Students respond to simple communication

By Editorial Board

Reaching 11,992 students is a challenge our Student Affairs Office tackles quite well. The Student Loop was ranked second in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators 2010 Excellence Awards. While similar programs at other colleges garner 10 to 20 percent average readership, The Loop has more than 40 percent.

Although impressive compared to other schools, it is disheartening that less than half of the student body opens The Loop’s weekly newsletters to learn about campus events, other students’ work, special deals and quick news.

There is a disconnect at Columbia between the student body and the campus. Attendance at campus events can be embarrassingly slim, and participation in surveys and contests is usually low.

There are several factors to blame: Columbia is a commuter school, the campus has no student center or central hub, students are too busy, campus events compete against events throughout Chicago—and the list goes on. But some reasons are much simpler.

The most effective way to reach students still seems to be a poster. A weekly e-mail often gets buried in an inbox or in a student’s mind after a day or two. For instance, a poster for a lecture with a noted cinematographer posted in the Film and Video Department garners more interest and immediately reaches the key audience compared to an e-mail sent the Sunday before. These posters are sometimes taken down because Columbia prohibits posting in certain places.

The Loop could benefit from more customizable options within its event listings. Students could choose which departments’ events they would like listed in their newsletter, tailoring it to their interests while streamlining information.

But a weekly newsletter poses other challenges, too. For busy students who need to plan their schedules, a calendar that lists events more than one week in advance would be appreciated.  For more spontaneous students, a week is too far ahead.

More social media could be used by individual departments to address the dilemma of both types of students. The Photography Department’s Digital Lab, for example, has its own Facebook page to promote events. Attendance at photography events is noticeably higher, based on student observations.

We’re sure The Loop has every intention of continuing to improve its impressive system. In the meantime, we want departments to keep the posters coming and consider other direct lines of communication. Despite so many cutting edge ways to communicate, simplicity is still effective.