Bed Bugs Help Me Teach How NOT to Deal With a PR Scandal
Over the last few years there has been an increase in bed bugs in NYC. So far this fall not one BUT TWO colleges-John Jay and now Manhattan College- have serious bed bug problems. So now as a NYC college prof I risk getting bitten by bed bugs and potentially bringing them back to my apartment all of this in the name of trying to get my students to read a 6 page article, which they didn't do. They couldn't even bother to feign interest in it. And this wasn't 6 pages of the Lacanian literary analysis, this was 6 pages of this is how to handle a PR scandal.

What's fun is MC is handling it the wrong way, which illustrated my point to the class exactly. While they did send out an email to students, they didn't inform students about 1. what to do if they suspect they have bed bugs 2 how to prevent a bed bug infestation. Considering what I teach-the first thing I would do (after dealing with getting students into "clean" housing) would be to clarify these issues. As it was, I spent a large portion of the class discussing ways students can prevent an infestation. (I happen to know because my apartment had bed bugs when I first moved in.) With a lack of disclosure and useful information, it's not surprising that some students say "They also say that neither the building manager nor college officials are handling the situation correctly."

I would agree.

The school sends out daily emails about H1N1, but doesn't do the same for bed bugs? Not only should students receive an email but ALL STAFF-the kitchen staff, guards, receptionists,-should receive an email clearly explaining what is going ("The infestation is confined to one building off campus") and how they are coping with it ("We have moved those students to another dorm on campus while we make alternative housing arrangements"). Furthermore, they should include directives to help prevent a bed bug infestation (a special mattress cover can help reduce the likelihood of infestation as can vacuuming every three days).

Finally, because of the way the school is handling information (or not handling it) students aren't finding out from administration, they are finding out from word of mouth. Not only does this fail to instill faith that administration knows how to cope with such a situation, it also increases the potential for misinformation to be repeated as truth. We know from the game "Telephone" that even a well intentioned repetition of what one THINKS one hears can result in a horrible distortion of the original phrase. Now imagine that same game in a highly emotionally charged atmosphere and with the players who have their own agendas-emphasizing or inventing details to make the story more dramatic. Essentially by not offering clear information, the school is fostering an atmosphere where damaging "untruths" will proliferate.

And now I'm going to vacuum everything in my apartment (sigh).

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