It’s time for me to draw a line.
Could you hear the dramatic music swell as you wondered where my line is? I could. (Yes, I have my own personal soundtrack. It’s usually in my head).
This year, in order to use our website as a tool to market better to prospective students, I’m going through a bit of a content audit. I’ve made the determination that a unified content strategy – FOR ALL SECTIONS OF THE WEBSITE – will allow us to serve an extremely important stakeholder group more effectively. Focusing on prospective students, however, doesn’t remove our obligations to current students, faculty, graduates, donors, staff, and the like, so I’ll be working on ways to help all the people use the site better.
That determination brought me to an epiphany. I’m a regular person, and reading the content on our site, I realized that much of it is lawyer-speak. Academic-speak. Professor-speak.
BAM. [Dramatic music swells]
I found my Battle of San Juan Hill. I found the spot that could be the greatest victory of my career in web work for a law school.
I declared war on obtuse, words that obfuscate our meaning, create misunderstandings, and alienate our stakeholders.
Words. Just. Like. Those.
It’s sad that – in academia where we’re supposed to be making a positive impact for students who come to us seeking fedex generic viagra to enrich themselves – we insist on using words like matriculate and promulgate and experiential learning. That’s contrary to our collective mission as higher education institutions.
So, I’m hopping up on my horse and playing Teddy Roosevelt for a bit. We’re talking like humans at Bowen – not attorneys. It’s strategic, it’s professional, and it will help even more students – and through them, more clients – access to the justice system. You see, if people can’t understand what you’re talking about, how can they take advantage of the system they’re inherently excluded from? How can students help those who are disenfranchised if they communicate in a way that’s confused and confusing, simply because they’ve been taught that communicating in that fashion is not only acceptable but expected in their profession?
Ensuring that Bowen’s website uses simpler language will, in my mind, simply be a fulfillment of all three of our core values – professionalism, public service, and access to justice.
I’ve found my San Juan Hill, and making these changes in the Bowen site will probably be a bloody battle, but I don’t intend to die on this hill.
What’s your San Juan Hill for the coming academic year?
Tonya Oaks Smith is the Director of Communications at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and co-founder of Higher Ed Solo.