University can’t write

Some University e-mails make it seem as if strategic positioning is a top-secret plan for invading Canada.

Mat Koehler

As I browsed the official University e-mails I’ve received this year, I found many of them carried roughly the same startling message: “This University might almost begin to be allocating the consulting opinions of the thoughts of staff and students to retain the initial procedural directive of the original strategic positioning process.”

Sweet avuncular curmudgeon, I thought. Either this “strategic positioning” stuff is hopelessly complex, or I’ve developed severe dyslexia. And although I haven’t disproved the latter, I’m pretty sure the strategic positioning e-mails sent to the University community are written as poorly as I am smug.

In case you weren’t aware, I’m really freakin’ smug.

Anyway, I felt a little guilty for not familiarizing myself with the project earlier. My latest memo led me to believe I was missing out on a magnificent effort to save our weakening school, but I was still unsure what it might involve. My search for clues came up empty-handed. Here’s a sentence copied right out of University President Bob Bruininks’ e-mail:

“Our strategic positioning process is aimed at meeting the myriad challenges we face today with a thoughtful and creative effort to build on the administrative and academic strengths to make the University of Minnesota better able to serve its educational, research and public service obligations to the people of this state.”

Try saying that mishmash of words without stopping for air. Unsurprisingly, the more I read the University’s strategic positioning e-mails, the more confused I became. I had to bribe the Board of Regents with smooth jazz CDs just to get a hint at the main idea.

Apparently, the plan is to make our University one of the top three public research schools in the world within 10 years. This idea was given the name “strategic positioning” so people will forget its meaning and thus avoid disappointment when the mysterious project fails.

Seriously, though, some of the e-mails I’ve kept make it seem like strategic positioning is a top-secret tactic for invading Canada.

E. Thomas Sullivan, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, wrote the following: “I have led since July a taskforce of well-informed faculty and staff in the creation of several working documents that will serve as the starting point for a broader discussion of the University’s strategic directions.”

How incredibly bombastic – the guy could have written a simple “I made a group of faculty and staff which discussed the University’s future.” At least then we’d know what he was talking about. My pedantic University higher-ups need to cut the B.S. If they don’t want us e-mail recipients deleting every long-winded update we get, they should start giving it to us straight.

Or just admit what’s really going on – we’re going to invade Canada.

Mat Koehler welcomes comments at [email protected]