Communication: The University of Lethbridge Problem No One Wants to Talk About

In the Dec 31, 2016 Lethbridge Herald article, President Mike Mahon of the University of Lethbridge didn’t just bring up parking. He also revealed that the U of L has a communication problem.

“The parking issue also highlighted a need for more work on communication within the university…”

Actually, that isn’t the problem. The University of Lethbridge’s communication problem is simple. They don’t have any communication. You can’t work on something you don’t have.Definition of communication

(Communication Definition)

Communication Versus Broadcasting

At the start of the previous semester, I complained about the U of L’s communication to their Twitter account and was told to follow the notice board. Nice.

First, a notice board isn’t communication. It’s broadcasting. You can’t ask questions, voice concerns, or otherwise have a two-way conversation. Many items on the notice board also fail to provide students with contact information aside from a communications officer that has no authority or ability to make decisions. The U of L also wants to avoid making public any tidbit that could make them look bad. (Don’t worry. I giggled, too.)

Aside from that, the notice board is the equivalent of a toddler tearing pages out of 100s of magazines, mixing them up, and tossing the pile on the floor. Items that are expired or irrelevant hide current items students and faculty need. Filtering only works if you know which tag an item was published under. Or, you assume everything you need to know is under that tag. Click the “Management” tag, for example, and you get a ton of items irrelevant to management. In short, they’re useless.

On the official University of Lethbridge app, the notice board often stops working; items easily found on the app are not easily found on the website, and all these things depend on someone “communicating” the item in the first place. To prove my point, I’d like to discuss a recent security threat.UofL Fails to Notify Report of Shooter

The Potential Campus Shooter No One Knew About

After a series of recent phishing attacks, the University of Lethbridge published a notice and sent emails to warn students. Nothing wrong with that. However, when a suspected shooter had been reported on campus, the U of L said nothing.

Interestingly, Alberta universities made the news a few years back when they created an active shooter presentation and education program. Now, among many other things, the policy states:

“As soon as possible the Crisis Communications Team will issue communications for all employees and students using the University of Lethbridge Emergency Notification System (ENS). The ENS can deliver messages through several platforms including but not necessarily limited to email, the University website (, VoIP telephones, fire alarm speakers, U of L App and social media.”

Odd. Where was the warning?

In a day and age where elementary school children train for these situations, and schools instantly go into lock down, I’m horrified by the idea that ULeth said nothing. When they tested the ENS, I received multiple emails and push notifications, so I know it works. So, what’s the point of all this besides being a waste of money and PR stunt?

This isn’t the first time they failed to notify students about imminent danger, of course. Earlier in 2016, police dealt with an armed individual close to campus, but Uleth said nothing about that incident, either. So, what exactly qualifies as an emergency?

Thankfully, the report of a shooter on campus was a hoax, but what if it wasn’t? Up to 200+ students are in a classroom at any one time — quick work for the right gun. How high does the body count need to be before they tell someone? By notifying everyone of phishing attacks and not saying anything about a potential shooting, are they suggesting that a cyber attack on data is more important than the lives of their students?University of Lethbridge Confusion

(Communication Confusion)

Using Social Media Requires ULeth to Get Its Story Straight First

“It’s not that we don’t use (social media), it’s just that from an organizational perspective, this is a good reminder for us to really push through how best to connect with students so we are on top of how they are thinking about these things. He said administration was surprised by how social media took over and became a large piece of the parking conversation.”

You’re welcome, Mr. President.

When you read that quote, it’s clear they don’t pay attention to what’s going on in social media. They have also never heard of “viral posts”, “Facebook comments”, or know how they work. I also find it deeply concerning that they have no PR team or reputation management specialist to handle these things. This isn’t 1995 anymore. This quote is evidence that they’ve never engaged in any real online conversations at the very least. Disgraceful.

Sure, the University of Lethbridge uses social media, but not well. In fact, it’s a disaster. They have tons of accounts. None of them are linked together, and many of them are defunct. They use social media as a broadcast system more often than a communication system. (Good news is that, when you do ask too many questions (or the right questions), they mute you and stop answering you completely. This not only indicates that you’re on the right track, but they also miss out on posts like these until they’ve been available for quite some time.)

They don’t tell new students about these accounts (part of the useful information students should get on orientation day, but don’t. Instead, university representatives spend that time reassuring new students they chose the right school.) And when students do follow ULeth on Twitter or Facebook, the information they need is rarely shared on these platforms. Again, social media accounts are nothing more than another cog in the propaganda and marketing machine. They don’t know what they’re doing.

U of L’s Communication Strategy? Mass Confusion

When the University of Lethbridge does communicate, the left hand rarely knows what the right hand is doing. When they finally decided to officially open Lot Q to students, for example, no one could figure out what dates and times it was open. They spent several weeks saying it was open at 9am, 8am, and 6am, and that it would be locked at 5pm, 10pm, and open 24 hours a day. There was no shuttle planned. Then, there was. Then, it required a $200 bus pass. (A semester bus pass without parking is $292.) Lot Q was free for a few weeks, the end of the semester, and then, until the end of the month.

The result? Cars were getting locked into the lot. Tickets were being handed out (that they increased to $50 in September), and no one knew what was going on. They had students confused and scared to use it. Then, the university balked when no one wanted to use it. Huh. I wonder why? Strange that. It took a trip to the Student’s Union, and several days of waiting, before it finally got straightened out enough to use.

The best part? By the time the cheaper bus passes and parking were offered, students (including me) had already received their student loans and purchased more expensive parking and bus passes. It was also in the middle of the month, so getting enough money together to purchase them was next to impossible. When many of us were finally able to get enough cash together, the passes were no longer available. Perfect.

Current State of ULeth Communications

When the U of L doesn’t have an answer for a student or member of the public, they use one of three responses:

  • “Not my problem. You’ll have to figure it out.”
  • “Sorry. I can’t help you.”
  • “Speak to the Student’s Union” (Regardless of whether the SU has anything to do with the topic or not.)

Respectful, communicative, and oh-so-helpful, don’t you think? Clearly, that’s a communication strategy to be proud of.

(Featured Image Source)

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