April of this year saw an anniversary pass quietly and largely without acknowledgement — the anniversary of the death of the “Monday Morning Memo.”
The reign of the short-lived memos began officially on Jan. 11, 2010, a mere two weeks after President Cruzado was inaugurated into her presidency. Written by Cruzado (or at least bearing her signature), the memos were sent out via email every Monday to students, faculty and staff across all four MSU campuses to provide them with information on a wide variety of university-related issues and to “ensure that [they] feel more connected with our university.”
The last of the weekly memos was sent out 27 months later, at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. When the new school year began anew, the memos did not reappear. To this effect, Cruzado said in her 2013 State of the University Address that she intended to “explore other methods of communication.” More than a year later, it is unclear what these other methods may have been .
Another initiative that Cruzado spearheaded at the start of her presidency was holding regular “listening and learning sessions” with different entities across the campus and state, as well as holding semesterly “town hall meetings” in the community. These were both aimed at educating the public about MSU’s latest initiatives and giving students, faculty, staff and community members an opportunity to voice their thoughts directly to Cruzado. But in the past two years these meetings have dwindled or ceased entirely.
I believe I am in the minority on campus, but I always liked the Monday Morning Memos. In their time they were widely disregarded and quickly erased from many inboxes, but it was clear that their existence marked an important initiative taken by Cruzado to interact with the university community. They provided a glimpse into what the administration was thinking about on a week-to-week basis, even if that glimpse was too often only colored with the successes of the university and not actually reflective of the administrative decision-making process.
At the very least, the memos provided words to a name, a face to an administration. If they served as nothing more than symbolic communication between the university president and the community, the administration clearly thought that symbolic step was at least one worth taking every week. Now, in their continual absence, it seems we have gone from symbolic communication to no communication at all.
This is not to say that Cruzado and her administration are now completely inaccessible to the campus community. The entire administration holds monthly University Council meetings that are open to public comment. Administrators have also been notably and consistently receptive to student leaders approaching them with feedback. But there is a marked difference between accepting input and actively seeking it out, as the memos once sought to do.
Certainly the lack of a weekly email does not change the core value of the administration. But for a president that has consistently prided herself on the efforts toward greater campus-wide communication (Cruzado’s bio on the university website boasts she has “inaugurated an era of greater campus communication”), the growing closure of communication pathways and move away from early initiatives is troublesome at the least.
Any leader needs to be accessible to their constituency, and as MSU president, Cruzado speaks for a community of more than 16,000 students, faculty and staff. In order to accurately and accountably represent them, she must not lose sight of the communication inherent to her administration’s beginning. Accordingly, it is also the responsibility of the community to respond back to her invitations for input, and not let them fall on deaf ears. After all, communication can only be effective if it flows both ways, and the responsibility to create it falls on each of us.