Columns / Discourse / March 2, 2016

Thoughts from the embers: Administration needs to focus on social media

There is a disconnect between the students and the administration.

As new students rely more on social media for communication, news and information, it seems as if the administration is reluctant to pick up on the trend.

We understand this may be reflective of a greater generational change; rapid technological innovation often makes it difficult for larger groups and institutions to shift strategies to embrace the digital world. On the other hand, social media and new forms of reporting have been greatly utilized as a tool to mitigate communication and pass information more efficiently between groups.

As far as this campus goes, we believe college officials’ slow progress to embrace new methods of digital communications is detrimental to the relationship students have with the governing heads.

Although there has been talk about becoming more ssocial media-friendly — specifically, in Teresa Amott’s 2018 Strategic Plan — students’ primary medium for substantive information on major issues comes from official emails. The issue of email, however, is low readership and engagement. Students are hardly inclined to read through a lengthy mass email, and their responses to important emails is evident in past surveys. Earlier this year, only 37 percent of seniors responded to the email regarding this year’s commencement speaker, which is not representative of the class.

The lack of communication can also be attributed to students’ lack of awareness of various campus-wide events. This year’s State of the College, for example, was not advertised by the school and had a low student turnout besides the senators themselves. When asked about the lack of advertising for the event, President Amott deferred to Student Senate President senior Charlie Harned, who then deferred to the TKS editors in attendance.

First off, advertising an official college event is not the sole responsibility of the college newspaper. Second, this raises the question of how the administration can expect to engage with students if they don’t make themselves accessible in the first place.

On sites like Twitter and Facebook, important information about the college will often come from unofficial second-hand sources, such as friends and peers. Even then, students looking to get information via social media from campus are limited by the friends or following they have. The gap in communication can lead to an increased use of other forms of online message boards, such as Yik Yak or BuzzFeed, as a way to discuss how they feel and be heard by others — something President Amott specifically criticized in her State of the College address.

This isn’t to say that the college social media accounts aren’t active. On the contrary, the Knox College Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are entertaining and nice, but more geared towards prospective students than current students themselves. The information is promotional, and not necessarily substantive on major issues.

This lack of an accessible platform for college officials creates a vacuum that can make students feel unheard and unimportant.

Finally, the distance between students and the Board of Trustees creates yet another fissure on campus. We are aware of the important work the Board does for Knox, but the lack of information we receive from them keeps us in the dark and unaware of the decisions they make on the college’s behalf. Other than a Trustees meeting recap, which hasn’t even happened following February’s meeting, there are hardly any ways for students to understand what decisions are being made by the higher-ups.

Luckily, student outreach doesn’t have to be a major campaign. Rather, making smaller accommodations to make us feel more included would help to shift the mentality on campus. Utilize President Amott’s Facebook page; post to social media the links to important addresses and memorandums, rather than just emailing messages out; making posters for forums and speeches — that isn’t even technological, but it’s still effective. Lastly, look at what students are doing to get their message across. Understand how are students reaching out to other students, and utilize their platforms.

The Knox Student is willing to help in this process, but we should not be the administration’s only means of passing information about major issues to the rest of campus. Rather, the responsibility to convey important messages should fall to the speaker itself.

Outreach to students, especially via social media, is key to maintaining a more open and consistent stream of information.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  administration Buzzfeed charlie harned Knox College social media Teresa Amott The Knox Student thoughts from the embers twitter YikYak

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