Alumnus interruptus - How Harvard, BU, BC, and others control the message that gets to its graduates — and funding base

Alumnus interruptus - News - The Phoenix
Here are a few excerpts from this story in the Phoenix. A blog, "Harvard Extended", also weighed in on this subject a few months ago. Here is a link to the article in The Wall Street Journal on the same subject.

"...But rather than take pride in the bi-monthly’s stellar 108-year-old reputation, university administrators effectively declared war on Harvard magazine earlier this year when they brought out an in-house competitor. The new rag, The Yard — which Harvard sends four times a year to alumni, big donors, and parents of students — strikes a decidedly more self-flattering tone than its independent counterpart.

Why the change, and why now? In a word, the answer is: fundraising. As the Wall Street Journal reported in June, “fund-raisers determined that Harvard magazine was no longer serving their best interests.”

...Yet in recent years, Harvard, like almost all universities, has been eager to limit how much the public in general, and alumni in particular, learn about what’s really happening on campus.

Boston University’s alumni mag, Bostonia, deserves some credit for an investigative piece on grade inflation in its fall 2006 issue. But recent editions have also been heavy on self-congratulation, running articles such as a profile of BU students who aided Hurricane Katrina victims over spring break, and a puff piece on new president Robert A. Brown’s inauguration, which breathlessly reported that he is committed to “excellence, connectivity, engagement, and inclusion.”

Boston College magazine might take the prize for bias in 2006. In a shameless bit of puffery, editor Ben Birnbaum, also a university vice-president, assigned himself a summer 2006 cover-story profile of his boss, university president Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. The piece, under the pretext of describing a typical week in the life of a college president, mainly reiterated statistics that show a tremendous level of growth under Leahy’s leadership — numbers alumni are already bombarded with during fundraising campaigns. Birnbaum did address the most common criticism of Leahy: that he’s rarely on campus long enough to meet with undergrads. But missing altogether was any line of questioning over matters of much graver significance: increased student and faculty concern over gay rights on campus, for example, or attempts by the president’s office to rein in an independent student newspaper — topics that have captured national media attention and surely would have piqued the interest of most alumni.

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