One picture is of a group of students playing frisbee in the California sun on a lush green sent to political science professor Pete Moore by a colleague at University of Southern California (USC). He responds with a picture of a lone student trudging through snow carrying an armful of textbooks in the harsh Cleveland weather. Two very different snapshots of college life sent to tease one another other, but all in good humor.
In a way, I related to that person in the snow. When I was a first-year student and the frigid winter weather changed arrived, I experienced a period of despondency. My mood mirrored the weather. At times I longed to bask in the sun. I began to wish I had gone to a school on the West Coast where this problem would not exist.
My mind did not equate cold weather and armfuls of books with normal college life, primarily because college is not advertised as such. I don’t think anyone pictures the conventional college campus in the heart of Cleveland. However four years in, I have learned to appreciate Case Western Reserve University (even though many of my articles have been critical, it is out of love that I complain) for its eccentricities. Finding humor and character in the quirks of CWRU pays huge dividends.
Yet, when you go to the CWRU website, all you see is a plethora of rather generic bragging about achievements and events. Rarely does it show real campus life (here comes the constructive criticism). To be honest, it looks like every other college’s website. Look at USC’s website. The only major difference I see is the color red instead of blue.
I think we can do better. The CWRU website lacks flair and a sense of CWRU’s uniqueness. It is Moore’s feeling, and my own, that the website could use a sense of humor and personality to make it feel more personal, more “CWRU” if you will. Imagine the two contrasting pictures of the frisbee game and the lone student trudging through the snow with an armful of books on the front page of the website with the caption “that is a vacation … this is education.”
Hype the weather contrast; hype the nerdesque culture of our students; hype some obscure reading from a colorful SAGES class that really delves into the margin here at CWRU—things that make CWRU not just another university. Keep some of the bragging, too, just mix it up every now and then with more humor and some entertaining headlines that will make people interested in visiting the site. Perhaps let students themselves compete to get onto the CWRU website, like those cartoons in the back of the New York Times. Perhaps hold a web design contest to give talented computer science students a chance to utilize their knowledge.
Recognize that no campus is perfect and all have their fair share of faults. Own the quirks at CWRU and laugh at them. Move forward toward a better future with an acute sense of self and purpose in a way that is honest and forthcoming. The entire campus can benefit, and mirror this ethos. Don’t get overly bogged down in college rankings and generic statistics when CWRU is really so much more than that. If our website reflected the unique ethos of our university and celebrated its special character, the entire campus would benefit. That way, after our time is up and we must leave, we can come back, either physically or through the web, and remember CWRU intimately and fondly. Sometimes all it takes is a picture of a student in the snow to elicit such a response.
Chandler Holcomb is a fourth-year student at Case Western Reserve University.