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Removing another essay

Early in this sequence of essays, I wrote what I think was a good and powerful essay on changes in Grinnell’s relationship with the Posse foundation. My readers tell me that I raised many important issues in that essay and that I was also quite successful in describing the value of Posse to Grinnell. However, I also wrote that essay with incomplete knowledge about why we were changing that relationship. When it became clear that the issue was more complex than I thought, I removed the essay. I do hope to revisit Posse in a future essay, focusing on the general description of Posse and what Posse brought (and continues to bring) to Grinnell, rather than on the particulars of that situation.

I haven’t felt that I had to remove an essay since then, at least until a few nights ago [1]. I had left a meeting really frustrated about the presentation of some projects as exemplars, even though it was clear that insufficient consideration of accessibility was made in those projects (or at least in the projects as they were shown to us). I put one of the people involved in one of the projects on the spot, and that person responded a bit less thoughtfully thank I would like. I thought about writing to that person, but I was frustrated enough about the topic [2] that I ended up writing a public essay rather than a private email message.

Now, the person involved is someone I work with regularly and whom I respect, so I should not have been criticizing them in public. I generally try not to do so. But it appears that I was upset enough that I did not have enough filters in place [3]. Fortunately, a friend quickly messaged me about the essay.

I first tried changing the essay to make it less critical. But it didn’t really work in the new form. And it still called out a person who was clearly making their best effort. Hence, it is not appropriate for me to keep the essay up. I’ve had a few of you request access to the now-deleted essay [5]. Given the problems with the original essay, I will not release it, even privately.

I’m happy to say that the people involved did follow up on my comments in the presentation, and the site is now more accessible [7]. Particularly given those improvements, and the anticipated future improvements, the essay is also no longer necessary in anything like its present form.

Does that mean I’ve given up writing critiques of inaccessible sites and perspectives on accessibility that seem to be insufficient? No. It just means that I will try to express my concerns in more appropriate ways. I will certainly be critical of large sites at the College that are clearly problematic, and I will certainly debate opinions with which I disagree [8]. But I’ll work on doing all of that without targeting individuals. And I’ll remember to think the best of others.

Or maybe I’ll just go back to writing profiles. They certainly put me in a much better mood. We’ll see.

[1] Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I thought about removing the essay about software for reporting sexual assault because I learned that critiques of reporting process can sometimes dissuade people from reporting. However, I do feel that the essay encourages people to report, even with software that is less good than I’d like, so I left it up.

[2] I was particularly frustrated since the day before, we’d had a campus town hall on accessibility.

[3] It does not help that I’ve been dealing with a host of different concerns over the past weeks, and probably haven’t been getting enough sleep [4].

[4] That’s sad, because I felt like I was through most of my frustrations, and was trying to catch up on sleep.

[5] People who know me know that I’m unlikely to throw anything away. That’s why I currently have 219,791 messages in my inbox [6].

[6] Students who have sat in my class while my email program is up know that I receive way too many email messages each day, usually a few hundred, if not more.

[7] Accessibility can be difficult. The thing I critiqued is fixed, but there is still more to go. I know that they are working hard on it.

[8] Hmmm … is it really a debate if I write something and give them no chance to reply? Perhaps it is, at least in our new America.

Version 1.0.1 of 2017-05-28.