(I've updated this post below.)
My vision of a typical college alumni office is that it’s generally a happy place.
In addition to setting up reunions and other events that remind alums of their halcyon college days, the alumni office also chronicles the lives of graduates: marriages, births, promotions, awards, transitions and other milestone. (Plus obituaries. I guess the alumni office does see its share of sorrow.)
In that way, alumni offices play sort of a soft-focus propaganda role. By publishing magazines full of short blurbs and longer features about their accomplished grads, the alumni office implies that Flagship State U or Liberal Arts College played some sort of role in these personal achievements. P.S.: Send money.
Every once in a while, however, an alum does something that probably won’t show up in the alumni magazine.
Davidson College grad Cameron Harris (class of ’17) was featured recently in the New York Times for the fake news website he created last fall that carried a story (fake, too) about the discovery (not really discovered) of thousands of ballots for Hillary Clinton in an Ohio warehouse. Harris collected about $5,000 for the 15 minutes it took to write the story, which was shared with something like 6 million people. Harris' story was the poster child of the concept of fake news.
Harris’ boss, a Maryland state lawmaker, didn’t like the attention and fired his legislative aide. Davidson College President Carol Quillen didn’t like the notoriety, either: She wrote to faculty, “Please know that I hear and share your anger.”
Down in Durham, Duke University’s most famous alum these days is Steven Miller (class of ’07), one of the two Steves who are top aides to President Donald Trump.
Most people hadn’t really heard of Miller until last weekend, when he made the round of Sunday talk shows. (His performance was generally panned, and the Washington Post awarded him bushels of Pinocchios.)
But the N&O’s Jane Stancill was paying attention and put together this short profile a week earlier of Miller’s time at Duke, where he was a conservative columnist for the student newspaper and a staunch defender of the men’s lacrosse team during the 2006 unpleasantness.
Duke alums, like their brethren at Davidson, aren’t big fans of their classmate. Several hundred of them signed an open letter to Miller, saying that they “see nothing in (his) actions that furthers the values of intellectual honesty, tolerance, diversity, and respect that we seek to promote in the world.” I'm sure Duke's alumni office is looking forward to that 10-year reunion, which is set for April.
For better or worse, the national media spotlight has found two recent graduates of North Carolina colleges. Just don’t expect to read about either in their college alumni magazine.
Update, 9:10 a.m. Monday: Speaking of alums who won't be written up in their alumni magazine, the president of Trinity Washington University in D.C. is taking shots at one of that college's alums, Kellyanne Conway, a spokeswoman for President Trump. Inside Higher Ed has the details. Conway, as you'd expect, is shooting back. Because it's D.C., the think tanks are involved. Wow.
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