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Faculty blogging bridges gap

By Kimberly Chin

Some university presidents are looking for another way to bridge the gap between their students and themselves, through blogging.

College administrators have said it is a better way to "connect with the campus community," and it makes their campuses seem "cool."

When the president of Trinity University, Patricia McGuire, caught a student snitching on another via e-mail, which linked to the college's Web site, McGuire rebuked the student, according to an article from The New York Times. She then wrote in her blog, "Why is [the student] sending me this kind of information about something a student is posting online?"

Initially, colleges have tried to restrict what faculty and students say online but now, college administrators like McGuire are beginning to pick up on the generational divide and start blogging.

"I think faculty blogging would allow for better communication between students and faculty," said Meg Wordward, a sophomore. "Also, I feel blogging is an easier way for students to communicate because many of them have unlimited access to the Internet."

Although some faculty bloggers try to keep it safe by praising their programs and urging students to participate in college activities, some are using blogs for controversial topics.

Lou Anna Simon, president of Michigan State University, wrote in her blog her condemnation of a campus event called, "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day," which included students acting as illegal immigrants getting caught. The student group that organized the event was dismayed by the president's attack and said, "The blog inhibited free speech," and "no professor or administrator should express an opinion publicly."

John Cotton, a lawyer who works with university administration, agrees and advises faculty to take caution. He told The Times, "If trustees are dissatisfied with a president, blogs offer adversaries ready ammunition. A casual comment taken out of context, a longstanding, problem not addressed or a politically controversial position can all torpedo a president."

Blogs open gates to another flood of criticism for faculty members. "It exposes the president to all kinds of unfair and unwarranted criticism," said Cotton.

Julian Ku, an associate professor at the University School of Law, co-founded a blog two years ago called OpinioJuris.org. Ku does not write about the University, however, but his entries are about his career field of international law and politics.

People acting anonymously can also write aggressively to defame universities. On March 31, an anonymous University student wrote a blog entry at HofstraNo.Blogspot.com, warning those looking for a college to not attend the University.

Although The Chronicle was unable to reach University President Stuart Rabinowitz about blogging, Woodward said that she thinks it is a good idea to start. "[Blogging would allow] better communication with the administration, which is often very hard to contact."

Melissa Connolly, vice president of University Relations, however, said that blogging is present through Blackboard and that some professors have already created their own sites as a form of communication.

"Although I can't say that blogging has become a trend in colleges, I can say that many faculty members use Internet message boards as a way of getting in touch with students, giving lectures or sharing their own academic input."

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