School leaders looking for new and innovative ways of using the web to reach out to stakeholders might want to borrow a page from the Southeast Missouri State web site.

Whether it’s confirming the whispers or dispelling the ridiculous, The Rumor Mill @ Southeast seeks to address rumors that tend to make their way around campus.

The page can be accessed from the university’s web site, Students can anonymously post online questions to the site, which is directed by university news bureau director Ann Hayes. Hayes then investigates and answers the queries.

The rumors range from entertainment–“Is Kid Rock coming?”–to the serious–“I heard a girl was attacked and raped.” Hayes said common themes include rumors affecting everyday campus life: parking, food service, residence life.

She said the web site has received 545 questions since its inception five years ago.

“We really set it up as a way to open lines of communication and dispel any false rumors out there and correct information,” Hayes said. “There’s an archive, and if you look at it, anything and everything has been asked on The Rumor Mill.”

Senior Jeremy Boyer, 23, has sent in four or five questions during his four years at Southeast.

“I’ve asked everything from questions about parking to the most recent one, about all the noise the power plant makes,” said Boyer, a music education major.

The complaint was given a quick response, Boyer said. During the week he wrote the eMail to The Rumor Mill, tests were being run on a boiler that required exhausting excess steam, which is a very noisy process.

“The Rumor Mill at least lets us know what’s going on,” he said.

Hayes responded to the question about the rape rumor by saying that a victim had not come forward, but campus police had received information concerning an alleged sexual assault.

Other rumors are more frivolous. Some postings are just off the wall. One asked, “Do you know [what] a coaxial cable is?”

“I thought, ‘Why are you asking this on The Rumor Mill?'” Hayes said. “Some people see it as the Bureau of Information. But it’s really there to clarify and present information on topics when they don’t know where [else] to go.”


The Rumor Mill @ Southeast