Could This Happen on a University Front Page

What if a university started to offer blogs hosted on their own campus domain/servers and then began putting a random / unedited feed of the latest posts from those blogs in a sidebar on their university front page?

Don’t think a university would be so foolish as to take that risk? With the growth of social media in college recruiting and marketing tactics, I don’t know. It could happen.

A scenario:

…I would not be surprised if this does happen or has already happened…

…a person in Admissions office turns on their computer in the morning and reads in horror a fun-filled, but wildly inapropriate (not for a university official site, that is) story, featured prominently on the front of the university’s online face… (Source)

Sound like a roll of the dice – a big gamble – to you? Dimitri Glazkov poses the question in “Bad Girls Write Good Blogs” at Fuzzy Content.

You have seen Facebook and MySpace, haven’t you? The post could have been about sex, drugs or … worse. Example? How about the UCLA Police Taser Student in Powell video. (Warning: Violence and profanity.)

What if it was just something lame like the Sigma Nu Foam Party or the revolting college kid bongs beer then proceeds to puke ravioli videos? (Warning: gross and stupid.) Both are about foolish alcohol use and the first video even drops the N-bomb in the rap song soundtrack. Do you want links to that crap – yes, crap – on your university’s front page?

Dimitri, your scenario is both scary and funny to many, I imagine. If it is true – very scary. If it is a tale of caution, then it is both scary and maybe a bit funny.

I’d say anyone that puts a feed of content they don’t control on their main page is rolling the dice. So, if it did happen, the site’s editors were either naive or gamblers – or both.

Two things. First, social media is a gamble. Second, is anyone surprised that this could happen? I’m not.

To have students write this sort of thing – about sex, alcohol, drugs, or even hatred – in a blog hosted on a university server doesn’t surprise me. Guess it depends upon the university and its personality. If you give blogs to all of your students, you cannot possibly monitor all of them – nor, do you likely want to. Censorship on a college campus doesn’t go down well.

Re: your question “people only want (to) read stuff that’s found wildly inappropriate” – consider the audience. Students? Maybe so. Alumni? Maybe not. Trustees and donors? Nope.  Parents?  Never.

Then consider what students write and post (photos/videos) in Facebook and MySpace, for example. Let’s be real. Primarily, the blogs reach the student audience. Primarily, the main page reaches the stakeholders like donors and trustees. Too simplified, I know, but I’m guessing you see my point.

As for the other questions…

Blogs are bad? No. Like any tool or tactic, they may be used in a positive campaign. The key is to maintain some form of control where you can and then to educate the students about best practices as best you can.

Young people are not fit to shape the brand of the university? Anyone that does not realize that college students are your brand, just doesn’t get it. Some colleges and universities are using blogs and vlogs/podcasts in a positive manner. Will there be embarrassing incidents along the way? Sure. But, the wise college will embark on the adventure – with caution and wise counsel. It is where your audience is.

Embrace social media and use it in a manner that serves your best interests. You can have some control, at least over your own site. Do not allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that it is either easy or absent pitfalls.

For instance, don’t hire the goobers below. 😉 You might want to hire the people that created their video, though.