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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Changes needed in urgent communications

Published: September 13, 2013
Section: Editorials

The administration prides itself for its ability to quickly and effectively communicate with faculty and students. Students are frequently reminded of the many channels through which administration promotes its message. These channels include snail mail, email, text alerts, and various blogs across the internet.

One of the most commonly used methods of issuing administrative directives and public service announcements is email. While we have always had a large volume of emails from the university, in the past several weeks, the Brandeis student body has been bombarded with a series of alerts of questionable utility.

There is undoubtedly a time and place for community wide mass communications. For example, inclement weather, schedule changes, and major administrative changes, and student health concerns can justifiably be broadcast to students. But some of the correspondences students have been subject to are reiterations of common sense. These statements create the impression of a patronizing administration which is unmindful of the differing value of certain issues.

Further, when mass communications are so frequently evoked for matters of limited importance, they are less likely to be taken seriously and read, in the event that their contents are of genuine concern to the student body. For example, some students were understandably concerned when Jamele Adams sent out an email warning against the potentially fatal effects of the drug Molly. The discourse contained no information which was news to a reasonably informed student and left many recipients wondering who its intended audience was. The vague email did not contain enough practical information for students.

Another email alerted the student body to an incident in which a girl had been hit by an empty beverage container as she walked down a Waltham street. A common reaction to this email was laughter, that so trivial an event would be framed in so authoritative a memo. If these communications are issued so frivolously, students may be less likely to give them attention when attention it is truly warranted.

We suggest that the administration set a much higher standard of relevance and importance in its future correspondence with students. We further suggest that the university diversify its modes of communication. For example, more text alerts might more effectively convey messages of immediate relevance. Also, emails should be more concise to ensure that their message is well taken and distinguished from other mailings we receive. This will ensure that no time is wasted parsing irrelevant messages and that in the event of a true emergency, Brandeis will be able to effectively communicate.