The SIPA WikiLeaks saga has come to a close. Last week, SIPA Office of Career Services warned students eyeing government positions to shut up about the whistle-blowing wonder that is WikiLeaks. Even tweeting and  linking to leaked documents on those crazy social networking sites could jeopardize future employment opportunities. “Engaging in these activities,” the email read, “would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information.” Naturally, everyone went crazy!

Luckily, SIPA Dean John Coatsworth (what a dignified-sounding name!) put out the fire. “Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution,” Coatsworth wrote in an email to SIPA students. It’s also a “core value” of the Constitution, but whatevs. You can talk about WikiLeaks now “without fear!”

Outspoken SIPA prof Gary Sick took it one step further. The Middle East expert who served on the National Security Council under Ford, Carter, and Reagan, passionately declared, “If anyone is a master’s student in international relations, and they haven’t heard of WikiLeaks and gone looking for documents that relate to their area of study, then they don’t deserve to be a graduate student in international studies.” Curiosity… it’s valued!

Full e-mail from SIPA Savior/Dean John H. Coatsworth below:

December 6, 2010

Dear SIPA Community,

Last Tuesday, SIPA’s Office of Career Services received a call from a former student currently employed by the U.S. Department of State who pointed out that the U.S. government documents released during the past few months through WikiLeaks are still considered classified.  The caller suggested that students who will be applying for federal jobs that require background checks avoid posting links to these documents or making comments about them on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter.

OCS emailed this cautionary suggestion to students, as it has done many times with other information that could be helpful in seeking employment after graduation. We know that many students today share a great deal about their lives online and that employers may use that information when evaluating their candidacy.  Subsequent news stories have indicated that the Department of State has issued guidelines for its own employees, but has not issued any guidelines for prospective employees.

Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution. Thus, SIPA’s position is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences. The WikiLeaks documents are accessible to SIPA students (and everyone else) from a wide variety of respected sources, as are multiple means of discussion and debate both in and outside of the classroom.

Should the U.S. Department of State issue any guidelines relating to the WikiLeaks documents for prospective employees, SIPA will make them available immediately.

John H. Coatsworth