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University presidents blogging - cautiously

Presidents like the buzz of the blog but real live student comments sometimes are cause for pause.

It's not every university president who has her own blog, but Patricia A. McGuire, the president of Trinity University, has vaulted herself into the digital age with pleasing results, reports The New York Times.

Some university presidents are wary of blogs, fearing unfettered public discourse could lead to possible litigation but those who do blog make their campuses seem cool and the faculty accessible.

"When I first started learning about blogs, I said, 'Well, here I like to discourse on issues of the day, connect with the campus community,' " recalled Dr. McGuire, who said she wrote all her own entries. "Here's a way I can talk a couple of times a week to everybody."

Towson (Md.) University president Robert L. Caret, who writes Bob's Blog, posts non- controversial material touting summer programs or urging students to join clubs.

Students, however, often use blogs to stir up controversy, and if a president blogs, he leaves himself open to rebuttal. One student at Towson commented on Dr. Caret's post titled "Education vs. Training" by complaining about language barriers with foreign-born teachers. The student reprinted a note in broken English from one of his professors.

The student asked Dr. Caret, "Can students learning a new subject be expected to comprehend the new topic when they are too busy trying to comprehend what was just said?"

Getting into discussions with students online can be tricky. Dr. Caret's site posted the letter, but sent a private email message to the student saying that he had forwarded the complaint to the provost.

"In this day and age of political correctness, it exposes the president to all kinds of unfair and unwarranted criticism," said Raymond Cotton, a lawyer who advises universities and their presidents in contract negotiations

Despite the warning, Dr. Caret continues, albeit cautiously, to write his blog.

"When you're fundraising, a big part of that is creating an atmosphere of excitement, of a campus that's going places," Dr. Caret said. The blog, he said, "adds to that."