- two Yale students built an online tool to make it easier for students to compare and select classes.
- they ran afoul of… something. maybe commitments Yale had made to professors about how class ratings would be used, maybe? no one knows for sure, because…
- when the students tried to work with and for the university, changing their app and asking for direction, the university responded in as heavy-handed a way as possible: they blocked the students’ site and threatened disciplinary action. more at the Washington Post.
the students are in good company. I hear excessive force was also once used to get Galileo to go mum about certain facts about the position of the earth and sun, too.
fear doesn’t work
when people in power shut things down based on fear, all that happens is that (1) progress gets delayed until they either figure figure it out, retire, or die; and/or (2) the path to progress becomes more volatile and dangerous.
when someone like this is in a leadership position at an institution that we look to to set an example for tomorrow’s leaders, it’s a bigger problem than normal because it sends a mixed message: the university’s motto is light and truth (or as they say, lux et veritas), but here it’s actions were, “attempting to bring a little clarity to information about classes and professors will require that you take an obscene risk with your future.”
not exactly aligned. which reminds me of another motto: “actions speak louder than words.”
shutting down communication doesn’t work, either
this was the part of the story I found outright stupid: why didn’t the university engage the students? why not give them an inch? tell them to shut the site down temporarily until the right changes could be implemented? or explain why the site had to come down with a phone call rather than a formal press release?
here are two kids tripping over themselves to improve the student experience on behalf of the school, and rather than offer them internships or jobs or courtesy, the school threatens disciplinary action.
unprepared for the future, outclassed by the present, stuck in the past
sure, communication can be hard. there’s an unknown element to it.
but you know what’s harder?
the regret that comes after you’ve shut off communication with someone who you later learn was trying to help you.
that’s when you realize that by shutting down communication, your attempt to avoid appearing unprepared for the future, outclassed by the present, or stuck in the past, ended up making you look… unprepared for the future, outclassed by the present, and stuck in the past.
Yale, take note: in the age of digital, a heavy handed approach to well-meaning kids in Connecticut gets covered by a Washington DC paper which triggers an entrepreneur in Chicago to write about it.
so change up your tactics. put a light on the situation. engage these kids to re-establish trust. then, get out of the way so they can create magic on your behalf.
because light and truth don’t mean squat if they don’t carry us forward.