How can a library school teach their students to be user-focused if they model the exact opposite behaviors?

Check out the assertive (and admirable) way that Jennifer tried to confront the issues she and other students had with the distance learning program at the Information and Library Science Department at Southern Connecticut State University. I remember encouraging her to take a leadership position in helping to give voice to the dissatisfaction of her classmates and herself. And I was dismayed to hear how it all turned out:

This effort began in mid-March with a letter that I wrote to the ILS department chair accompanied by a list of concerns that I compiled with the help of about 50-60 students (and alums, I believe). While the department chair was responsive and open to input, my efforts have seriously led to naught. Ok, that isn’t totally true, I think I ticked some people off along the way despite the fact that this wasn’t my goal at all. I also think that I may have inadvertantly started a schism between online students and the faculty/administration. Anyway, after I emailed the department chair and was disappointed to not get a formal response from the ILS department, I sent an email with my concerns to the dean of the ILS school. I sent the first email on May 24th. After waiting way too long, I followed up with my advisor and decided to send another email to the dean. I sent this second email on July 17th. There has been no response from the dean – NOTHING. Throughout all of this, I have been in contact with various students in the program who wanted to know if there had been any reaction. A couple of students are extremely close to leaving the program due to the lack of response.

I honestly can’t fathom how the program would be so unresponsive as to not respond at all to her numerous attempts to discuss the situation with them. I was talking about this with a colleague of mine who just graduated from the LEEP program at UIUC and he said that their Associate Dean was notorious for answering e-mails within five minutes on a Sunday. That’s amazing PR!!! This isn’t just about treating your current students well, but also about attracting new students in the future. In a world full of social software, if a program is horrendous and its administrators are unresponsive, people will find out about it when they’re applying to schools.

Personally, I hope Jennifer takes these issues up the chain to people higher up than the Dean of the department. People will keep going through this if the program isn’t forced to deal with the dissatisfaction of their students. At the same time, I can understand how discouraging the whole situation has been for her.

I’m no great fan of the “Library [insert your version number here]” meme, but if there’s anything that’s not 2.0, it’s this.