There was once a popular, admittedly imperfect blogger. She was well-educated, with a graduate degree from a select private university and a bachelor’s degree from a well-known State University. She often engaged difficult topics, and provided thoughtful, detailed descriptions about why she would engage specific subjects and topics. She was trying to make it as a freelance writer, and had several online curricula vitae publicly available at a few different social networking and career search websites. Her CV listed her educational profile, including the school names. She is actively involved in the State School’s alumni association, but in no way employed by the State School.

Someone in the PR department of her undergraduate school found her blog, and took issue with some of her posts, either the way they were written, or the material the blogger engaged. Little research would be needed to connect these blog posts and this blogger to the school in name. Several days later, the blogger received a letter stating:


“Dear Ms. Blogger, It has come to our attention that you are trying to make a living as an imperfect, but courageous writer. We wish our alumni could pursue any career they want in whatever manner they wish without risk of The State University being embarrassed by their efforts. Regrettably, we are somewhat alarmed by the prospect of being identified as the school at which you were educated. We prefer to be identified and associated only with alumni who have successful established careers, and no grammatical errors or potentially embarrassing issues addressed in their published works. We want you to become a writer whose works we would be proud to be associated with, and would like to offer some instruction towards that mutual goal. We advise you to remedy the following concerns.
First, you need to be in control of who and what sort of advertisements are visible on your blog. There must be no alcohol-related ads, and no allergy-related ads, and nothing related to guns, mental illness, or violence as these are particularly sensitive topics for our campus. We would advise you to make use of the PR editor we will provide to proofread every future article or post. If our staff is uncomfortable with the nature of the post, we will make suggestions about how you can remedy the issues of concern, and you can either adopt these suggestions, or will post an addendum at the bottom of the article stating: “I, Ms. Blogger, published this post without the express approval of my alma mater, The State University. All comments and opinions and subjects expressed in this post should be read with the knowledge that they are the express opinions of Ms. Blogger and not the opinions of The State University.”
You are, of course, welcome to pursue your writing career in whatever manner you wish, if you write under a pseudonym, rather than your name, which could be associated with The State University.
We ask that if you choose not to comply with the above recommendations you will remove The State University from your publicly visible curricula vitae, and may result in the withdrawal or suspension of the degree bestowed upon you by The State University.

Jane Editor,
Director of Public Relations, The State University.”


How should Ms. Blogger respond?

Who is right? In what way?

What is the cost of doing relationship this way?

What issues arise in the context of this narrative?

What is your reaction to reading this narrative?

Please post comments below, as I hope for this to be a lively dialogue.


5 thoughts on “Parable

  1. Beyond outrageous! Best play is keep it polite. This blogger should thank them for the offer of free proof reading. Then assert they have no editorial control if the no University URL or logos or direct references are in the specific article. Send certified mail and copy the law and ethics department heads for a nice touch.

    • Rob,
      Thank you for your comment and engagement of this topic. I love and cherish the suggestion that “they have no editorial control…” because this is the sticking point of this narrative for me.
      This is a true parable, meaning this is a fictional (to my knowledge) narrative, that I constructed as a way of processing my experience of a recent interaction where someone assumed an uninvited editorial role in other creative endeavors.
      I am curious and it has opened up a large rabbit-hole of thought for me regarding the nature and dangers of judgement, coaching, and refining in the context of relationship.

  2. Wow. The only question I’m responding to is #5…my reaction.
    I’m not a lawyer, but I think I have a modicum of common sense. If you attended State College, you may identify yourself as an alumnus of State College, with or without their approval. It happened. As a citizen in a society that at least proclaims free speech as a legal right, you can write anything you want on your blog without my, or State College’s, or anyone else’s approval. This is your opinion, not State College’s. And if they don’t like it, then their solution is to turn back the clock and not accept a student based on their fear that upon graduation, she/he might have insights or opinions that are contrary (so dangerous!) to the established views of their financial contributors.
    If they don’t like what you are thinking/feeling/writing, they are free to write their own opinions, but to try to intimidate you in to ‘being a good girl’ seems beyond ridiculous to me.
    It would be one thing if your were explicitly and slanderously defaming State University, but they can’t tell you what you can or can’t write, if it’s your opinion. CRAZY!
    Nice of them to offer editorial support….geez.

    • Thank you, Carl, for sharing your response and thoughts about this. In the narrative above, I am so aware of the legal grounds and questions that arise, as any agent or agency attempts to assert power and control over another’s creative output, but I am more grieved and alarmed by the relational turbulence that can be caused when we do this to other creative selves, sometimes in an “effort to help.” There seems a precarious balance (not described in the above narrative) between trusting relationship where truth can be spoken and opinions shared, without damaging the other. Thank you again for your engagement.

  3. Pingback: Parable (Part 2) |

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