Editorial: Rowan Administration Must Improve Communication with the Community

The statue of Henry Rowan stands outside Savitz Hall, an administrative building on campus where the Office of Financial Aid is located. - File Photo / Amanda Palma

We can all agree that communication is a vital part of any relationship — and by relationship we mean romantic, platonic, work, school, familial or any other important connections you can think of. Without good communication, one or more parties within said relationship can misunderstand exactly what is required of them to make that relationship work. Within a romantic relationship, this might mean that the wants and needs of one person are not fully expressed to and understood by the other.

But we’re not here to talk about communication within romantic relationships (it’s not yet Valentine’s Day, nor is it particularly relevant to the entire Rowan community to be quite frank). What The Whit staff wants to highlight now is the importance of good communication between the university administration and the student body, and to some extent, the faculty as well.

With a good line of communication between the administration and Rowan students and faculty, professors wouldn’t have to spend virtual class time answering administrative questions instead of teaching their curricula. Specifically, one of our editors spent the first 15 minutes of class discussing the various Rowan policies for COVID-19 testing because students in the class were unclear with when and how frequently they would need to be tested as commuter students. This is not something that should take up class time, and it’s a sign of poor communication.

Along the same lines, good communication would eliminate the need for professors of freshmen classes like College Composition I from explaining pass and no credit (P/NC) options and other administrative nuances. Good communication would help new students navigate the university website, which is convoluted and ranges from mildly to moderately disorganized — even from the perspective of students about to finish their fourth and final year at Rowan.

University administration communicating well with students and faculty would mean that emails from administrators would leave recipients with more information and a sense of security in the university’s actions and decisions, rather than questions and quite possibly a sense of uneasiness that students and faculty would sort out the answers to on their own.

For instance, we were made aware of a series of emails recently sent to faculty by the dean of students regarding in-person classes. It turned out to be a clerical error, but it was not acknowledged until the following morning. Even then, the acknowledging email did not assert what exactly the mistake was, leaving questions and concerns among faculty about how to proceed with in-person classes this Wednesday.

Communication from Rowan’s administration should clearly and succinctly inform the community it serves. Understanding messages from the administration shouldn’t require The Whit’s involvement in decoding them, nor should it necessitate students to actively seek out information.

For instance, information such as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Rowan community seems to be published without the administration actively sharing that information. Would you have known about the university’s official COVID tracker without either actively looking for it or hearing about it from us, other students or faculty?

But here we are. Professors take valuable class time from their curricula to explain the administration’s emails and even the basic requirements for coming to campus during a pandemic. Students struggle to find the information they need to complete basic administrative tasks. Emails tend to confuse students rather than clarify questions.

It seems to us at The Whit that the university administration makes an effort to inform the community, which is vital and invaluable to the relationship between it and the rest of the Rowan community, as we mentioned before. However, time and time again, confusion arises about what is actively shared with students and faculty, and students must take the initiative to look for information that the administration doesn’t announce. Without taking that first step, many students would stay in the dark about administrative action.

As put succinctly by freshman Kim Platt: “I feel like I haven’t received very much information directly from Rowan.” Instead of finding answers with administration, many students like Platt find answers and information through the grapevine of other students and faculty. While this strengthens the communication and thereby the relationship among the Rowan community, the lack of sufficient communication from administration weakens its relationship with students and faculty.

We understand that the university administration is putting forth effort to inform the Rowan community, which we respect. One example of this effort to communicate is evident in the hosting of town hall meetings to brief the university community on the return to Rowan in the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, which The Whit has covered. But we believe that much can be done to improve the quality of communication to students and faculty to eliminate uncertainty.

For one, the administration could take the time to communicate messages that concern the entire university on all available platforms: email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other social media accounts at their disposal. This would eliminate misunderstandings and ensure that everyone consistently receives information, as many students do not check their Rowan email regularly or at all, and other members of the community may not follow Rowan on social media.

Another step Rowan’s administration could take is to utilize a system similar to the texting services that send out emergency messages to the community for other important information. As a large majority of people have their cell phones on them at all times, texts would be the fastest and most convenient way for the administration to communicate with students. Taking this even further, Rowan could outsource a survey to find out how most students and faculty get their news so they can best gauge what avenues of communication to pursue.

There are so many options available to make sure the Rowan community gets the information it needs from administrators, but they will only be viable if these messages are communicated in clear and succinct ways, something that can only be done on the administrative side.

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