Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Editorial: The university’s messaging is missing the point

OpinionEditorialEditorial: The university’s messaging is missing the point

BY SHAYNA DEMICK
Co-Managing Mosaic Editor




Exercising apt communication skills in sensitive situations is an incredibly important facet of leadership that the university seems not to possess. Recently, members of The Review have noticed that the university has not been addressing issues in a tactful way. On the university’s website, it claims to value diversity, inclusion and community. The university showcases these values to the public, but does not always do so with its students. 

The university’s public communication channels, like its Instagram, are carefully curated to uplift the university’s reputation. However, the university’s email communications with its student body are not as thoughtfully delivered. Student emails are highly regular and come from several entities such as the Division of Student Life, Student Diversity & Inclusion and Student Wellness & Health Promotion. Though all of these entities’ emails have unique style and content, they have one thing in common: tone-deafness. 

It has started to appear as though the university does not know how to read the room when discussing sensitive topics. An apparent example of this tactlessness is in the April 2023 Student Wellbeing Newsletter.

To announce to students that it is currently Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Student

Wellbeing titled this newsletter, “April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” with a pink rose emoticon at the end of the title. Why Student Wellbeing found the rose to be fitting for such a serious topic is unclear. At the top of the email are two pink boxes containing bulleted lists of the topics included in the email. Each bullet is a rose emoticon, with the first bulleted topic being “Sexual Assault Awareness.” It is clear that Student Wellbeing neglected to see how the email formatting may be perceived by students as invalidating and offensive. 

Another example of the university’s tone-deafness is the Sexual Assault Awareness Month newsletter from Student Diversity & Inclusion. This email is titled, “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” followed by, once again, an emoticon. The emoticon used in this email’s title is a broken heart, conveying the idea that the university does not take the issue seriously. 

It is important to note that while both Sexual Assault Awareness Month emails mention an important topic, only one of them goes as to address the topic in-depth and provide resources for victims and their loved ones. Student Wellbeing’s email contains a section that discusses the “Blue Hen C.A.R.E strategies to effectively and safely take action,” and lists numerous resources for support and assistance. Meanwhile, Student Diversity & Inclusion’s email does not discuss sexual assault and only mentions a Sexual Assault Awareness Month book giveaway. 

It is disappointing that two entities on campus supposedly dedicated to making students feel valued and supported do not care to thoughtfully compose their messaging on such a delicate subject. 

Another profound issue the university failed to properly address was the hours-long campus appearance by the Key of David Christian Center on March 22. The Key of David Christian Center is a non-denominational Christian Church that “preaches” in public areas, with a focus on college campuses. The group caused an obvious disruption to campus life by congregating on the sidewalk in front of the North Green, shouting at students and holding signs containing hateful diction, including slurs toward LGBTQ+ identities. Although the group was legally permitted to occupy the public space, their behavior was undeniably discriminatory to students and evoked a counterprotest. 

An email from the university’s Division of Student Life titled, “Campus Events | April 2–8,” addressed the events from March 22. Student Life’s email did not even address the event in-depth or fully explain what it entailed. Instead, in the third paragraph of the email, Student Life wrote: 

“On Wednesday, March 22, a group came to Newark promoting messages that are in direct conflict with our values of diversity and inclusion at UD. We were both present at the event and proud to see our students leverage their own rights around free speech and assembly to stand up to these uninvited guests without escalating the situation.” 

Student Life should have composed an email dedicated to this event rather than folding it into a standard newsletter. This event gained campus attention and had a significant impact on student well-being, thus deserving an elaborate acknowledgment and reflection. The university should have reassured students of their safety on campus and stated measures that will be put in place so any future appearances by this group or others will be less disruptive and upsetting for students. 

Similar to the previously mentioned emails, Student Life’s email lacked sensitivity or resources for students. The explanation of the incident given by Student Life was oversimplified and should have further condemned the group while extending support for impacted students. 

The university’s communication team needs to refocus some of the energy it puts towards the university’s public portrayal and channel it into making their emails to students far more thoughtful, sensitive and meaningful.

The Review’s editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This issue’s editorial was written by Shayna Demick, co-managing Mosaic editor. She may be reached at sddemick@udel.edu.

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