I'm just back from a week-long media trip to DC and my in-box is overflowing, as is usually the case after such trips. Interesting that perhaps a third of the several hundred emails discuss Yale's new admissions video. As many of the questions in said emails are rather similar, I thought I'd just write an FAQ blog entry instead of responding individually. Here goes.
• "So, what do you think of it?"
I think it's rather brilliant.
• "Don't you think it's cheesy?"
I think that's the point. It's pretty obvious to me that the folks who conceived and produced this project knew exactly what they were doing, and they happened to do it really well. Glee is cheesy too, but I (and 8 million others) can't wait to tune in each week and watch it. It's fun, it's silly, and the songs make their way into your subconscious to the point that you find yourself randomly singing them on a regular basis. Try that with a viewbook.
Also realize that colleges spend an extraordinary amount of time and resources countering false stereotypes: Oberlin students are all freaks (wrong!)... MIT students are all geeks (wrong!)... Yale students are all elitists who take themselves way too seriously (wrong again!). This video does a great job of debunking the latter and showing Yale to be what it really is: a bunch of creative, talented people with widespread interests and backgrounds who all really love their school.
Note that this video is pretty much the only thing that anyone in national admissions and/or communications circles has talked about for the last week. 200,000 views in the first few days... I would say "mission accomplished," no?
Well done, Yale.
• "We could have done so much better."
This one drives me crazy.
Could our imaginative and talented students have created a better High School Musical-inspired video? Perhaps. But you didn't. (And now you can't, because you'd just be seen as copying Yale.) In any case, saying stuff like this just makes you look jealous.
According to the site, "all filming, editing, and vocal recording was done on Yale's campus exclusively by Yale students." In other words, Yale's Office of Communications didn't give some high-priced vendor a small fortune to come onto campus and make this. Yale students took it upon themselves to write, rehearse, and film it... because they love their school and apparently it was worth their time to express that fact to the world.
If you think you can do better, nothing is stopping you from proving it. Conceive a terrific, original idea and make it happen. Network with other students and media-savvy alumni. Tap into resources in the Con, Cinema Studies, TIMARA, etc. But please... more action and less postulating.
I would be absolutely thrilled if I could convince the overall student body to be as actively invested in Oberlin's future as the hundreds of students behind the Yale video clearly are in Yale's. Of course we have some amazing, dedicated students on our side - but nowhere near enough.
• "But we're too busy saving the world. And isn't communicating Oberlin your job?"
Sustaining the ethos of Oberlin and the pipeline of people who truly belong here is, in my opinion, a big part of saving the world. And no, I can't communicate the scale of that by myself. People need to see it, not just hear it. That's why I need students - many more students - to care.
• "What now?"
First, forget about the Yale video.
Then go be creative. And original. And good. Because you are Oberlin, and Oberlin is all of those things.
Recruit your friends to help you. Recruit faculty to help you. If you need help or guidance, you know where to find me.
I look forward to seeing your imagination in action.