Life long customer

| Niels ter Meer

Student columnist Niels ter Meer has been getting more unsolicited emails from the university. This time, they’re saying alumni are life long customers..?


You all know how it works nowadays when you buy something. You hand them your email address, fork over a pile of money, and if you’re lucky the item you wanted arrives some time later at your doorstep. If you’re unlucky, you’re now considered a customer, eligible for direct advertisements. This is all well and good; usually these unsolicited emails come with an unsubscribe link (unlike some other emails). Problem solved, you would think.

No, not always. I made the mistake of wanting an engineering degree, so I forked over a very substantial pile of money for the privilege, and now that that piece of paper is over my doorstep, I started receiving new unsolicited messages. Even though I’m still very much studying at the UT (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading these columns), I’m now considered a customer — I mean an alumnus. And thus eligible for spam — I mean ‘networking’.

At first, it was just an oddity to me — again, I’m still here! It is mostly about things that are not of interest to me — reunions for people way older than me, more associations, etc. So I went looking for the unsubscribe link. Ah, there it is; but what is that? ‘Alumni in the News’? What in the fresh hell is this?

So yes, my curiosity got the better of me again. I scrolled further. ‘The network of UT-alumni, students, and employees is a powerful network. Make use of it’. It has 69.000 ‘members’, so that must be true! But that’s typical creative accounting: just like study associations, the network seems to use the total amount of people who could be engaged members to inflate its relevance, regardless of whether that’s actually a representative figure. In fact, what goes for ‘full house’ is just 90 individuals. There is a difference with study associations however: after you graduate, you usually cease to be a member (Am I commending study associations now‽). Not so here. This network is a ‘community for life’; dragging people in who might not even want to. Not unlike a cult.

But remember that ‘alumni in the news’ section? If you do anything vaguely notable, you’re now an ‘alumnus in the news’. If you do something else — it does not even have to be related to your field of expertise! — you’re now on the hall of fame.  All seemingly in the hopes of your reputation brushing off onto them, and the UT in general. This all also seems to happen without the involvement of those of notoriety; I can’t imagine that it does. Even if you have reservations about the UT, the network, or what have you, there does not seem to be anything you can do about it. You can unsubscribe — you might even want to. But that won’t stop them using your name.

Now imagine that I told you this same story, but with some random corporation substituting for the UT. After purchasing something from them once or twice, you notice that they use other former customers' — I mean ‘life long customers'’ — reputation, relevance, and name for their own gain. Would you still want to do business with them?

Stay tuned

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