Babson College President Len Schlesinger extended an invitation to his campus: “Hope to see you tomorrow at 10:30 AM to Meet the Sharks..watch two Babson students pitching their best ideas to Daymond John and Mark Cuban!”
In case you didn’t notice, that invite to a taping of “Shark Tank” is 140 characters long. It’s a tweet from one of the few college presidents who regularly shares his thoughts via Twitter. And Lauren Landry, who covers higher education for a Boston news site, can’t figure out why Schlesinger is the exception and not the rule.
“I’m able to follow students, professors, deans and student newspapers, gathering all that I need into 140-character snippets,” she writes. “The one group missing? College presidents. I follow three on Twitter…. So, my question: Where’s everyone else?”
Stereotypically speaking, says Landry, college presidents aren’t approachable. Which is a shame because students, prospective students and their families “want a president who is engaged, encouraging and present. The easiest way to be present? Hopping on the social media train and getting actively involved on Twitter.”
Online journalist Amanda Walgrove agrees: “Twitter provides a viable platform on which to connect with students, colleagues, alumni, student-run groups, college offices and even prospective attendees. Presidents of small or private institutions can use Twitter to build upon the intimate, individualized values of their educations, and presidents of major institutions can use the opportunity to provide a voice for their schools through personal pages.”
But what about those who would advise their presidents to avoid Twitter because of the growing number of fake presidential tweeters? Like the pretend president of the University of New Hampshire who scolded students, “With the way you guys get excited about an 80 degree day, you make me wonder why the hell you didn’t go to school in Florida.”
All the more reason, say Landry and Walgrove, to establish a real Twitter account and offer your campus community the observations, insights and inspiration of your president.
Read more about our authors. Ray Ulmer, public relations director at TargetX, has been involved in higher education marketing for more than 25 years, including serving as executive director of communications at La Salle University and director of public relations at Drexel University. He has also worked in corporate marketing and advertising.