More on Technology: Campus Gossip

I thought this was a really interesting story about the intersection of people, places, anonymity, commerce, and reputation (coin of the realm!).

It would make a great play, I think.

HERE’s the article; here’s a snippet:

Matt Ivester became notorious on campuses across the country in 2007 for publishing gossip­—not about celebrities but about students—on Juicy-Campus, the Web site he created. The site was blocked by some colleges, banned by several student governments, and threatened with legal action by several students who claimed that defaming comments on the site had inflicted emotional damage.

Now, in an ironic twist, the young man who stubbornly hosted reputation-harming comments on a Web site despite student complaints is looking to reinvent himself as an adviser to help students clean up their online reputations.

 

The Opposite of Morale Boosting

The Sun-Times reported yesterday that CCC students involved in District Student Government are holding a press conference today to demand a meeting with Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel to complain about the Presidents’ removals.

This is interesting for at least three reasons.

Interesting Point #1: Look at what “Reinvention is doing for our reputation!”

After the lede, the writer kicks into a context paragraph. Here is how she describes the City Colleges of Chicago:

The long failing community college system, where half of students drop out after only four or five classes, is engaged in a “Reinvention Initiative” launched by Hyman, who came in one year ago. Officials denied students are being left out of the decisions, stressing the changes that have upset them are sorely needed.

Nice. Not “The largest community college system in Illinois” and not “The 7 college system that serves 120,000 students,” not “The City Colleges, which provide everything from free GED and English classes to college credit courses that are credit equivalents to courses at another state school in the city, the University of Illinois Chicago, but at about 12% of the price,” and not 896 other things that I would have said about us first…no, no. Instead, it’s “The long failing community college system.” Really nice.

Interesting Point #2: So, the reporter reaches out to the CCC PR people who, instead of admiring the chutzpah of the students, their activism, their willingness to stand up for themselves and what they think is right, etc., responds this way:

City Colleges spokesman Ron Schofield reiterated the system’s dismal statistics cited in launching a national search to fill the top jobs. The 200 positions the students complain of had to go for reasons of efficiency and redundancy, he said.

And he maintained the system’s 120,000 students are represented by a student member elected to the Board of Trustees.

So, let’s get this straight, basically the response was A) the schools are in terrible shape; B) the schools were bloated and wasteful with their resources before our arrival and layoffs; and C) the students are wrong–they get input through their student member who sits on the board of trustees. So our own SPOKESMAN, starts out by “reiterating dismal statistics” (which are deeply misleading, as we all know, fails, again, to mention that we’re trying to do a lot with a little (state funding is down, federal funding is non-existent, property taxes are not so great, students are knocking down the doors to get in, etc.)–no, no. The layoffs were necessary because CCC is a bloated bureaucracy. And then, to top it off with a cherry of delight, points to the NON-VOTING student rep on the Board of Trustees as a source of input from 120,000 students.

(sigh).

I have seen this sort of thing before when I worked in marketing at the CTA, and it made me nuts there, too. We, the marketing people, had to try to convince people to ride the CTA–fast, convenient, inexpensive, good for the environment, and all the rest. As we’re trying to do that, the press people were putting out press releases and holding news conferences to talk about how decrepit the system was, how old the buses and trains were, how many slow zones there were, etc. They needed to create the impression that things were really bad so they could get funding from the feds and others to fix things up. But of course, the more they talked about how bad things were, the more that perception gained hold, and the less people wanted to ride, and if they had 50 rides and one was bad, they’d walk away saying, “Yeah, what can you expect from the CTA; it’s falling apart,” because that’s what they expected. The other 49 rides didn’t change their mind, because “good system” did not fit with what they were hearing from the CTA itself.

And so, here we are. What does our institution say about itself? Our institution hypes up the claim that “only 7 percent of the students graduate” and “more than half drop out after only 4 or 5 classes”–note the language there: not stop out temporarily (as we know many do), not transfer out (as we know many do), not return to their other or co-enrolled school (as we know many do); no. Drop out is what they say. Nice. I’d love to know how that is serving the interests of the students. It certainly doesn’t give them confidence that they’re getting a quality education. It certainly doesn’t help our rep with other institutions of higher learning (and so doesn’t help our students who are trying to transfer out). It doesn’t build good will in the business world that would make them want to hire our students (whether they have graduated or not), nor help build good will in the communities we serve. How in the world does saying what our spokesman said do anything to help anyone outside of 226 West Jackson? It’s an honest question. I simply can’t see an answer. I’d love to hear one.

Point of Interest #3: The reporter then talked to the student trustee, who is named in the article (and whom I don’t know at all). The student said this:

“Many of them consider their presidents part of their school community, and it is not unreasonable to expect that the students would respond negatively to this,” she said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that there is some faculty influence in the background, and I would have preferred that we go about this discussion in a different way, but the council certainly has the right to bring their issues to the table if they feel that their voice is not being heard. They are the consumers and the customers, after all.”

Whose fault is this brouhaha, this student insurrection? Faculty. Res ipsa loquitur.