Jake, to remind me of the million small daily acts of self-censorship that have become so natural to me as to be almost invisible.
But there’s something about the web in general, and the blog in particular, that lends itself to paranoia; the technology allows for a kind of voyeurism, in that I can be seen, but I can often only see the IP footprints of those who’ve been through here. Knowing that there are pomona.edu readers, but having no sense of who they are, just heightens that fishbowl-effect a bit. Of course, the point of the blog is its publicness — otherwise, I could just keep these thoughts safely on my own computer — but I guess I haven’t quite adjusted (as you seem to have, Claire, and admirably, it sounds) to the idea that I’m being read by people who actually know who I am.
If my post carried a bit more tension or aggression or condescension than it ought to have, I’m really sorry for that; the tone is an aftereffect, I think, of the origins of the concerns, in the flaming of another blogging prof who suggested that she wasn’t comfortable with discussing the ethics of professor-student relationships in a public space. I certainly don’t think of myself as your “superior,” except in the obvious ways that age, education, and position make inevitable.
The bottom line is this: I’m glad you both posted. I hope you’ll stick around. I hope more students will join the conversation. And I hope I’ll get over my nervousness about the relationship between my professor persona and my online persona — and that it won’t take me five years to do it.