University leaders reach out
through social media
tweeting presidents? Yes indeed. University
and college presidents are increasingly
using social media to engage with their
constituencies, says Dan Zaiontz, who works
in strategic planning and public affairs at
Seneca College in Toronto.
As a capstone project for his recent master’s degree in communication studies at McMaster University, Mr. Zaiontz conducted
confidential interviews with 22 presidents
( 11 each from Canada and the United
States) about their
social media use.
Twitter was the
most popular platform, with all 22 presidents using it, followed
by Facebook with 16 users. LinkedIn was a
distant third while tools such as Instagram,
Google+, Reddit and Flickr barely registered.
“What I found was that, regardless of
their level of familiarity with the technology,
they were all pretty passionate advocates for
the value of social media in terms of helping
advance their institution’s interests,” says Mr.
Zaiontz. Some presidents did say, however,
that they were anxious about missteps and
negatively representing their university, including alienating key stakeholders.
Dominic Giroux, president of Lauren-
tian University and an active Twitter and
Facebook user, says he’s rarely had negative
experiences with social media – “only once
or twice, where there’s a comment from
someone that’s not appropriate or attacking
someone, which I removed. And that’s it, in
close to five years.”
Not all presidents have such a sunny
view. In his report, Mr. Zaiontz cites Univer-
sity of British Columbia President Stephen
Toope, who controversially told the Ubyssey
student newspaper in 2013 that he “despised”
Twitter and then doubled down in the Van-
couver Sun, saying it “encourages thoughtless,
reactive modes of communication.”
Each to his own, says Dr. Giroux, who
acknowledges that social media use is a
deeply personal choice for senior leaders in
higher education. “I don’t think it should be
forced on anyone … it needs to fit with the
personality of the president,” he says. Most
of the presidents interviewed for the report
agreed, stressing that they didn’t want peo-
ple to write posts or tweets for them if they
made the choice to use the technology.
Whether the presidents used social media to share institutional information, personal details, or a mixture of the two, there’s
definitely more pressure on them to use it,
says Mr. Zaiontz. “We no longer live in a
world where the president can be isolated in
his office. They don’t have the time in their
day-to-day operations and lives to interact
with students, and that’s where social media has become increasingly an engagement
tool.” – cassandra hendry
A house fit for a president
a historic home is up for sale in Winnipeg.
Its previous tenant: University of Winnipeg
President Lloyd Axworthy. The home, in the
historic River Heights neighbourhood, has
been owned by the university for the past six
decades and served as the president’s quarters.
Constructed in 1930, the 3,160-square-foot
house went up for sale March 17.
It used to be a common practice at many
Canadian universities to own a house for the
president, which often doubled as a venue for
fundraising and other events, explains Bill
Balan, vice-president, finance and adminis-
tration at U of Winnipeg and the university’s
chief administrative officer. However, with a
fully renovated Convocation Hall and new
meeting spaces on campus, the need for a
president’s house has diminished, he says. “In
the ongoing examination of university opera-
tions, it has been determined that the house
no longer serves core university needs, and as
such is a disposable asset.”
The house is listed for sale at $789,900.
Proceeds from the sale will go towards other
university capital purposes, says Dr. Balan.
Dr. Axworthy vacated the home last fall after
purchasing a private home.– léo charbonneau
“I don’t think it should be
forced on anyone.
It needs to fit with the
personality of the
From an open letter to the Canadian government by 19 international scholars criticizing the Fair Elections Act, posted on the
Globe and Mail website, March 19.
We believe that this Act would prove [to]
be deeply damaging for electoral integrity
within Canada, as well as providing an
example which … may potentially harm
international standards of electoral rights
around the world.
For sale in Winnipeg