How can I be tactful in a difficult situation?
March 19, 2010 2:33 PM Subscribe
Need to be tactful in a tough situation. How do I go about it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in my third undergraduate year at a large, well-respected engineering school. My major currently has about 200 undergrads, many of whom are taking advantage of a program that offers in-state tuition to out of state students if my major is not offered in the home state of the student. Due to budget cuts, this program is about to be dropped. Enrollment is certainly going to fall in the coming years, which makes recruitment of high school students that much more important.
However.... the two men who are in charge of attending the high school recruitment events (think sitting at a table, talking to students who come up and express interest) are the epitome of (bad) stereotypical engineers. One of them is a foreign research engineer who speaks very, very little English, and the other is a professor who is perpetually stuttery, sweaty, and generally unpleasant to look at/speak with. I am often at these events as a representative of my major; I have a very good relationship with the department and happen to be a charismatic, socially well-adjusted female. What usually happens at these events is that the students come sit near me and ask me questions directly, and the two men sitting there rarely speak. I don't mind being the center of questioning at these things, but I really feel as though I'm trying to make up for the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the department's choice of recruitment people. There are definitely charismatic, well-spoken professors and staff in our department, but they probably claim to be "too busy" to attend these events.
With our numbers likely to drop in the next few years, I think the department should care more about the image they are projecting to prospective high school students.
I'm a member of the student advisory board, which periodically meets with the administration in the department to talk about issues that have been raised from a student's point of view. In my opinion, this is exactly one of those issues. The other members of the board agree with me, but we are all at a loss of how to bring this up tactfully without stepping on the toes of the current recruiters. Another slight hiccup: the sweaty, stuttery fellow is the faculty leader of the advisory board, so we obviously can't put this in the minutes or updates we give to him after each meeting.
Honestly, my first visit to campus involved a tour given by the research engineer, and if I hadn't already made up my mind about pursuing this major, he would have singlehandedly changed my mind. I truly feel that seeing these men as representative of my department at recruiting events could be changing students' (especially women's) minds about considering this major.
So, MeFi, how can I (or the entire advisory board) emphasize to my department, tactfully, that I think it is important to pursue more charismatic options for recruiters? I can speak directly to the head of the department if need be, but honestly, this is probably pretty far down his list of important items, and I don't think he realizes how important image really is to high school students looking to choose a college.
Please post if you think I've left out any relevant information. Also, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
tl;dr I am in a position to tell my department that they need to care more about the image they are sending to prospective high-school students for recruitment purposes, but I don't know how to bring it up tactfully without stepping on the toes of the current (uncharismatic, frankly quite off-putting) people in charge of recruiting.