Government isn’t the only institution that is having a hard time in the age of WikiLeaks. Universities are feeling it too, albeit in different ways.
Perhaps no entity understands this better right now than Duke University. This year, at least three extremely embarrassing episodes have gone viral on the Internet.
First was the College Republican’s feud with their former president Justin Robinette, fraught with allegations of sexual orientation discrimination. Then came Karen Owen’s rather sexual and descriptive “thesis.” And shortly thereafter, sexist e-mail invites to Halloween parties that were printed and posted on campus. All of these got play on websites like Gawker, Salon and even more traditional news outlets like Time.
Duke is getting a bad rap, but colleges around the country are vulnerable, especially so because students seem prone to doing stupid things. The college culture stereotype of living to excess hardly helps.
And activities that maybe a decade ago would have been isolated are picked up and run far and wide by websites that need only perform a Google search.
Even efforts to stem the public relations bleeding are ridiculed, evidenced by Gawker’s recent story, “Duke President Begs Duke Students to Stop Embarrassing Themselves.”
The moral of this story, though, is not that universities should ramp up monitoring information. It’s simply that we must recognize we live in an age of unprecedented, if involuntary, transparency.
And it’s only going to get harder for institutions, especially colleges, to shape a narrative about their schools that belie reality.
Students should realize that secrets are very much a thing of the past. If they have pride in their school, the best thing to do is act accordingly.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.