I know we’ve all been watching it. The slow accumulation of student frustration via social media regarding the lack of school delays or closings. Some ask for updates, while others openly - and explicitly - chastise schools for not considering their commutes and their safety. As community managers, I’m sure our own frustrations are growing, not about the lack of closings, but about the lack of power we have to respond.
It’s the same question we seem to discuss more than others regarding university led social media: if community managers aren’t given the ability to be transparent regarding student concerns, what good is our use of this media channel? It was created to engage students, to respond to their concerns and help them navigate their time at our university, no?
In thinking about this, I wondered what other schools do in these situations. How deep do they respond to students, or do they just let them ‘cry it out’ and simply air their grievances without an answer? Perhaps there are a few first steps we could make towards greater transparency in these situations:
Explain the delay/closing policy used by the powers that be. Many students place their frustrations on the source of the message. Letting them know who truly makes the decision doesn’t move the blame, but lets them know that the decision comes from the very top and not by school or department. Maybe there are multiple extenuating circumstances regarding closing that could be explained. At the very least, it shows that there are several pros and cons to weigh: safety, getting classes in before the end of the semester, giving students the classes they pay for, etc. and the value placed on them.
Ensure that everyone knows how to receive the most up to date closing information. It may seem obvious, but sometimes students don’t know where to find closing information, especially if its buried deep on your web site. Remind them periodically where to find this information and how to sign up for your alert system.
Provide a way for students to air their issues to the decision makers. Why not? If students have issues, they should be able to let decision makers know. We should empower them to have their voices heard, solidify their argument and gain confidence for defending their stance.
Yes, we’ll never take care of everyone’s issues, and there will always be those who complain even with these measures in place. But instead of radio silence, providing information via social media helps students not only take control of their problems, but should be the reason we opened the lines of communication in the first place.
How have you been dealing with student concerns this blustery season? Any blow back from your efforts or lack of? Do you see more vocal students in Twitter or Facebook?