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Ten with Ken (Video)

Ken Steele is Canada's most trusted higher ed monitor and futurist, and in this webcast he rounds up emerging trends, research data, best practices and innovative new ideas for higher education. (For HD version see YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo or Facebook. Audio only podcast version available separately.)
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Now displaying: February, 2016

For more information about Ken Steele's speaking and facilitation services, an archive of articles and white papers, and a database of bright ideas, please visit www.eduvation.ca

This podcast is also available on iTunes or on YouTube. For exclusive early access to future episodes, please subscribe to our free email newsletter, the Eduvation Loop

Feb 24, 2016

Last week, Ken Steele looked back at some major PR headaches sparked by students and faculty, from white student unions to a blogging board member. https://youtu.be/qn0ylCsR9Jw

But some of the biggest media relations migraines of all start at the top, with board chairs and presidents.

It’s a considerable risk for a multi-million-dollar organization to rest its reputation squarely on the shoulders of a single individual. Last year Subway’s spokesperson, Jared, went to prison on child sex charges. And the president of a small Christian college in South Carolina resigned in disgrace over his sexual indiscretions.

At Western University, president Amit Chakma’s double pay made headlines in 2015, but he had done nothing wrong in accepting a contract with administrative leave. The bigger issue was that the board committee normally responsible for negotiating such contracts was bypassed, and the board chair, Chirag Shah, seemed responsible. A task force made 22 recommendations for governance reform at Western, and Shah stepped off the board at the end of his term last November.

The year’s biggest PR headache, though, was the abrupt resignation of UBC president Arvind Gupta, only a year into his term. The board hired a passionate reformer with a bold agenda. Gupta didn’t have the usual university administration experience, but instead had founded Mitacs, a fairly small nonprofit. From the beginning, Gupta made it clear he wanted to make UBC more relevant to the needs of society, and he knew that driving change would make some people uneasy.

The board itself started growing uneasy, with the departure of senior executives like provost David Farrar, and rumblings of poor morale across the institution. There were controversial, perhaps political, appointments made to the president’s office. Board chair John Montalbano wrote strongly-worded emails to Gupta, urging him to “refrain from thinking controversial thoughts out loud,” and expressing concern about his “willful disregard for the board’s authority.” With the leaking of these emails, in January 2016, Gupta went public with his side of the story, expressing regret that he didn’t push back harder against the board, and instead chose to resign.

The abrupt departure of a president, after significant executive changes and barely concealed friction with the board chair, would have been bad enough for the media relations people tasked with managing the situation. But then, business professor Jennifer Berdahl wrote a blog suggesting that Gupta lost a “masculinity contest.”

The blog itself might have gone unnoticed amid a storm of speculation, if not that board chair Montalbano took exception. He felt “hurt” that accusations of racism and sexism were being hurled by a professor he knew personally. And so, one fateful day, he called her to discuss the blog directly. Montalbano claimed he was extraordinarily careful, throughout the call, to confirm that Berdahl felt comfortable discussing the blog, and that she did not feel her academic freedom was being threatened or compromised.

But a few days later, Berdahl either changed her mind or found her voice, and a new blog railed against Montalbano’s attempt to intimidate her and suppress her right to academic free speech. She went to the media, and claimed he threatened to discuss the “trouble she was causing” with her dean. Ultimately a fact-finding investigation agreed with Berdahl, and Montalbano stepped down from the UBC board in August.

 

Global News interview with Arvind Gupta: http://globalnews.ca/news/2484938/watch-one-on-one-with-former-ubc-president-arvind-gupta/

 

Global News interview with John Montalbano:

http://globalnews.ca/video/2173090/extended-ubc-board-chair-john-montalbano

 

CBC interview with Jennifer Berdahl:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2673915157

 

Some of the biggest dysfunctions on college and university campuses occur when outsiders attempt to push an agenda without truly appreciating the subtleties of academic politics. It’s vitally important to recognize that universities aren’t so much hierarchies, as loose democracies.

Even after someone is fired, the media migraine can continue. Last year, former president Ralph Weeks sued Medicine Hat College for wrongful dismissal in 2013, and Ilene Busch-Vishniac sued the University of Saskatchewan too.

Scandals and controversies can explode in the media like a reputational bomb. There’s no point attempting to bury an inconvenient truth on campus, because it will always surface, and when it comes to light the damage will be even worse. It’s always preferable to identify potentially explosive issues early, be proactive in treating them, and transparent in reporting them to the campus community. Best to find the bomb and defuse it, than have it go off unexpectedly and take everyone by surprise.

BTW, Ken Steele is available to facilitate workshops or present at conferences and on campuses about PR headaches and how to manage media relations in a crisis. More information at http://eduvation.ca/pr-headaches-how-to-treat-them/

 

#ICYMI, this week we feature an excerpt from UNB Fredericton’s “dog’s eye view of campus” featuring Lucy. https://youtu.be/aaxJwxOKrQk

For exclusive preview access, a week early, to future episodes of "Ten with Ken", be sure to subscribe to Eduvation's "in the loop" email newsletter, at http://www.eduvation.ca/subscribe/

 

Feb 10, 2016

This week, Ken Steele looks back at some of the biggest PR headaches afflicting Canadian colleges and universities in the past year, looking for common causes and some lessons we can learn about crisis communications.

Academia may well be the most challenging environment in which to manage messaging, with opinionated faculty, unrestrained students, and concerned parents, alumni, and taxpayers in the community.

Without a doubt, many PR headaches are caused by the students, intentionally or not. In previous episodes we’ve looked at sexist behavior in social media and during orientation, but Dalhousie’s School of Dentistry struggled with the biggest PR headache of 2015, when 13 male students posted sexist, misogynistic remarks to a supposedly private Facebook group. Protests, suspensions, a task force – in all, it cost the school about $650,000. And the underlying culture of sexism should have been addressed years earlier.

CBC’s “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” parody commercial – https://youtu.be/RtffrcWeMf0

Last year the University of Toronto had to ramp up campus security in the wake of a series of online threats posted by an anonymous user named “Kill Feminists.” The University of Ottawa coped with the fallout of the alleged sex assault by male hockey players, and a $6 million class action lawsuit. Several universities tore down posters for “White Students Unions.” 2 Montréal CÉGEPs had to cope with more than a dozen students leaving Canada to join Jihad.

But of course, students aren’t the only creative, intelligent and outspoken people on your campus. Last year we saw plenty of PR headaches caused by faculty members, too.
In the UK there was Nobel-prize-winning biochemist Tim Hunt, and his ill-advised attempt at humour about the distraction of women scientists in the lab. (His botched apology made things far worse, and cost him his job.) In Ontario it was St Lawrence College business professor Rick Coupland, who was fired for violent homophobic comments last summer.

At Carleton University, biology professor Root Gorelick has caused a stir with his blog, commenting on his experiences as a member of the university board of governors. He sees himself as elected by faculty, with an obligation to his constituents, but the rest of the board and the administration are concerned about the ways in which his blogs do not always agree with the official minutes. He is accused of attacking the personal integrity of fellow board members. Carleton has put in place a new code of conduct for board members, making it clear that governors must not criticize decisions once they have been made. Several campus groups are concerned that Gorelick may be removed for his refusal to sign this “gag order.”

It seems pretty clear that when students or faculty behave badly, the institution needs to condemn their actions swiftly and unambiguously, suspend the perpetrators, start a thorough investigation, and possibly a restorative justice process. The institution may have to address the problem, through enhanced campus security, harassment policies, or codes of conduct. Sometimes swift action will lead to accusations of overreaction, such as at Ottawa and Dalhousie, where potentially innocent students are considered guilty by association. But these responses seemed to be the most popular approach in 2015.

Next time we’ll look at some of the most serious higher ed headaches of all. And as the metaphor might suggest, they often start at the top, with presidents and board chairs.

Meanwhile you might like to check out our review of the biggest higher ed headaches of 2014 - https://youtu.be/TJaZsXv68s4

Ken Steele is available to facilitate workshops or present at conferences and on campuses about PR headaches and how to manage media relations in a crisis. More information at http://eduvation.ca/pr-headaches-how-to-treat-them/

#ICYMI, check out ASAP Science’s a capella parody of Taylor Swift’s hit song, which they called “Science Style” - https://youtu.be/sWwd5vks9n8

For exclusive preview access, a week early, to future episodes of "Ten with Ken", be sure to subscribe to Eduvation's "in the loop" email newsletter, at http://www.eduvation.ca/subscribe/

Feb 3, 2016

This week, Ken Steele completes his countdown of the ten biggest trends impacting North American higher education in 2015, with the top 4: from political correctness and personal safety to major demographic shifts.

If you missed part 1, check it out first: https://youtu.be/bziLQbNEXcI

Trigger Warning: The topics of trigger warnings and sexual assault may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.


4) Indigenous Content:

Even before the recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, institutions began announcing new mandatory indigenous content in their curricula. Students at the University of Winnipeg proposed mandatory courses in indigenous history or culture. Lakehead University announced that it would introduce indigenous perspectives into courses across all faculties. UBC’s Sauder School of Business and the UBC Okanagan School of Nursing both announced that they would be integrating Aboriginal content. The new president at the University of Saskatchewan declared that he would make indigenization his top priority. And the Law Faculties at UBC and Lakehead had both established mandatory courses in Aboriginal Law and intercultural training.


3) Zero Tolerance:

Last year we saw significant mainstream attention being paid to microaggressions on campus, and ongoing debate about trigger warnings for the curriculum. Faculty, most of whom are Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, are alarmed by the rising tide of political correctness and its potential to undermine academic freedom and free speech on campus. Generation Y students, on the other hand, take free speech for granted, but in a social media era have learned to retaliate against even the subtlest prejudice with a firestorm of outrage. Last year, several top comedians declared that they would no longer perform on campuses because students just couldn’t take a joke. A controversial prof at Laurentian asked his students to sign a waiver acknowledging coarse language in his lectures. Universities introduced microaggression training in their faculty orientations, collective agreements, and more. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms ranked Canadian universities and gave 15 universities and 26 student unions grades of “F”.


2) Sex Assault Protocols:

Although long-term trends in the incidences of sex assault on campus are debated, we saw an immense public spotlight focused on the issue last year. First there was the fallout of a discredited campus rape story published (and then retracted) by Rolling Stone magazine. The release of The Hunting Ground, a full-length documentary about Ivy League schools covering up rape to protect their brands. A Columbia student carrying a mattress with her everywhere on campus, including to her graduation. Task force recommendations at the University of Ottawa, in the wake of a sex assault that resulted in the suspension of its men’s hockey team. Rape allegations at Royal Military College. And then there was the CBC’s ranking of colleges and universities based on sex assaults reported in the previous 5 years. Across the country, presidents announced task forces and new policies and protocols, student unions and mental health services launched awareness campaigns and bystander intervention programs. There are even smartphone apps designed to secure affirmative sexual consent in the heat of the moment.

Full official trailer for The Hunting Ground: https://youtu.be/GBNHGi36nlM

Full ad for Alberta’s #IBelieveYou: https://youtu.be/VruBjg_dc2Q


1) Peak Campus:

Most significant of all, last year there was just no denying that enrolment was plateauing or declining at many campuses across North America. In the US, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that college enrolment declined in 2015 for the third straight year, particularly at 2-year community colleges and for-profit institutions. The University of Phoenix had lost half of its students between 2010 and 2015, a whopping 250,000! The Council of Ontario Universities reported declines of about 5% in applicants province-wide over 2 years – and more remote institutions like the University of Windsor or Lakehead saw drops of up to 19%. The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission reported a 1% decline in enrolment after 4 consecutive years of growth, and smaller campuses in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were particularly hard hit.

Check out Ken’s white paper, Peak Campus, for more detail:
http://eduvation.ca/2013/09/peak-campus/


Next time we’ll round up the top higher ed headaches of 2015. For exclusive preview access, a week early, to future episodes of "Ten with Ken", be sure to subscribe to Eduvation's "in the loop" email newsletter, at http://www.eduvation.ca/subscribe/

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