Readers of Raging Chicken Press know that the president of East Stroudsburg University, Marcia Welsh, has a bit of an itchy twitter finger. She’s definitely been a stand out in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) in terms of her desire to slash university programs and faculty on the one hand, while setting records for social media blunders on the other.
Welsh has called student activists “vampires” on Twitter; she has suggested that education is no different than a product on a convenient store shelf; she has encouraged ESU staff and students to “play Indian” by “beating on drums” at a public rally under the banner of “Warrior Pride”; and, she was caught tweeting about a student who was asking her a question at a forum, while he was asking her a question.
While all of those blunders should be enough to have ESU’s public relations folks pulling out their hair, Welsh’s latest twitter blunder has got to take the cake: Check out this presidential selfie:
Yeah, that’s President Welsh with the Hawthorn Hotties, the self-proclaimed “premiere exotic dancing group” on ESU’s campus. Look, I’m no prude. From what I can tell, the “Hawthorn Hotties” are shakin’ their thangs for charity — raising funds for prostate cancer and the like. But, they are “exotic dancers” nonetheless. Want to see them in action? Here you go:
Yeah, those are just a bunch of students performing some exotic dancing for charity, I know. But, they are students. Just imagine if Marcia Welsh were male and those students were female. Do you think a male university president who had even the tiniest sense of self-preservation would post a selfie of himself with a group of half-clad female students calling themselves the “premiere exotic dancing group” on campus? Let that sink in for a second.
Let’s give Marcia Welsh the benefit of the doubt and assume that she had no idea that the Hawthorn Hotties were going to track her down and grab a photo with her in all their shirtless wonder. You could see how that could happen, right? I mean, we’re talking about college. But…and this is the thing that has got me scratching my head…what would possess her to then take that picture and post it to her official Twitter account? Is she trying to be just “one of the gang” by saying to the Twitterverse: “look, I’m cool! I hang out with half-naked students too!” Really?
In an environment in which PASSHE universities have seen gut wrenching cuts from a right-wing legislature hell-bent on breaking Pennsylvania’s public higher education system, you’d think the last thing you’d want to do as a university president is give the right-wing ammunition to run to every talk-radio station and fundamentalist church this side of the Delaware River to point to and say: “This is what your tax dollars are paying for!” Do we really want a university president who is so deaf to the public relations impact of her itchy twitter finger?
Maybe I am just not in the holiday spirit, though. Maybe Welsh is just building up the ESU brand with pecs, abs, and biceps. Maybe I have it all backwards. Maybe ESU’s public relations team thought the best way to say “Happy Holidays” to students and their parents is showing just how close Welsh is with the student body…or should I say bodies. I mean, what’s a little skin between the president of a university and her students anyway?
I just can’t imaging in what world a president of a university would think it would be a good idea to tweet out a selfie with a group of exotic dancers who are also her students. It would be one thing if she had to bear the consequences of her blunders alone. It’s quite another when she forgets that her actions as president of the university set a tone for the campus and represent ESU to the public. Insert face palm here.