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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Student ambassadors should be free to tell the truth

    Admission experts say prospective students should not easily trust college ambassadors, especially ones who are paid, according to the Chicago Tribune. No shit.

    It’s sad that anyone even has to ask whether college ambassadors can be trusted, since all universities have an obligation to be honest to prospective students about the true nature of their campus. If there’s a problem at a college, it’s wrong to keep it from those touring to find out information. Even still, these ambassadors seem to cover up whatever blemishes their school may have.

    The main problem is that these students are usually fulfilling work-study obligations, according to the U.S. News and World Report, and are hired to promote a school’s specific communications agenda. But this news isn’t shocking. Prospective students aren’t idiots. High school seniors who go on campus tours have often already received up to three years worth of promotional college propaganda, with every university claiming it’s the obvious choice for higher education. After 50 to 100 brochures and envelopes, students catch on to the fact that each university is pushing a certain agenda, and learn to take information with a grain of salt.

    “Applicants may be unaware of student (ambassadors’) true motivations, but they catch on quickly,” said Michael Staton to the U.S. News and World Report. Staton works for Inigral, a company that markets an app to connect prospective students to current ones. “They’re less aware than they could be, but they can also totally see through bullshit.”

    It’s like how students may read a university-written profile about a distinguished professor, but still check Ratemyprofessors.com to make sure their class is worth taking. Universities wouldn’t market bad information about themselves, so naturally information coming from the source will be biased to some degree. Future students know that and don’t need an app to understand it.

    UA’s Arizona Ambassadors are not paid. Their main responsibilities involve walking students around the university itself, and future students can see and experience campus life first-hand.

    “Our purpose is to portray the UA in a positive light, but we’re definitely honest,” said Chelsea McLean of Arizona Ambassadors. “So if we don’t like food court setup of the Union, for example, we might talk about how much we love Cactus Grill.” So while pointing out negatives isn’t a high priority, ambassadors will answer questions honestly so prospective students should remember to speak up.

    Another problem prospective students encounter is online outreach rather than in-person outreach. If prospective students know a blogger or social networker is being paid to write nice things about a university, the report says future students won’t trust the information.

    There is a simple answer to this predicament: Let ambassadors tell the truth, both in person and online. A good university shouldn’t be afraid of what students have to say, especially since criticism can lead to improvement. Bloggers for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology initially had the same concerns, but they found truth led to trust.

    “MIT was a bit concerned when they first thought about paying bloggers because it would seem like we work for admissions and are brainwashing you guys with pro-MIT propaganda,” said then-blogger Snively on the MIT blog in 2008. “I think through various rants and raves we’ve proven that we don’t just spew MIT propaganda.”

    It’s the university’s duty to let prospective students know all the information about the school — even the bad aspects. Officials shouldn’t be afraid of telling the truth because students will find out anyway. No school is perfect and students who choose to attend one should enroll because they know exactly what they’re getting into. As educational institutions, they should be dedicated to providing uncensored information, not silencing student voices or touting propaganda.

    — Lauren Shores is a journalism sophomore. She can reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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