New ‘Dean of BS’ satirizes college

By EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AND ARTS & CULTURE REPORTER

Columbia gained a new—and fake—administrative position via Twitter Dec. 1, whose title is “Interim Dean of Bullshit.” So far, the dean’s contributions to “growsynthesize” the college include tongue-in-cheek tweets poking fun at some topical issues that have been affecting Columbia through the handle @CNewspeak.

As of press time, the interim dean had 47 followers and had sent out 52 playful and “Columprehensive” tweets. Many who do not follow the account interacted with it, shared it on social media or via email.

While the dean remains anonymous and declined in a Twitter direct message interview with The Chronicle to identify with any gender, the photo associated with the account is of an older man. “His” Twitter biography states the following: “Interim Dean of…something at Columbia College Chicago. Applying social media to enhance and facilitate what I exemplify each day as I implement action.”

The interim dean’s tweets cover topics such as the importance of “contempomodernizing” the college so students can “cross-pollinatedly thrive,” the dean’s search for his own lunch rather than outsourcing the task and the riskiness of trying Buffalo Wild Wings’ bourbon honey mustard sauce.

Creating the account was the dean’s way of setting an example for Columbia students, he told The Chronicle.

“As an interim administrator, I deemed it incumbently proactive to take a leading role in building a sustainable social media presence that 21st Century-centered learners will follow before becoming cross-cultural stakeholders of tomorrow’s jobs today,” the interim dean said via Twitter.

He also noted some of his favorite aspects of the college.

“The collegiality of my fellow interim colleagues. The staff who haven’t been eliminated are dedicated. The students strike me as decidedly unconventional—I hope to meet them someday,” he said.

Chris Maul-Rice, an adjunct professor in the Creative Writing Department, said she enjoyed the interim dean’s tweets.

She said the dean’s to-do list—“assess, articulate, engage, compose an email starting with ‘I am pleased to announce,’ harness, maximize”—was her favorite.

“I think @CNewspeak really has [their] finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the administration,” Maul-Rice said.

Even the college—at least officially—was amused. In response to the latest “administrative hire,” college spokeswoman Cara Birch said: “LOL. Excellent #columprehensive #glocal #synergy,” referring to a Dec. 3 tweet by the interim dean in which he announced his creation of the word “glocal,” meaning “a synthesis of global and local.”

Len Strazewski, an associate professor in the Communication and Media Innovation Department, said he thought the account was “hysterically funny.”

“There’s always a little bit of truth buried among the jokes, but it’s fun to follow,” Strazewski said.

To some, the Twitter account is indicative of the college’s climate. Maul-Rice said she thinks the account came about because many employees feel marginalized.

“This kind of comedic relief after so many times to try and engage with the administration is just spot-on,” Maul-Rice said. 

Not everyone enjoyed the tweets as much as Maul-Rice did, though.

Howard Schlossberg, an associate professor in the Communication and Media Innovation Department, said he thinks the user responsible for the account is someone who feels wronged by the college and is trying to make fun of administrative actions.

“I’m just not seeing the fun in it,” he said. “If I had a bone to pick with the administration, that’s not how I would do it.”

This is not the first time Columbia has been affiliated with a satirical social media account. Dan Sinker, a former professor in the former Journalism Department, created a Twitter account parodying Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he was first elected and even gained more followers than the real Emanuel. The account was wildly popular until Sinker’s identity as the user was blown by The Atlantic website in February 2011.

A similar parody overtook the college’s computer screens in November 2005 when a teaching assistant created an animated video series called “Wacky Warrick,” mocking  Warrick Carter, Columbia’s president at the time.

As a former member of the administration, Strazewski said jokes and remarks about administrative actions should be expected. He said he thinks a student runs the account.

“Anything that adds a little levity to the semester is a good thing,” Strazewski said. “There is always a need for comic relief in any institution, certainly at Columbia.”

Along with the slew of comedic tweets, the interim dean shared some of their hopes for Columbia in the interview with The Chronicle.

“[First], I am lobbying to get a Buffalo Wild Wings in the new student center, because I am cognizant of how Columbia students and staff love ‘B-dubz,’” they said. “[Secondly], I received a postcard from Warrick Carter today. He is enjoying his new life working as a lobbyist in higher education for the Koch Brothers, delightfully free of the rigors of telling homeless students to ‘Shut up!’”

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