Social Media Speaks

The relationship of colleges and universities to social media is, obviously, an important one. And, the relationship of college and university presidents to social media is as well. Whether we are talking blogging, tweeting, or tumblr, colleges and universities care. Why? Of course, visibility matters — and visibility matters for various reasons. In part, it is about marketing and ensuring that potential students are reached. In part, the issue is the public role of universities and colleges — serving as a voice within culture for various reasons. Here the question of whether or not presidents have (or should have) a “bully pulpit” — or whether any public intellectuals do in the United States — is  the issue.

While general, all this matters for Chicago and Chicago(land) as well. While we can all interact virtually with people across the globe, the world is not merely about global and globalization. This theme is in tension with the local — think of the local food movement if you are not sure that it is all about the relationships between global and local.

In any case, in addition to my own blogs here at Chicago Now and elsewhere ( I blog at the Huffington Post and here, a more Shimer oriented site), there are other voices to be heard. President Don Laackman of Harold Washington College, for example, blogs. Here’s his site! (I love the name.)

And, of course, admissions offices around Chicagoland have students blogging. This is a way of responding to the yelp-ification of many markets — where consumers (read potential students) determine their choices (read the college they will attend) in part through the stories and input of other consumers (read current students). Examples in Chicagoland include:

The Uncommon Blog at the University of Chicago

I am UIC at the U of Illinois

Loyola Student Blogs at (not surprisingly) Loyola

blog.shimer at (again not surprisingly) Shimer College

Students are even on Chicago Now blogging about the college and university experience across Chicago.

Tweeting matters too. Thus, some college presidents (to use patrick powers phraseology from this piece) “lead 140 characters at a time. ” GIven the academy’s notorious difficulty i talking in sound bites, this in itself is amazing. (Yes, I too have that problem.)  The argument is often that this is a major way of “connecting” — as president — or otherwise — with relevant constituencies as more and more people communicate through twitter. (This author argued this some time ago. And Franklin and Marshall’s president uses social media very effectively to accomplish just this.) Local colleges and universities do, in fact, tweet. Thus, for example: City Colleges are on twitter, as is Columbia College. And, Francis Wood Shimer, one of two founders of Shimer College is among the many dead people who tweet.  (Yes, here is Shimer’s twitter schtick and here is Shimerians unauthorized.)

And this is not even to mention other forms of social media.

Of course, when we are overwhelmed with the amount of communication going on, decisions about how, when and why to communicate matter. Does anyone else spend the morning deleting emails without even opening them from various places that . . . . send marketing emails out every morning? I do. Does anyone else think that potential college students are in need of a break from what must be thousands of marketing emails? I do — and yet, like all other colleges, Shimer too benefits from being readily accessible to them as they make college choices.

For a list of college and university presidents across the US and elsewhere that blog, see this site.

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    Shimerprez is the 14th president of Shimer College at 35th and State. She also blogs at the Huffington Post and at a Shimer Blog called Evocations which can be found on line at She is a University of Chicago Ph.D. who works on religion, the social sciences, gender and sexuality. She reads murder mysteries, is fascinated by the world of food, and also loves the Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York.

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