Campus Blogging Dos and Don'ts
These days, it seems everyone's getting into the blogging game. College administrators and students are no different, and there are a couple incredibly popular university blogs out there that cover topics from admissions information to professors' research to what's for dinner in dorm cafeterias. How do these blogs distinguish themselves from the herd and find an audience?
The President's Blog
It may surprise you to find out that the president of Trinity Washington University operates a weekly blog on her school's website. You might also be taken aback to learn that it's relatively popular, or that the author (Patricia McGuire) doesn't exclusively cover campus issues. Instead, she shares her opinions on a variety of matters ranging from social justice to religion. In fact, McGuire reports that her most popular blog entries are the ones focused on politics, whether it's women's rights or immigration reform.
One might initially think that it's improper for a campus administrator to address such hot-button issues, especially when they don't really relate to campus matters. McGuire would answer, though, that it's crucial for school leaders to take a stand and express opinions. 'I think it's vitally important for college presidents to be known for more than just raising money or being wheeled out for events.'
President McGuire's one of many officials in the education world to take to blogging as a means of disseminating important information to students. Why do they do it? For one, it allows communicating with pupils on their own terms. In an era of social media, why shouldn't school officials embrace the Internet as another way to build relationships?
Of course, the prominence of blogging creates its own problems - namely, how do administrators make their blogs worth reading? McGuire's method of focusing on more general topics might appear counterintuitive, but she's hit on some success. It seems administrators stand to gain readers by presenting themselves as interesting, well-rounded individuals with nuanced, fair opinions on important topics. McGuire has found popularity with political issues, but that's not the only available avenue - other bloggers, for instance, can gain traction with their readers via humorous anecdotes or by discussing favorite sports teams or television shows.
There's an inherent risk in expressing personal opinions when you hold a position of power. Irate commenters have frequented the Internet since the beginning of time, and education officials open themselves up to harsh, unfair criticism for what they write. There's also the issue of transparency; if you're not careful about what you say, people may end up knowing more about you than you want them to.
On the other hand, those are issues all bloggers face in varying degrees. It seems the one unique challenge confronting on-campus bloggers is how much to actually focus on education. The answer will differ for everyone, but a general calling to be thorough, considerate and compelling abides.
Here's an example of a school administrator using social media wrong.