University web, social and marketing workers have an important role to play in the turbulent political and social climate now gripping the country, Georgy Cohen argued Monday at HighEdWeb17.
During a session titled “This is Not Fine” Working on the Web in Higher Ed in Uncertain Times” Cohen issued a call for universities to advocate for everyone in their communities, combat racist behaviors and defend the powerful work being done for good on America’s campuses.
“Increasingly Higher Ed is a battlefront and the very purpose of higher education is being called into question,” Cohen said.
In that battle, higher education web professionals have more power than they might realize, Cohen said. She encouraged attendees to find ways to get involved with their work.
“We don’t have the luxury of disinterest or inaction,” she said.
Cohen detailed actions that attendees could take in order to show where their universities stand. They include:
- Promoting and sharing statements from your university leaders on the web and on social media.
- Using good information architecture on the web to offer easily accessible options for people in the community who may be having a crisis or need other help.
- Developing relationships with other parts of campus so that you can better coordinate responses during times of crisis.
- Bringing the power of your professors and researchers to bear on the public consciousness.
“In the era of fake news, context and clarity and facts have never been more important…the work your institutions are doing is vital,” to contributing to the public discourse, Cohen said. Schools should focus on bringing their research and news to distinct audiences, both the scholarly and the general public, Cohen said.
“Assert the value of your intellectual product,” she said. That can be tough in a time where the president is tweeting about cutting university funding for schools he finds problems with, but the work is still vital, Cohen said.
- Demonstrating to International students, minority communities and others that you care by highlighting their stories on the web, and offering them resources for help if they have questions about political issues such as DACA repeal. Cohen said schools should tell meaningful stories that balance authenticity and aspiration, establish context and consider the full range of diversity.
Cohen also encouraged attendees to focus on self-care, because of the intense nature of the political climate. She advocated for unplugging, sharing the work load with others at your school and guarding against apathy and complacency.
That’s especially important because there’s a lot of work to be done, she said.
“Your work matters. York work matters a lot,” Cohen said.