John E. Sexton, who came under fire last year as New York University’s president, is casting a warm and fuzzy image of himself through social media. In a news release issued on Wednesday, the university’s student-affairs office described him as a hug-loving chief executive who likes to sign off on his Instagram selfies “with the endearing #JSex hashtag.”
Mr. Sexton’s social-media efforts have been archived on an interactive Tumblr page labeled “John Sexton: An Interactive Guide to NYU’s Power Hugger.” There, students are encouraged to learn about his lighter side.
“NYU President John Sexton will insist that you leave traditional formalities at the door and tell you, ‘Call me John,’” the page declares. “But what do you really know about the guy, besides his beloved baseball cap and famous hugs?”
In short video clips, students can learn a lot of personal details about Mr. Sexton, who is 71.
He likes coffee-flavored ice cream, no toppings thank you very much.
His favorite Dr. Seuss book is The Sneetches.
He has one tattoo … location unknown.
Taken together, Mr. Sexton’s social-media profile may be seen as softening the image of a college president whom some faculty members have described as indifferent to professors’ concerns about a range of issues, including a large planned campus expansion in New York City. The news release issued on Wednesday is subtitled “How NYU Made Its President #Relatable.”
Asked about his presence on Instagram and other sites, Mr. Sexton said in an interview that he was just reaching out to students, as he has always done.
“I’ve been pouring 100 hours a week into students for 55 years,” said Mr. Sexton, who has continued to teach throughout his presidency. “Being close with students is not a new phenomenon in my life. Any way I can try to create a community here I will use.”
New York University is an urban campus with no gates to surround it, so the university lacks some of the common community-building features of a traditional college setting. Social media, Mr. Sexton said, are one way to bring people together in such a sprawling environment.
“How do you make a huge, complex cacophony feel small to students?,” he said. “This is part of that.”
Mr. Sexton’s foray into social media began in October 2013. That was just a couple of months after the university’s board put an end to a controversial loan program that financed vacation homes for star professors and administrators, including the president. When the board declared that the program would end, it also formally announced that Mr. Sexton would retire in 2016, which was widely expected.
Mr. Sexton is not the first college president to take to social media with gusto. Harvey Perlman, chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, has developed an online persona that spoofs his struggles to understand millennial culture and all things Internet.
Social media may help to humanize a college president, but there are dangers, too. Samantha von Sperling, an image consultant in Manhattan, said college presidents need to be careful that what they project on social media is consistent with the brand of the institution and the office they hold. It is appropriate for a president to talk about how he takes his coffee or what she likes on pizza, Ms. von Sperling said. Vague references to hidden tattoos? Not so much, she added.
“I don’t want to think about him naked, wondering where his tattoo is and what is it,” said Ms. von Sperling, an NYU graduate. “It already puts a picture in my mind that is disconcerting.”
But the general idea of Mr. Sexton’s using social media makes sense, she said.
“It is a good ploy by NYU to have the president texting and tweeting and Facebooking and making the appearance that he’s relatable,” Ms. von Sperling said. “He’s really communicating in the language that the majority of the student body communicates in.”
“Is it obvious that it is a public schmooze-fest?,” she added. “Of course it is.”
Mr. Sexton has some past experience in crossing the generational divide. He has twice appeared, for example, on The Colbert Report.
The president’s lesser-known interviews have been with students, who created a series of online videos called John Sexton in 60 Seconds. In the short segments, a student peppers the president with questions that include the philosophical and the inane. In one exchange, a student interviewer asks, “Would you rather be hated or forgotten?”
Here’s your Jackson family lesson of the day: Tanay Jackson, the niece of the lateMichael Jackson, is pursuing a music career!
Tanay, who began talking to her father, Michael’s older brother Tito, when she was in her teens, is following in the family business. Not only has she rerecorded the classic ’80s hit “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too!),” she’s working on a new single, “In the Spotlight” (seems like an appropriate title!)
Watch below as Image Gal Samantha von Sperling gets the exclusive scoop on Tanay’s career and her NY Fashion Week adventures!
Image Gal Samantha von Sperling interviews fellow image expert Rocco Gaglioti at the CONAIR STYLE360ʼs semi-annual New York Fashion Week showcase showing Fall/Winter 2013 Collections. Check out her exclusive interview below!
Enter our NY Fashion Week Swag Gift Bag giveaway and take home some Fashion Week of your own!
Our own columnist Samantha von Sperling “Ask Sam,” recently learned how the media is out to exploit and what started out innocently enough has turned into a McCarthyism nightmare. T2C decided to help Sam, but to also show how the Internet is the Wild Wild West and there is no sheriff in charge. Your own recourse is to get your story out there and combat the negative responses. You will need thick skin.
Samantha is an etiquette expert who was asked to do a well-known talk show on her thoughts on “Rush Coaching.” If you talk to Sam her answer is the same. This is what she thinks: “Sorority rush coaching is just a natural progression of the trend we have been seeing in celebrating and obsessing over the rites of passage in a young person’s life. The USA is something like 27th place for math and science. It does not mater how many gold medals we take home from the Olympics. This disgrace means that American universities are accepting more foreign students than ever before because they have the brains and the means to gain admission. Naturally this means more competition for a place within the sorority sisterhood. There is a global economic crisis, a bleak future for those graduating right now. There is strength in numbers. Women in sororities cultivate life-long friendships that can translate into business opportunities later in life. It’s hard to be a woman at any age, especially a young woman away from home for the first time as she explores who she is and will be in the world. A support system of positive like-minded young women who support you is definitely good thing. We all have our weaknesses and our strengths, that’s why we have accountants and hairdressers and coaches so we can get help with the things in life we need help with and get better results. Most teenage girls can text and tweet a mile a minute, but are incapable of engaging in face to face conversation. I would bet the ones that can are the same kids that grew up with sit down dinners with family. If we no longer have charm school, and a girl’s mother works a demanding full time career or may lack manners or charm, a young girl may not gain the skills she needs to maneuver socially and gracefully into social clubs like a sorority. A coach can give a girl the skills she needs. Identity is two sides of a coin; our esthetic packaging, and how we interact and communicate with the world around us. My process whether for political figure, CEO, celebrity or sorority rush girl, is the same. My mission is only to help them put forth the best version of themselves. These are skills that a woman can use for the rest of her life;- first summer internship, job interviews, clients, making friends and business networking events; finding a mate. These are life skills.”
T2C sat down with Sam to learn more.
T2C: The New York Times called and asked you for your opinions and if you had any clients that hired you for the newest trend of hiring coaches for sorority rushing, what happened?
Samantha: I said “yes.” I had only had a few clients of this nature and was more than willing to show how this kind of coaching and getting into an organization can help you for the rest of your life. They were more interested in the cost. I was more interested in the process because the process of coaching for a CEO in a company, politician, diplomat, celebrity or sorority girl is all the same. I deal in the identity of people and things. I talked about a hard case client but did not name the name that spent $8000.00 over a weekend due to the amount of work involved. The Times took that as my fee.
T2C: What was the backlash?
Samantha: People started responding with what the hell are the 1% spending their money on but more than that, production companies and other journalists swooped down on me.
T2C: What were they saying?
Samantha: On twitter and general cyber space, the comments ran the gamut of positive and snide. Then DailyMail.Uk wrote me up and the piece that they wrote was fair and decent. Good Morning America called and we filmed over three days. All of the intelligent things that I stated about the coaching process and the value to a young girl and that these are life skills for life, were aired.
T2C: What was aired?
Samantha: The segment was about 2 minutes long and the only quote was from a Skype session stating accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. All of the intelligent things that I stated about the coaching process and the value to a young girl and that these are life skills for life, were negated. This started an onslaught on negative Internet backlash. The sorority was upset with my client. I got several angry messages from the client’s mother even though the client knew she was being filmed and wanted to be on this. This particular client I took on pro bono basis in order to be able to talk about her in the press. She got her coaching and was accepted into the sorority of her choice. Then the piece aired and because she mentioned the name of the sorority, which was her mistake, it remains to be seen if she will be allowed to continue.
The onslaught of comments on my fee, which is $300.00 an hour, really hit the roof. People were furious that others pay this for my services. The fact that I do pro bono work for people who really need my help, that I spend time volunteering for any good cause that asks me, failed to be heard. This includes inner city schools, job training for disadvantaged women. There is footage to this effect.
Update: Fox news ran a piece the next day which combated some of the negative publicity, now Sam has offers for a reality TV show but the comments keep coming no matter what she says. In Sam’s words: “The joke is nobody that commented has ever asked me.”
MARGARET KING of Birmingham, Ala., was at a loss about how to help her older daughter prepare to rush at the University of Virginia. In the South, where sororities have long been a momentous rite of passage, the road to sisterhood is long and not so clearly marked.
So Mrs. King, who graduated from Yale in 1984, before it had any sororities, enlisted the aid of Marlea Foster and Pat Grant, local consultants who had coached their own daughters through rush at Furman, the University of Georgia and Auburn University. Naming themselves theRushbiddies, they opened shop in 2009 after hearing about the rush misfortunes of their daughters’ friends. About 50 mothers and their “chicks,” as the Biddies affectionately call them, attended one of their two-day workshops in April ($100 a couple), complete with mock rush party, wardrobe hints and paperwork prep.
And there is a mound of it. The smart rushee, the Biddies advise, will have a résumé stressing community service, leadership, academics and teamwork, letters of recommendation from alumnae of each chapter, preferably on the campus in question, and reference letters.
With the help of Ms. Foster and Ms. Grant, who wears a pink feather boa during workshops, Mrs. King asked alumnae of about 10 chapters, several from U.Va., to write her daughter’s recommendations. To guide their plaudits, she sent them packets with a professional photograph, transcript and résumé. To thank them, she dropped off a bottle of rosé in their mailboxes.
The rush proved successful, but, she says, “I’m just glad I didn’t have four daughters.”
For a generation that grew up on tutors, admission counselors and relentless competition, prepping for rush seems only natural. A mini-industry of blogs, Web sites, books and consultants now helps them prepare for sorority recruitment and all its fallout, professionalizing what was once left to older siblings.
Samantha von Sperling is an image consultant in New York, but lately her bread-and-butter Wall Street clients have asked her to help their daughters get ready for rush at schools like Harvard; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and New York University, which has added three chapters since 2006 and more than doubled the number of sisters, to 570.
“It’s the same kind of coaching I do on Wall Street,” Ms. von Sperling says.
Sororities are emerging in surprising force at campuses not usually associated with the Greek tradition. Students raised on Facebook and fears about post-college careers view sororities as the ultimate social network and an extension of the community service begun in high school. Nationwide, membership is up, growing a bit more than 15 percent from 2008 to 2011, to 285,543 undergraduates, according to the National Panhellenic Conference, which represents 26 old-line sororities.
Twenty-eight percent of female undergraduates at George Washington University last semester were Greek, about double that in 2006; at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pa., the number reached a high of 50 percent; at the University of Rochester, 22 percent; at the University of Pennsylvania, 29 percent.
Though new chapters are being added and membership expanded, competition is palpable for hot sororities. “The most sought-after organizations aren’t able to keep up with the demand,” says Matt Supple, director of Greek life at the University of Maryland, which recently added a new chapter.
Which sororities get the most first-choice rankings is a closely guarded secret.
“Sorority recruitment is like no other experience that you will ever have for the rest of your life,” says Sunday Tollefson, author of “Rush Right: Reveal Your Best You During Sorority Recruitment.” “It’s like speed dating meets interviewing meets beauty pageant meets upscale academic summer camp, complete with a counselor.”
Rush often begins in August or early fall — for January rush, substitute Uggs for fashionable flats. At the University of Mississippi, which has nine sororities, all candidates attend a first-round “philanthropy” event at each chapter that includes learning about its charitable work. Candidates can visit up to six chapters on the second round, depending on how many invite them to return, and three on the final.
In the early rounds, they have only minutes to make a positive impression. The trick, says Ms. Tollefson, whose Web site, SureSister.com, aims to demystify rush, is to be memorable for 10 minutes after each event. That’s when sororities typically decide who will be cut.
Appealing facial expressions, confident body language and good conversational skills are critical. “Practice, practice, practice in the mirror, saying your name, and see what you look like when you listen,” advises Denise Pietzsch, an etiquette consultant in Ohio who works discreetly with clients heading to Miami University. “If you’re a great active listener, they will remember you because you let them talk.” Her typical fee: $125 an hour.
Ms. von Sperling offers a Friday-to-Sunday intensive, for $8,000. One day is devoted to carrying yourself properly and the art of conversation. Treat rush, she says, as you would a job interview. Avoid politics and religion. “I teach them how to make interesting small talk: what you saw at the cinema, a trip to Europe. I don’t know too many 20-year-olds who are having a debate about economics.” Another day is for getting physically ready — hair, makeup and wardrobe. Ms. von Sperling organizes “outfits down to accessories, completely strategized.” Just in case a client forgets, outfits are photographed and placed in a style file.
When Rachel Lewis was president of Alpha Chi Omega at the University of Kansas, parents asked: “Should I buy all J. Crew clothing? Do they need designer purses?” Ms. Lewis, a 2010 graduate, recently wrote “Recruitment 101: an Insider’s Guide to Sorority Recruitment” and started up Sorority Corner, a membership-based Web site. Her advice: “Dress like you are meeting your boyfriend’s parents. If it’s too short or too tight or too out there, it won’t impress.”
Sundresses by Lilly Pulitzer, the designer of happily hued clothing, are particulary popular for August rush. Two years ago, the company introduced the “Sorority Line” — totes, scarves, makeup bags and the like — using chapters’ colors and symbols. Sales are strongest in the South: “OBSESSED! E-mailing this to the entire Gamma Psi chapter at Wofford College!” gushed one fan on the company Facebook page.
The Rushbiddies host a fashion workshop at Saks Fifth Avenue in Birmingham; they also give individual consultations. In late May, they visited a client’s home in an affluent Birmingham cul-de-sac for a final session. They reviewed paperwork, dispensed advice and vetted dresses for August rush at Auburn. “This I love,” exclaimed Ms. Grant of a one-shoulder black cocktail dress destined for the last rush event. “It’s not too over the top.” And shoes? “Black strappy sandals,” said Ms. Foster.
During the session, the rushee, Mallie, who did not want her full name published because it might affect her chances, was mostly quiet, worn out by her recent finals. Her mother took notes and asked questions. Later, Mallie talked about rush: “It’s going to be stressful — not only making a decision for the next four years but for friends you will have for the rest of your life.” Because the experience can be so emotional, consultants provide “on-call services.”
Many aspiring sisters spend their summer working out and dieting. “Rushing shakes your confidence level,” says Maggie, who also spoke on condition she not be fully identified. She will soon be heading to Washington & Lee, and is trying to lose weight. “You are being judged on how you look,” she says. Case in point: A study of Northwestern undergraduates in a normal weight range, published in 2010, showed the thinner women more likely to join a sorority.
As rush grinds on, students often text their moms with frequent, sometimes tearful updates. “Drama Trauma Drama,” wrote one weary mother on a Greek chat forum. For some mothers, empathizing with the pain of peer rejection is excruciating.
“I lost six pounds that week,” recalls Julie Baselice, whose daughter Christina is now a Chi Omega at the University of Texas. “It was the most stressful experience of my life.” As for Christina, she is grateful for the counsel of Marjorie Burciaga, an Austin, Tex., consultant, on how to handle herself during recruitment events. “It’s so easy to go in there and start talking, talking, talking,” she says. “You need to learn how to have a filter.”
Many students who don’t get asked back by their dream sorority during the early rounds walk away from recruitment altogether. Last year at the University of Virginia, 27 percent left during January rush. Students often have their hearts set on a particular house, says Michael J. Citro, the assistant dean of students.
Or a rushee might limit herself to the house her mother belonged to (legacy status is a plus but no guarantee of a bid). Ms. Burciaga encourages her clients to keep an open mind about chapters they visit. “I talk to them about what seems like a good fit for them,” she says.
One obvious reason for rejection is inadequate grades. At the national level, sororities set a grade-point average, and individual sororities often raise the bar. Beyond that, candidates can rarely discern why a sorority rejects them.
Madeline D’Arcambal Braun, a Manhattan native entering her junior year at Indiana University Bloomington, says she had “absolutely no idea” why she wasn’t asked back. She dropped out of rush freshman year after the houses she wanted didn’t invite her back. “It’s exactly like a breakup. That’s how this feels.”
Indiana is reputed to have one of the toughest rushes. Parents have complained on the Sorority Parents blog, operated by the National Panhellenic Conference, that space is too limited. Last year, a little more than half of the 1,718 women at Indiana who registered for recruitment joined a sorority; about 800 either didn’t continue or did not receive a bid. Possible reasons, say university officials: inadequate grades, student dissatisfaction with the chapters that chose them and vice versa, or not enough spaces.
This past year, the nonresidential sorority Theta Phi Alpha was added to expand slots, becoming the 20th chapter at Indiana. Ms. Braun decided to give this one a whirl, and joined sophomore year. “It’s awesome,” she says. “I’m always raving about it.” Another nonresidential chapter, Alpha Sigma Alpha, is coming this fall.
Rush at George Washington University is a different ballgame. No résumés are needed. Nor are alumnae letters of recommendation or references. Requiring them “is ludicrous,” says Sara Fischer, who as president of the G.W. Panhellenic Association last year helped bring an 11th sorority to campus. “G.W. is not this kind of place.”
There aren’t a lot of legacies at G.W.; students are not drawn there for its Greek life. “Most come to school with a bad idea of sororities, like hazing,” said Marta Cofone, current Panhellenic president, struggling to be heard over the throb of Katy Perry at a meet-the-Greeks event during new-student orientation last month. Last year, a G.W. sorority lost its housing after an alcohol-fueled hazing incident.
“I wasn’t even going to join,” Ms. Cofone said, but the group leader she met at orientation was a “smart, intelligent and interesting person,” and Greek.
Several sorority members from New York and New Jersey, clustered at the Sigma Delta Tau table that night, recalled their mothers’ collective shock at their decision to go Greek. But, says Ms. Fischer, “being in a sorority is the best way to network.” She credits her Greek contacts with helping her secure an apartment, jobs and internships. She and others also attribute the recent growth of their sorority to recruiting a broad swath of women. “You’ll see that same set of Greek letters on someone with a nose piercing,” Ms. Cofone said, referring to the chapters’ names emblazoned on members’ T-shirts and caps. “That’s why it’s so successful.”
Valerie Berg, vice president of recruitment at G.W., notes that if students are open to any sorority who wants them, nearly all will get a bid. No prepping required.
Still, the elements of competition persist. Anticipating questions about October’s rush, Ms. Berg recently updated the sororities’ Facebook page. The topic: what to expect and what to wear on each day.
Abigail Sullivan Moore is co-author of “The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up.” A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The New York Times on July 22, 2012, on page ED28 of Education Life with the headline: Pledge Prep.
The DivaGals know that Old Spice will get your man smelling fresh … but why stop there? We asked our resident Image Gal Samantha von Sperling to share her topGrooming Tips for Men to get your man looking fine!
Get a nose hair/ear hair trimmer from your local drug store and don’t forget to use it!
It’s Spring: time for manscaping that excess hair away.
Don’t overgel! Crunchy hair is not cool. Invest in a decent haircut. Ask your stylist what products you need to maintain your ‘do and have him give you a lesson in proper application.
Deodorant, clean teeth and fresh breath are still standard issue!
Facials are for men, too! Nickel Spa For Men, located in New York City, offers a full range of at-home products to keep your skin looking smooth.
Neat, clean hands and feet are a must. Nothing should scratch your partner while in bed. So please, invest in a nail clipper.
Get your shoes shined regularly; it’s true that women look at men’s shoes. Make sure yours say you pay attention to detail.