Blogging Presidents

A few weeks ago the Irish Times ran an article on this blog, and since then a number of people have written to me or spoken with me about it, in particular with these two questions: (i) has it been a good idea? – and (ii) how long can I keep doing this?

The answer to the first question is, on balance, yes. It seems to me that while university presidents do manage from time to time to stand in the public spotlight, more often than not people have only a limited idea as to what they really do. It has struck me for a while that, as a group, we should be out in the open a little more, and share a little more about what we do and what we think. I am not the only president to do this (though I think I may be in Ireland): in the United States quite a few maintain blogs. Some of these are clearly intended for internal communication within their institutions, such as this one. Other presidents use it to publish a diary of events, both public and private. Others again blog in order to report on and analyse significant developments in higher education and how these affect their institutions. One observer of US presidential blogs suggests that such forays into the public domain are not always welcomed by university lawyers and PR officers, who fear the their presidents will do ‘some terrible damage to their institutions if [they] are let loose to say whatever they want to say on the institutional website.’ Whether this blog confirms such fears is for others to say; but I don’t (yet) regret starting this undertaking.

My guess is that a far greater risk is that a blogging president will simply be boring. Or that she or he will find it hard to navigate the tricky borderline between being vacuous and being offensive, or perhaps will even manage to be both at the same time.

As for the question of how long I can continue, we shall have to wait and see. Unlike most blogging presidents on the other side of the Atlantic, I do this on a daily basis. If I did not maintain that discipline, I would probably stop very quickly; and indeed some US presidential blogs have petered out after a while; I even found two who never got beyond the first post. So I set aside 15 minutes a day to do this, and on the whole keep to that. There will come a time when I shall have totally emptied my brain of all content that can be made bloggable, but (at least as far as I am concerned) I haven’t got there yet: your mileage may vary.

I do however have some plans for innovations here. I intend to invite one or two guest bloggers on to the site to do occasional posts, and shortly I shall also be publishing a series of interviews I am doing with key figures in the world of higher education and public life: starting with an interview with the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD – more on that shortly. But other suggestions are also welcome.

And finally, my apologies for this rather self-indulgent post; and my thanks to my band of readers – I confess there are more of you than I had anticipated when I started this blog just over a year ago.

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8 Comments on “Blogging Presidents”

  1. Vincent Says:

    I suspect the main worry for the lawyers &co is that the Pres’ blogs while pulling too hard on the presidential stash of Chat’ Margaux casks.

  2. I have to say that although I’ve been reading your blog for some time now I still have no idea what it is you do – besides writing this blog, that is.

  3. TheChrisD Says:

    I’m sure that there’s probably also a case that those behind the blogs and those who read blogs in Ireland are a bit more understanding of the fact that the authors might not be so inspiring sometimes.

    I know a lot of other authors that have had slumps, and yet it hasn’t lead to ridicule from others.

    However, some people do have a point, in that if something questionable were to be written on a blog, then it could be taken as an official point of view on behalf of the university. It’s not something I would do, but then again this is the Internet…

  4. michael barry Says:

    Ferdinand. I have just discovered your blogs. I particularly like your comments on plagarism though the examiners mark probably says more about them than you. I retired from NCI a month ago after a year of sick leave, some of which must have been caused by my constant efforts to spot plagarists. Keep up the blogging and apologies for any split infinitives as my education in grammar has certainly been defective.

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