Many mass media articles that bounce around campus via word of mouth and social media — particularly among the student body — reflect Drexel in a negative light. It feels like the reputation that Drexel gets nationally often comes back to two things: the appearance of our campus and the high cost of tuition. As student-journalists, it’s our job to understand what’s going on at Drexel — the good and the bad. It’s frustrating sometimes, then, to know that despite the incredible things that are happening on campus, most of the attention we get that students notice is negative. This past week, The New York Times featured not one but two stories about Drexel: one about President John A. Fry’s plan for the 30th Street Station rail yard and an Innovation Neighborhood as well as one about Frank Lee and his event that allowed Philadelphians to play “Tetris” on the Cira Centre.
The media, particularly respected giants such as The New York Times, hold lots of power. People who aren’t from the East Coast or the Greater Philadelphia area may very well never have heard of Drexel. And if they have heard of it, maybe they’ve seen our mediocre rankings in U.S. News and World Report or heard about how, even with financial aid and scholarships considered, it has one of the highest costs of attendance. Maybe they’ve seen that we’re often ranked one of the ugliest campuses, or maybe they heard about the LSD ring that was busted in our area in 2012. Maybe they’ve heard of co-op (but it’s doubtful that outsiders really understand how the whole system works without proper explanation), or maybe they caught a whiff of the story about “Pong” on the Cira Centre last year. In terms of the articles that bounce around beyond the bubble of Philadelphia, the press about Drexel generally isn’t that great.
The recent coverage in The New York Times, then, is a huge opportunity because it’s a respected news source around the world. If people trust the Times, and the Times finds what’s going on at our University newsworthy, Drexel has a real shot to be noticed and recognized as the innovative school that it is.
Much of the Drexel community understands the huge implications of Fry’s strategic plan, and many leaders in Philadelphia do as well. But what about beyond the East Coast? Fry’s dream for the Innovation Neighborhood would benefit our students in the short-term because there would be building space available for leasing (theoretically by tech companies or other businesses that are interested in hiring co-ops). This would bring jobs — both co-op and full-time — closer to campus and would contribute to the economy of the area. But to understand the real impact on the value of our degrees, we have to look at the bigger picture. Many people from the East Coast still recognize the name of and the value of an education from places like Stanford and UCLA, and people from around the country — and around the world — know the names of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the other Ivies.
Positive national attention is exciting news for current Drexel students and even alumni. For the rest of our lives, our resumes will proclaim that this is where we chose to be educated; this is where we earned our degrees. In 20 years, if Drexel is known nationally (and maybe internationally) as an innovative and groundbreaking university, the value of having an education from Drexel increases. It comes down to the fact that President Fry is improving this University immensely. These improvements will benefit students both short and long term. But if no one hears about these changes, their impact won’t be as great as it could be.