Editorial: When Northeastern’s marketing goes too far

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Editorial: When Northeastern’s marketing goes too far

The Editorial Board

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Spring is approaching once again — the temperature is climbing into the 50s, we can finally scout out dogs on the quads and, of course, incoming student tours have begun to appear more frequently. It’s hard to miss the tour groups, whether you’ve seen them huddled together on the edge of Krentzman Quad or dodged them as you attempt to cross Huntington Avenue.

If you think back to your own tour or Accepted Students Day at Northeastern University, you probably recall the warm welcome you were given. The Northeastern Visitor Center is located in West Village F, one of Northeastern’s newest buildings in the heart of campus. Available within are beautifully designed pamphlets printed on high-quality paper, and refreshments are often served. On welcome days for accepted students in the honors program, families are even brought to dine on the 17th floor of East Village, usually a space reserved for university President Joseph E. Aoun’s functions.

While all of these amenities create a lovely presentation for potential students, it often seems as if the administration pumps more effort and money into marketing our university than expanding services that will benefit current students. A tangible example of this phenomenon is the comparison between digital resources offered to students and technology created to promote the university. Websites that students use daily or for important tasks, like housing and health care access, are incredibly underdeveloped relative to sites that exist solely to reflect the university well in the public eye.

One of the administration’s most recent pet projects is Northeastern 2025, an academic plan for the next decade. The way the plan is presented online is phenomenal. Not only was Northeastern 2025 covered extensively by Northeastern’s PR website, but the plan itself is displayed on an easily navigable webpage.

The website is complete with a full-screen promotional video and interactive network charts that explain each aspect of Northeastern 2025. It is clear that a team of expert web developers put a significant amount of thought and energy into the site.

Yet students are still unable to schedule appointments online for University Health and Counseling Services, also known as UHCS. When students click the quick link for appointments, they are given an error message. The website for the campus health center is basic at best, providing names and numbers to call if you get sick and little else. Imagine how much more streamlined and enjoyable the process of getting an appointment at UHCS would be for both employees and students if they had an online appointment system comparable to the university’s marketing sites.

While the UHCS website is functional, it is clear Northeastern is allocating more of its, and our, resources to a PR website than to something that could benefit the lives of current students and make it a higher quality institution.

The same trends are true for many other online resources Northeastern offers. Consider the newly updated myNortheastern portal. While the search option makes the portal much more usable, the website is still much less developed than Northeastern sites that are open to the public. A quick side-by-side of the housing page on Northeastern’s website with the Housing Online option in the portal shows the vast difference between the university’s public digital appearance and the one it presents only to students.

The housing site that prospective students and parents see is engaging and modern, assuring students that their “living experience matches [their] highest expectations.” Ironic considering that the site students actually receive housing options on is simply a white background with lists of hyperlinks that can send them in circles as they seek out their next home.

Additionally, many students and faculty complain about the usability of Blackboard, the academic student portal, which was not even accessible from outside the myNortheastern portal for the first month and a half of the spring semester.

While it is difficult to criticize Northeastern for wanting to portray their institution positively, the administration must also be held responsible for allocating money and effort to current student services. Students pay a hefty tuition to attend Northeastern and deserve to feel as if they, not arbitrary university rankings, are the administration’s priority.