As a result of conversations with the new administration, one new issue needs to be addressed: how do we effectively comunicate with students in the digital era?
First and foremost, we need to acknowledge that the university, deserved or not, has inheirited low levels of trust between the administration and its students.
While the current adminsitration is clearly not to blame for the actions of the administrations of the past, they have needed to hit the ground running, and it is here where they have failed.
We currently have no discernable system of measuring outreach to students, and their current methodology is fundamentally flawed as a result.
The university currently relies solely on email communication, whether it be for an event with housing, the death of a former professor or crucial policy changes in relation to tuition. Due to the seemingly endless supply of junkmail, however, students have gotten the impression that the emails are no longer worth reading, and that if it is truly important, the university will make sure the information gets to them differently.
The university also has no clue as to what portion of the student body is reading their emails.
They state they have literally no way to track the reception of these emails, or whether they have even been read.
It is sad that we have gotten to this state of affairs, when literally a 30 second fix could have been applied, and the administration was too lazy to even bother with such a simple task. This was having all emails require a recieved recipet.
Quite frankly, this isn’t a new concept, I have been advocating this for two years across six differnent university employees, and none have bothered to click one button for these emails to measure recieve rate.
As if this wasn’t sad enough, the university seems to have no sense of priority on conversations that need to be had with students.
As an example, their frontpage or the portal to blackboard are prime real-estate to reach out to students, since each student has to go through these two portions of the site daily to complete classes. They have completely wasted this space.
As it stands now, the link to UND Today, and any relevant news, is at the bottom of the page out of the site, as opposed to being like Univesity of Minnesota or Stanford with their news and press releases being displayed prominantly as you view the site.
It is hypocritical to claim that you are interested in engaging with the students, while simultaneously providing no outward desire to engage. As an additional example, there were previously no events for students to attend to engage in dialogue with administrators and the events they do have are usually at inconvient times.
All credit to Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Laurie Betting, for at least finally having one such weekly event, but advertisement for it has been abysmal and it is at an inconvient time, when a significant portion of the student body is in class. Additionally, I would like to critique her team of student leaders.
Instead of focusing on certain organizations and “student leaders” that represent the vast minority of students, we should instead attempt to network through the students with a simple question “name one person you trust, and name one person whose opinions you respect.”
Once you find the true community leaders, you can use these people as catalysts to reach out to the student body as a whole.
While the university clearly has issues with events and engaging the students, they also are awful at promoting student issues. As an example, the university could have prominent billboards in the union, advertising events or requesting feedback much like they have done with the discussion for a new union design.
The real reason, at least in my mind, they don’t more frequenlty have open forums for communication or allow public student imput is the results would be damaging to the reputation of the unviersity. The whiteboard in the union for instance, as of the times of this writing primarily contains a massive critique of the university and the percieved waste of the new union, with many etchings of support from other students.
A related problem is the university does not provide adequete advertisement for events that are about to take place on campus, the annual DU haunted house was better advertised than the French Fry Feed.
This further creates issues with people not understanding where the money is going, and as a result feel bitter or that the university is not providing adequete services for the dollars spent.
As a result, the student is left with seemingly only two choices. Either the university, with thousands of employees and an entire outreach division is utterly incompetent in terms of PR or it is purposely decietful: attempting to silence dissent or refusing to engage in the community while hiding where the money goes.
Dave Owen is the opinion editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]