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Sunday, November 16, 2003
Lets talk about Administration communication with students and the press, since I just got involved with it recently.
I'm often surprised by how poor this communication is, for the most part. It was only last year that the Chancellor started using mass e-mails to communicate things-- something that has been effective and should've been implemented many, many years before.
When I worked on that Code of Conduct story, getting ahold of Administration people was an entire pain in the ass. They wouldn't meet with me. They made me interview via e-mail. They evaded questions. And they lost control of a crucial opportunity to present the new draft to students. For no reason that I can comprehend, they were willing to jeopardize something that had been worked on for months rather then spend thirty minutes talking to the press. If they had bothered to talk to me, even assuming I was going to be hostile, they would've basically known what I was going to write about, put the best possible spin on the matter, and clarify what looked shady from the opposing side's point of view.
Heck, they knew a story about it was coming. Send out a press release announcing the new code revisions, outlining why they made the changes, and announcing the timeline for revisions. It's coming out anyway, and this way you look up front about it. Very basic press management. Then the story becomes 'University announces press release,' instead of 'University secretly unveils code changes.'
In general their publicizing of this code change has been pathetic. They failed to present it to faculty first, giving opponents the first opportunity to attack it as killing due process. Now there's a significant block of faculty that are motivated to oppose it. There was no Administration response in the Editorial pages on Friday, as opposed to two powerful op-eds against them. Chances are we'll see some quiet announcement during Thanksgiving when all students are gone, something that'll just make them look shady again...
I've been wondering why they're so bad at this. My best theory is that the internal University culture strongly discourages talking to the press. Certainly Chancellor Berdahl hasn't been the best example to follow on that. An Administration member happy to chat with the press and considered a 'leaker' by superiors can see career advancement stop, so they'll keep quiet even to the detriment of their projects.
Another possible reason is that University officials are afraid to step on the toes of colleagues and superiors in how they characterize matters. Talking without the input of everyone else would make them look like prima donnas, mischaracterizing their colleagues, and ignoring their contributions.
The third reason is the Conspiracy version. Perhaps the University has so many things to hide that talking unrestricted to the press will lead to many other unpleasant things getting out. Email This Post!
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