Recently, Babcock University was in the news. Two ex students of the university were seen engaging in sexual intercourse in a video that went viral online. The university authority took the bull by the horns. The female student was expelled. Her male partner had earlier been sent away from the university on the basis of his abuse of substances. Reactions followed the university authority’s decision. The aim of this piece is to draw out six takeaways for both students on internet usage and the management of universities on how to handle such matters going forward.
# Digital Native Undergraduates. First, it is high time that management of universities understood that the demographics of undergraduates have totally changed. The demographics have changed over time. From digital migrants to digital natives, the undergraduate ecosystem is replete with students born shortly before the arrival of or during the millennium. The average age for admission into Nigerian universities is 16. The implication of this age bracket is profound. But, it simply signifies that most of the students are digital natives. Digital natives are the generation of young people who are “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the internet. These sets of young people are reported to have lower anxiety scores about the internet and higher web, email and social media usage. Generally, digital natives are considered to be intuitive learners, social, empowered by the internet and impatient. This calls for more appropriate ways to manage these students in their learning, character building and even crimes. Every generation has its own issues. Unfettered access to the internet and the quick get-it-online syndrome is the undoing of this generation. From Babcock to FUTA to Queen’s College, it is obvious that the share it online rule is prevailing among the youths. And those charged with the responsibility of managing them must understand this clearly.
#Digital Public Relations. This is related to the first takeaway. It still bothers on the management of the generation also popularly called Generation Z. This particularly concerns those who manage information in educational institutions in Nigeria. Students are key stakeholders in any educational setup. What they do and do not do reflects on the image of their schools. This is why despite the fact that the sex video has no logo that links it with Babcock. The culprits were identified students of the university. And all hell was let loose. There was a dip in the university’s goodwill both online and offline. People have a tendency to relate the students’ conduct with the moral standing of a school. A learning place is a socialization agent in the society. Therefore, PR practitioners should begin to strengthen their digital capabilities to monitor activities of their students online so that they can be better placed to handle crisis when they occur. This generation does not look like one that will not rock the boat online either for genuine reasons or pure carelessness as we had in the case under review. As at the time of writing this, attempts to search for Babcock online links one with the sex tape scandal.
This implies that Google has normalised the search for sex with Babcock University. For instance, the first 5 related queries when people searched for Babcock University online from 20th- 29th November, 2019 were Babcock university video, Babcock University student, Babcock University student video, Babcock news and Babcock University girl. Similarly, the top 5 terms people searched for online after searching for sex within that same period were Babcock sex, Babcock sex video, Babcock University sex video and Babcock student sex video. This has a lot of implications on the goodwill of the university. The communication unit of the university must, as a matter of urgency, rev up positive content that speaks to the core values of the university. They have to generate positive value for the university by popularising such online if they desire to see the negative trending online abate.
#Digital footprints hardly go away. This concerns students and other youths of this generation.Since they grow up with digital devices, they are wont to leave their footprints online. This is especially common for social media platforms. This is a generation that wants to capture every moment of their lives in photos and videos. They value the likes, the shares and the comments. They are the meme tribes. However, they pay little attention to how their footprints are stored on the internet and for how long. With the recent scandals we have witnessed, these sets of youths must be informed that the Internet of Things does not forget the footprints impressed on it. It should be understood that if it has not been shared, it is within control. Once it gets online, it is totally out of control.
#Popular wisdom is not real wisdom. The generation suffers from the paradox of access to information. Even though there is so much information available, they are less familiar with the accumulated wisdom of humanity. The tendency is for them to join the crowd. The crowd mentality is supreme. When they see what others do, the Generation Z is likely to copy. They crave attention. But, they should be made to understand that life is not lived by comments and likes.
#Every freedom has its own limitation. The digital natives have access to technologies and digital devices. This gives them the freedom to express themselves in words, images and videos. They find it difficult to separate public from private issues. That is where the problem is. Youths of this era should take heed: freedom has its own limitations. And in this case, the consequences are graver than they could think off. While click, post and share rule their world, there is wisdom in exercising restraint before any act is recorded and shared. Questions to consider include: would I be happy if this gets to the public? Will my parents and family members be proud of that post or picture? Will the consequence not come back to haunt me? Youths should learn to think before they click. Thinking appears no more fashionable in this fast internet driven world. Yet, it is a virtue highly needed now more than ever before.