I am the first to admit I spend a lot of time on Twitter. Some could argue too much (I may or may not have been scolded for having my iPhone too close to the holiday dinner table), but how else can I keep up with all the fun that’s going on in higher ed? On one platform, I’m able to follow students, professors, bloggers, deans and student newspapers, gathering all that I need into 140-character snippets. The one group missing? College presidents. I follow three on Twitter: Anthony Monaco of Tufts University, Len Schlesinger of Babson College and Joseph Aoun of Northeastern. So, my question: Where’s everyone else?
Professors have used Twitter to engage students outside of the classroom, so why haven’t presidents? Stereotypically speaking, college presidents aren’t approachable. They only show up at big events, and spend the rest of their time doing what? Getting paid a lot of money. Emphasis on “stereotypically speaking,” of course, but this is what students think. What students want to see are presidents who are engaged, encouraging and present. The easiest way to be present? Hopping on the social media train and getting actively involved on Twitter.
Anyone can make the argument that presidents have bigger fish to fry. Shouldn’t they be working on lowering their school’s cost of tuition and creating a compelling curriculum? Yes, they should. But how hard is it to register for a site and tweet something like —
Those three simple tweets prove that those presidents are involved. They’re cheering their student body on, encouraging others to participate and sparking conversation. They’re proving they’re more than just a shadow. Quite frankly, I only saw my college president twice: the day I started school, and the day I finished when she handed me my diploma. With the cost of tuition rising nationwide, I think every student deserves to see, and openly communicate with, who it is they’re paying thousands of dollars to house and support.
Twitter seems simple, because it is. In 140 characters, presidents can easily show they’re concerned about what their students are doing both on and off campus. Students, past and present, want to feel like they’re part of a community, and how better to create that community than by facilitating it yourself? Plus, if you want to talk to a majority of your students at once, where do you think you’ll find them? Twitter. What else do you think they’re doing when they’re not taking notes in class?
Who’s tweeting for Bentley, MIT, Harvard, Emerson, Boston University, Suffolk and Boston College? Yes, there are staff and faculty involved, but it’d be comforting to see a face to their presidents’ names. I mean, even President Obama’s on Twitter. Sure, he’s probably not the one tweeting, but at least we can pretend he’s accessible. Kudos to Presidents Monaco, Schlesinger and Aoun, however. Now it’s just time for the others to get involved.
What do you think? Should more college presidents be active on Twitter?