Whistling in the dark

March 28, 1997

"Ex-super hunts spoofers" (THES, March 21) included a quotation from me which did not deal as fully as I would have liked with the question of "whistleblowing". Blowing the whistle on activities can only be effective if the whistleblower is prepared to be named. Anonymous newsletters or circulars are not in the spirit of the Nolan report. It is important that "whistleblowers" - an essentially unattractive title - are given appropriate protection but by the same token institutions and their staff are ill-served by accusations circulated anonymously, presumably by colleagues unwilling to face the pressure of justifying them publicly.

While this emphasises the importance of developing a whistleblowing code as recommended by Nolan, it also points up the fact that higher education institutions abandon at their peril the principles of free and open debate. Anonymous attacks and poison-pen letters are not whistleblowing and are counter-productive to finding solutions to real or perceived problems.

In agreeing to speak to your reporter, I was doing so in my personal capacity and not as a spokesman of the Committee of University Chairmen.

Michael Shattock University of Warwick

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