UH Propaganda Mill

Richard Bonnin, or as he is known around my apartment – Mr. Goebbels, is in charge of the propaganda department at UH.
This department tries its best to control all communication at the university, but unfortunately can’t control student email.
When my first emails as a reporter for the daily cougar were rerouted to him, I asked:
“What do you think it says about the school that, despite our being “Tier One,” the faculty aren’t capable of answering questions about their area of expertise without running it through the PR department? How many examples are there when a faculty said something false that harmed the university? What cause do you have for this communication domination?,” as well as some other choice questions.
Mr. Bonnin responded by emailing the school paper Editor in Chief, Jack “I read more books than you” Wehman, and Jack added it to my dossier without mentioning it to me.
Why would Bonnin do this instead of responding to my email and trying to resolve the issue?
Because propaganda ministers make their money by profiting from lack of understanding, rather than trying to create understanding?
For instance, UH has been bragging for almost a year about being included in a Best-of book by the Princeton Review, another propaganda master. Princeton Review, which is not affiliated with Princeton University (but surely won’t mind if you’re confused) makes money by having a huge list of colleges that it calls the “best” – 376 this year. UH made it onto this list finally, after a special visit from the Princeton Review team (probably paid for by UH), and now they can say that they are one of Princeton Review’s “best” schools without quantifying it or realizing we are probably at the bottom of the 376 schools (the list hasn’t been released yet.)
UH also seems to require all administrators to say Tier One at least 50 times a day, despite no one knowing what it is. In my opinion it’s a euphemism for business-like growth. We need to get bigger – especially since there are many rich connected businessmen on the Board of Regents ( a common phenomenon.)  Them and their friends won’t get wealthy by paying professors more (in 2004 UH spent as much on instructional expenses as many community colleges – coming in 3rd from the bottom in a study by Texas Public Policy Foundation), but massive construction projects might do the trick.

This Tier One campaign can be traced back to the propaganda department, which handles these kinds of initiatives.  According to a Board of Regents document “National and Local Media Placements” had 1.3B total viewers and $118M Market value in 2011. Messages supporting Tier One were measured in “impressions” – 92.8 million total, at a cost of .005 each, for a grand total of 464,000$ – just in 2011.
With all of this financial support for propaganda, its a wonder that anyone can question the school’s greatness. And its no wonder that the “student” paper is so ineffectual when you compare their meager budget, which mostly goes to administrators (rather than students) to the multi-million dollar budget of the public relations department.  It is like comparing America’s leftist newspapers to the mighty Pentagon public relations industry.
Eric Gerber, Executive Director of the propaganda department, is even allowed to come in to the Reporting class and put a friendly, seemingly honest face on the PR department – telling students that they do spin things, but we have to work with them and they’re not so bad.
I think this quote from the UH propaganda website sums things up nicely:
“The Office of University Communication seeks to maximize significant positive media coverage of the university, its people and programs by cultivating relationships with reporters and editors to improve acceptance of story ideas, facilitating media’s ability to access information and by communicating effectively about the achievements of the institution, its faculty and students, externally and internally.”
They’ve done an admirable job of cultivating relationships from what I can tell. So far I have found two propaganda-ish half truths in my reporting on the school, and both of them are apparently better for the “opinion section.”  I told my reporting professor about what I thought was a good lede.   Unfortunately it involved President Khator and Carl Carlucci, so it was apparently meaningless.
Well done, Goebbels and team. Keep up the good lies.

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