Retrenchment, Day 27

One of the things I have wondered about, especially since classes began, is what students think about all the chaos at BSU. I haven’t hid the fact that I’m being retrenched, but I haven’t gone out of my way to talk about it, either. I had a chat after class a few days ago with a student who is part of the Student Senate. I asked whether and what students (or at least student government) had been told about the situation. It didn’t sound like much.

A colleague of mine mentioned a day or so ago that students in his classes seemed a bit less energized and sharp for the first week of classes. I’m not sure about my students yet. We had good attendance in the US I survey, but people didn’t really catch on to what I asked them to do regarding annotating primary sources and discussing them on Friday. This week will be a better indication of that, I think.

Meanwhile, I don’t think the administration has really reached out to the student body as a unit and explained what’s going on. Maybe I’m wrong. After all, they claimed to have had students in their focus groups that led to what my colleague called the “push-poll” that came out recently. Although who knows, maybe they were Northern Technical College (NTC) students rather than BSU. Their opinions about the future aren’t irrelevant, especially if we’ll eventually be merging. But NTC is not retrenching.

As I’ve said before, I think at least existing students should be considered members of the BSU community and stakeholders, rather than just a market to be sold the product of our classes. At the very least, they should be apprised of what the situation looks like from an administrative perspective. They are trusting BSU to be around long enough for them to complete their programs. And who knows, they might have a different perspective on the issues and even about possible solutions and “strategic priorities”.

I’ve been a salesman in the past, in the full-on Glengarry Glen Ross type office. I understand how the job is so grueling and horrible that you start thinking of the prospect as an adversary or even an enemy. Even if you’re not trying to defraud them and rip them off. And I know marketing is a bit different from direct selling. You are casting a much wider net, so you can afford to be a little less focused on the “close” and put more effort into giving a lot of people an opportunity to buy rather than jamming your foot into every door that opens an trying to force an outcome. However, when the situation becomes dire, even marketers can become desperate. I think the lack of an effective marketing campaign over the last several years may have driven BSU’s marketers to that point, in addition to making them a bit rusty on how to do it at all.

But on the other hand, I wouldn’t exactly want their job right now. What are they supposed to tell prospective students about the university? What programs should they promote? Which ones could they confidently say will definitely exist long enough for a student to get a bachelors degree? I can think of a couple that will almost certainly survive. But what type of campus experience could they promise? It’s a tough question and a difficult job. I’m not an expert on it. I’m not making six figures by claiming to be competent to figure it out. But someone is, while I’m getting retrenched. It’s time for them to get to work!

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