Chicago State’s Communication Crackdown

The administration at Chicago State University is apparently trying to keep very tight control over the institution. According to an article by Jodi Cohen in the Chicago Tribune:

The publicly funded Chicago State University has instructed its faculty and staff that only authorized university representatives can share information with the media and that everything from opinion pieces to social media communications could require prior approval.

Employees who violate the new policy could lose their jobs, according to a copy of the rules obtained by the Tribune.

This policy is highly unusual. According to Cohen, the new policy applies to “interviews, opinion pieces, newsletters, social media and other types of communications… they must be approved by the university’s division of public relations.” While academic institutions are often very conscious of their media presence, they’re traditionally unconcerned with what their professors might say to journalists.

While it’s odd that professors might potentially have to get twitter feeds approved by “the university’s division of public relations,” what’s really troublesome is that this approval process is potentially so cumbersome as to virtually halt outside communications.

This questionable policy appears to be an attempt to try and contain harmful stories. The institution has been the subject of several negative articles in recent years about its low graduation rate and financial mismanagement.

Apparently Sabrina Land, Chicago State’s director of marketing and communications, sent an email to staff on March 22 indicating that outside communication should be “strategically deployed” in order to “safeguard the reputation, work product and ultimately, the students, of CSU.”

Yea, the students. It’s totally all about protecting the students.

Update: The institution apparently abandoned the policy soon after Cohen’s article came out. The order “had not received proper review and approval through legal counsel prior to being distributed” according to an email sent to Chicago State university faculty and staff.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer