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“Don’t deny the problems and don’t neglect them”

Maxim: Problems with MUSL are bad for Maastricht University’s image

Image damage, bad rankings in national and international magazines and, ultimately, fewer students choosing for Maastricht University. Will this be the result of all the problems with the automation system, Maastricht University Student Lifecycle (MUSL)? 

“Negative publicity can have great influence”, says Katheleen Cleeren, a researcher at the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management. “Not only the media pay more attention to negative than to positive news; people, too, attach more importance to negative messages when they have to choose a brand or a company or a university.” Some businesses don’t survive negative publicity, while others surrender to it and grow stronger. “At the end of the 1990s, Coca Cola had to recall its supermarket stocks because people were becoming ill after drinking a glass of cola. But the company still exists, and is maybe stronger now than ever.” So what makes one company survive and another fold? “It depends on who’s listening to the bad publicity. If you have to deal with people who are loyal to your brand, know your brand, or know the field in which the brand exists, then the influence of negative publicity will be less.”

What is a good strategy for businesses in crisis? “In general: Don’t deny the problems, don’t neglect them. They have to make a super effort and do everything they can to communicate what went wrong, who’s fault it is and to show people that they are really trying hard to solve the problems.” And after the storm is over, it’s smart to start advertising again, Cleeren says. “It’s a good help to brush up the image.”

“The problems with MUSL will influence the perception of UM. There was that incident at the University College, where classes were delayed by a week. Those things don’t happen without any noise”, says Clemens Happ, a third-year student of International Business. “I think that Maastricht University had too much confidence in the automation system. Before you implement it, it’s good to test it until it’s workable.”

The struggle with MUSL won’t change the annual university rankings in magazines like KeuzeGids and Elsevier, thinks first-year International Business student, David Sonnleiter. “It’s just one aspect; there are more things that count.” He doesn’t expect that it will stop people from choosing Maastricht University. “But it will definitely influence the opinion of current UM students – this isn’t good, students are confused. I hope our start will be better next year.”

UM director of marketing and communication, Jeanine Gregersen, declined the chance to react to this maxim. “I’m in a difficult position. It’s difficult to comment when you’re also the spokesperson of the board that is responsible for the MUSL project.”


Riki Janssen



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