Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rule Number One of the Internet

Rule number one of the 21st century is that you cannot control the internet unless you are China or North Korea and only maybe then.  When UC Davis tried to get its bad PR off the net, this happened:
Yep, the top entry for searching for UC (not even UC Davis) is pepper spray.  So, well done, UCD.

It is not that dissimilar from when universities tell bloggers not to blog.  It just does not work, as both the internet and those who dwell on it cannot be censored much.  The examples of UCD, UBC and even Carleton demonstrate that administrations just don't get it--that trying to restrict what goes/stays on the internet has the opposite effect as the linked article suggests.  This should not be that surprising, but yet many higher ups just have not gotten it.  Maybe when hiring for upper level admin, applicants should be given a basic internet test and see if they can figure stuff out.

Why? Because the internet has made that whole idea that the cover up is worse than the crime a much bigger deal since efforts to cover up tend to produce much outrage that spreads pretty widely. 

If I were an adviser to a university president/provost/governing board, my first piece of advice for any crisis would be: suck it up.  Trying to deny is unlikely to work, and telling people to shut up will not work, especially when those people are cranky folks who expect to be able to say what they want.  Academic freedom may be fuzzier than profs think, but the basic expectation profs have about being free to say what they think means that telling them to shut up is not going to work.  And now they have platforms which can be their megaphones.

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