Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Minnesota Daily Nails University of Minnesota

Provost Sullivan 

On Cynical and Deceptive Strategic Positioning

Public Relations Campaign

Those lads and lassies at the Minnesota Daily continue to go toe-to-toe with the Morrill Hall Gang.

(Congratulations to the new Daily Editor Taryn Wobbema)

From the Daily:

[emphasis mine]

Driven to Deception
Recently, University of Minnesota students got a friendly email from Provost Tom Sullivan. His upbeat message highlighted all of the “remarkable progress” at the University since the beginning of its “strategic positioning” agenda... the administration’s strategic positioning agenda has focused more on manipulating perception of the University than actually improving it.

Strategic positioning is essentially a public relations campaign. It corrupts the ambitious goal of truly becoming one of the top three research universities with cynical tricks so that the University merely appears like it is in the top three. The vapidly titled report, “Achieving Excellence,” is littered with examples.

In that report, the University touts figures that show total financial aid to undergraduates has increased by 50 percent since 2005. Nowhere does it mention that tuition went up by almost exactly that amount in the same period of time. Loans are included in the financial aid numbers, so while the University claims that it is giving students a better deal, cost of attendance and student debt loads are actually rising significantly.

The report pulls the same trick when it brags that research expenditures have risen by $192 million over four years. Spending more does not necessarily mean higher quality, it means just spending more.

It is painfully obvious that the strategic positioning agenda is obsessed with rankings.

[The University should be]  focused on teaching and developing its students once they enroll. Recruiting and graduating students is meaningless if they learn nothing here. Furthermore, too much attention to only academically elite students may come at the expense of other students and fails our mission as the state’s flagship public university to promote access to a quality higher education for all.

Being ambitious is fine, but using cynical and superficial practices to “achieve” that ambition is not. 

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