Further education: FErret

21st August 2009 at 01:00
Freedom of speech row and Twitter's exposure

Snappy censorship

It's not often that an FE college ends up in the company of the Burmese junta, Silvio Berlusconi and Hugo Chavez.

But that's what has happened to East Surrey College, which has found itself involved in a freedom of speech row and criticised by anti- censorship campaigners.

Photography lecturer Simon Burgess is said to have introduced students to the work of Del LaGrace Volcano, a transgender photographer whose work is sometimes quite explicit.

At least one student was shocked enough to complain, and Mr Burgess faces a disciplinary hearing. That has prompted an outcry from academics, although the college declines to discuss an ongoing investigation.

As Index on Censorship points out - in between savaging the world's tyrants - Volcano's works are considered acceptable enough to display even in the home of "Catholic rectitude", Santiago de Compostela.

If the college turns out to have overreacted, that's one thing. But FErret is more surprised to hear today's students are such prudes.

The marks of Twitter

FErret's media colleagues have been assiduous in trying to persuade the world that, contrary to David Cameron's claims, Twitter is not just for twats.

So it has probably not escaped the notice of FE's most cunning PR operatives that just about any story featuring the social networking web service will get coverage.

No doubt Cornwall College had other motives for its plan to tweet its 200 students' A-level results yesterday. But FErret imagines it was not unhappy with the publicity, even if one paper raised the spectre of students' "public humiliation" if they fail. (They can opt out.)

It might be less wise for the press to be promoting this sort of innovation, however. When students are all checking their own and each other's exam results by staring at Twitter on their screens at home, how will the newspapers get pictures of girls hugging each other on results day?

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