22 June 2015

What does an institution brag about?

There are times it feels like my university is focusing on all the wrong things.

I may be a grumpy prof, but I’m still a prof. I wondered if it was just my confirmation bias. Is there more coverage of stuff that annoys me, or do I just remember the stuff that annoys me?

I decided to do a little survey. I went to my university’s news site. It had the last four months of press releases up. I went though each one, and categorized the press releases into a few categories. (Click to enlarge.)

It’s understandable that the most common press release was to promote upcoming events. Plays, exhibitions, public lectures, and the like.

I was pleasantly surprised to see student success coming up in second place. Showcasing our students is one of the most important things an institution should do. The plugging and cheering for the other members of the university community – faculty, staff, administration, alumni – was surprisingly even in representation.

Some of the things that I thought was getting more attention than they deserved (those who know me can probably guess) weren’t anywhere near as high on the list as I expected them to be. I probably was indulging in a little confirmation bias, but I’d almost like to do a breakdown of other venues, like tweets and media coverage, before I completely chalk my annoyance at news coverage up to my grumpiness.

This time frame (February to June) included the end of the school year, a time when there are lots of “end of the year” awards. I wonder if the distribution of news would be different in the fall semester.

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