Hogan's blog one more way to keep in touch with UI students, staff
URBANA – Meet the newest blogger on campus, who has a big corner office and lots of pull on things like tuition.
Michael Hogan, UI president since July 1, launched his blog this week called "PrezRelease."
As blogs go, PrezRelease isn't exactly edgy or ultra-personal. You won't find gossipy tidbits about the university's inner sanctum.
It's more a way for Hogan to communicate with students and employees and, he says, "celebrate all the wonderful events and people on our campus." He also plans to use it to communicate timely information, in addition to e-mail and other mass media.
People seem to enjoy reading blogs on their own time, "rather than having it pushed into their e-mail boxes," he said in an e-mail interview. Blogs also allow him to embed photos or videos.
"We try to use mass e-mail primarily for more time-sensitive and critical information, and it's important to me not to overuse mass e-mail," he said.
Hogan plans to post four times a week, sharing UI accomplishments or his own experiences on campus.
His third post, on Thursday, described the well-oiled machine of campus move-in day, where he and interim Chancellor Robert Easter helped out at several dorms.
"Fortunately, I didn't have to do much heavy lifting. I'm no kid anymore and would rather meet students, parents and my new colleagues here at Illinois before I have to meet the doctors in my new insurance plan," he wrote.
His second covered his trip to the Illinois State Fair with Easter for Ag Day festivities, where they had the winning bid on a prized side of bacon.
"My blog entries will be as diverse as our university culture. Some will salute faculty and student accomplishments, update university initiatives or provide status reports on fundraising and efforts to boost state financial support. Others will be plain old fun but just as important, offering a glimpse of the social side of college life as I connect with people and organizations during my first year" at the UI, Hogan wrote in his first post.
Student Body President David Olsen, a UI senior, called it a "fun way to interact with the president. I think it gives the president a more personal face on campus."
Hogan had a similar blog during his three-year presidency at the University of Connecticut (called "PresRelease"), and before that for two years as provost at the University of Iowa ("ProLog"). He liked that play-on-words but thought "Prez" was "a little lighter and a little more fun."
The tone was similar, what Hogan calls "celebratory." But it could also be serious, as after the death of a student or during a budget crisis, when he'd post his letter to the community, said UConn spokesman Michael Kirk. "It really covered quite a bit."
Hogan used the blog to explain his decision to leave UConn when he was named UI president last May:
"This was a very unexpected development in my life and was not an easy decision to make. I've made many lifelong friends at UConn. ... I will miss all of you and will always think of you as my colleagues, my students, my friends."
Links to the UConn blog are no longer active, Kirk said.
The UI blog has no place to post comments. Hogan said that was mostly a time issue.
"I spend considerable time on e-mail, on the telephone, and in meetings with people each day listening to ideas and feedback on various issues. ... I don't think it would be a good use of the time I have left to manage blog comments," he said. The comments would also need to be reviewed and managed, he said.
Olsen said that's understandable. The UI has plenty of ways for students to contact Hogan or express concerns – the student senate, campus forums, town hall meetings and e-mail, he said.
"This is not about huge issues on campus. This is a way to connect to everyday students," Olsen said.
The blog does encourage people to write to Hogan via e-mail at email@example.com to share information or photos that can be posted on the blog.
His UConn blog also did not include public comments, but he received "quite a few submissions," Kirk said. It averaged about 15,000 hits per month, Hogan said.
Since arriving at the UI, Hogan said, he's received hundreds of welcoming e-mail messages that also expressed concerns about declining state support for the university, the performance of UI athletic teams, financial aid and tuition, and campus employment issues. Some also contain suggestions on how to cut costs and improve programs.
Now that the semester has begun, student e-mails have picked up. They tend to deal with tuition, financial aid and the UI budget.
"For the most part, they're very civil, respectful, and constructive," he said.
Olsen praised Hogan for his accessibility to students, at least so far. Hogan spoke at the student senate meeting Wednesday and committed to attending one meeting a semester, which Olsen called "unprecedented. It's something we haven't seen from presidents in a long time."
In his first blog post, Hogan asked students to "keep those cell phone cameras handy" and take photos if they happened to "bump into each other."
"Ultimately, your faces are our crowning achievement – the faces of our future. And thanks in advance for letting me horn in on the shot."