Monday, 5 March 2012

A response to "The career advice scandal"

At Felix Online, one of my articles is preceded by a 3-paragraph disclaimer from the editor. It states three times that my article "The Career Advice Scandal" contains "factual inaccuracies", once referencing "several factual inaccuracies". It also claims that Felix was never threatened with legal action. These claims are all false, but since I am evidently unable to challenge these points in Felix, I had better do so here.

I am in possession of an email sent by Imperial College to Felix explaining their problems with my article "The Career Advice Scandal". I would love to publish the email, but I it would be illegal. Instead, I will paraphrase the College's problems with my article, and respond to them.

I said: "The college [is] effectively selling my contact information to any company who can afford it."
They said: "The Careers Advisory Service never shares student data with external organisations."

I know the College never shares its data, I never claimed that it did. I said the College effectively sells our contact information. Since there is no difference, from my perspective, between the College selling my email address to banks and the College forwarding banks' emails to me for money, the two situations have the same effect. Hence they are effectively the same.
I said: “Can I opt out of this [targeted emailing] system? No.”
They said: "Students can opt out of receiving these however only a small number ever choose to do so. As an example, since 1 August 2011 only 50 students have elected to opt out of receiving these."
 This is misleading writing on a grand scale. I have checked my past targeted emails from the Careers Advisory Service, and the "unsubscribe" option appeared only after my original career advice scandal article was printed, in February 2012. I have been able to find no other way of unsubscribing from the service. I can only assume, then, that the option was added after (and presumably as a result of) my article. This would explain why only 50 people had unsubscribed, since the option has only existed for a few days.
I said: “There are just four sector-specific careers fairs."
They said: "There are actually six careers fairs held throughout the year. Alongside those listed the CAS organises a PhD fair and an internships fair." 
 Suppose I complained "Tesco sells only 4 types of cheese" and Tesco responded "Actually we sell 6 types of dairy products, the 4 cheeses and also milk and butter." That is the kind of response that this is. Companies which recruit PhD students is not a sector, nor is Companies which offer internships.
I complained that there was no careers fair for charities. 
They said: "The internships fair, which will be held in May, will be specifically targeting the charity sector".

The CAS website does not mention charities in relation to the internships fair, it states only that the stalls shall be free. Perhaps the CAS has a quota system (70% of stalls must by charities, say) but this is not mentioned. I have asked the CAS for more information about this, but they are yet to reply. I expect that, when the fair occurs, it will turn out to be full of banks and other wealthy corporations offering internships.
I said: "A flat £300 fee (£450 at the Banking fair) is charged to all stallholders, whether wealthy oil company or struggling voluntary organisation." 
They said: "A flat fee is not charged, the CAS uses a variable system."
The "variable system" is one where each fair has a different price, but at the fair all stalls are priced the same. So, for instance, at the Science fair, GSK would be charged the same price (£300) as Cancer Research UK. This is the problem. You can't expect a charity to be able to afford the same price as a pharmaceutical company, so charities get priced out of the events.

This is the entirety of the alleged "factual inaccuracies". In all these situations, I have made a true statement, and the College has responded that something I didn't say was false. It is as if I said "This apple is green" and they responded "The apple is not on the floor; it is, in fact, on the table."

I concede that some of the statements I made were potentially misleading, but they were certainly not factually inaccurate. The original article is fully referenced so the reader can check the accuracy of these statements for herself.

The editor's disclaimer also stated that Felix was not implicitly threatened with legal action. This is wrong. The email from the College stated that my article "could be considered defamatory". The emphasis on "defamatory" is not mine. If this isn't an implicit threat of legal action then I don't know what is.

I, and probably everyone else, am now quite bored of the whole career advice affair. This is a shame, because it's a very important issue that I think all students should be aware of. It is also a shame that I have unfairly been called a liar in my own newspaper. I have repeatedly asked the editor to change "factual inaccuracies" to "alleged factual inaccuracies", but he has failed to do so. I also asked him to remove the whole article from the website, but he has failed to do this too. I can only hope that so few people read the article that the lies about me do not spread very far.

1 comment:

  1. College refused a freedom of information request about the money made by the Careers Advisory Service on the basis that it is "commercially sensitive" information.

    I think that speaks volumes about whether or not the service really is an "advice" service or a commercial venture...