Stony Brook’s public relations team took a new angle on bolstering the university’s image by heading to WordPress and creating the “Community of Awesome.”
The Community is a blog run by the Office of the Dean of Students and the student leaders of the Stony Brook Community Pledge. It is supposedly inspired by “1000 Awesome Things,” which is a daily-updated blog of, you guessed it, “awesome” things.
Now, only a few weeks since its October 19 debut, it already has 75 entries saying how great Stony Brook is. And with its pleasantly clean design, simple fonts, a sense of modernity and using students to run it, it’s the perfect PR for this internet-savvy generation.
But there’s a sense of bitterness that comes with its release. It comes off as a slight to students who use a similar website to voice genuine problems they have with the university.
The most popular – and similar – outlet for the campus is SBUThings. Just like the Community of Awesome, SBUThings gets a lot of their content from student submissions, but unlike the Community, not everything they post is awesome.
SBUThings reflects a genuine conversation between Stony Brook students, with posts complaining about sitting in the line for Wendy’s for 30 minutes or being overjoyed that Starbucks is now open until midnight.
The student behind SBUThings is not exactly happy with the Community of Awesome. They see the Community as a bit of a copy, except with a positive spin.
“SBUThings, compared to The Community of Awesome, is somewhere people can come and express themselves on all different levels of emotion, not just putting on a happy face and dealing with it,” the student, whose identity is not made publically available, posted.
What makes SBUThings a good outlet is that it doesn’t have the Dean’s Office meddling in its posts.
The Community may be run by students, but that doesn’t mean it’s not run by PR experts. Denise DeGennaro is a graduate student who is an assistant in the Office of the Dean of Students, and Robert Drago was part of a team that aided President Stanley over the summer in trying to convince the media that the tuition increases were a good idea. This duo is not exactly independent of the university influence.
It is also hard to call such a website a “community” when one side is essentially overlooked. A funny blunder on the university’s part could be considered “awesome.” The same could be said for something like a protest against a university policy.
“Putting on a happy face and dealing with it” perfectly captures the essence of the Community of Awesome. You’re not going to see things like the mirror in the Union men’s restroom that was shattered for weeks before it was finally repaired or the garbage sitting at the bottom of Roth Pond. Nor will you see the fact that Stony Brook is considered a food desert, yet the meal plans have increased in price.
I’d feel more pride in a university that got to work and fixed problems rather than one that tried to convince me that nothing was ever wrong, and that I should go back to looking at awesome things numbers 58 and 74, which are awesome photos of sunsets and clouds.