Concerns raised about fate of ‘Rook Week’ video

A request by the university’s top communications official to review the rook week video has raised concerns that the celebrated filming tradition may be discontinued.

“I learned a lot (when producing the video), and I think it’d be a shame if it got taken away,” said Jennifer Passalacqua, 21, a senior communications major from Geneva, N.Y.
Before the video was shown at parent’s weekend, the Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Norwich University asked to see the video. After that request, concerns arose among students who produced it.
“We are the University’s office of communications. We are charged with reviewing all of the University’s communications,” said Kathleen Murphy-Moriarty, Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Norwich University.
The office of communications is “charged with managing the brand,” Murphy explained. That brand is anything that represents the university in “print, web, brochures, articles, (and) talking points. We have that responsibility (because) we really want to be sure that the university is well represented, that communications are appropriate,” Murphy said.
The office of communications’ job is to be clear and consistent when representing the university: They need to present Norwich’s strengths and make sure the public is being informed correctly, Murphy said.
Murphy said her visit request to screen the video students produced was just to check to make sure the video was on brand.
Murphy said she understands Rook week, as well as the rook week video done as a classroom project, is a long-standing tradition here at Norwich.
The video has been produced for many years in Prof. William Estill’s class. “He has been working on it for about 28 years (but) I am not sure how long it’s been going on before that. I know he’s been working on it since he’s got here,” Passalacqua said.
Estill is a communications professor at Norwich and oversees the production of the video.
“I have learned more and more each time (I have worked on the video). I have perfected my skill,” said Oliver Czuma, 21, a senior communications major from Chicago Ill.
Prof. Estill has led by example when mentoring the production of the video, Czuma said, noting that the video is essential to teaching the importance of deadlines and offers a first-hand experience at production.
Students outside of the communications department also agree that the rook week video is important for educational value.
“They should keep the rook week video. It’s a good experience for people in the communications department because they’re the ones producing it,” said Lauren Nehilla, 19, a sophomore psychology major from Pittsburg, Pa.
After Murphy made a visit to meet with Prof. Estill and the students on the video project, it sparked concerns that the rook week video could get discontinued because it might be perceived as a negative reflection on Norwich.
But Murphy said she “did not find it negative,” and didn’t think that she and the communications students and professor had “a real disagreement about the production of the rook week video.”
Students like Passalacqua are passionate about keeping the tradition going. “It would be pretty ridiculous to take it away, we’re just showing what rook week is,” Passalacqua said. Czuma agreed, saying that he didn’t think his work should not be shown “because it wasn’t liked by a certain person.”
Murphy agreed that the video project should be left up to the professor and the students because it is seen as a learning experience. “I think as (the video has) been interpreted by the professor and the students under the lens of learning that (that was when the) judgment was made to release the video,” Murphy said.
The office of marketing and communications understands the criterion of the project, Murphy said. “I have no disagreement about the production of the video by the communications class, I view it as academic product,” Murphy said.
Passalacqua said the whole idea is to show reality. “When we premiered the rook week video to the families a couple weeks ago the part that everyone liked the most was the part where the cadre were yelling at their kids,” Passalacqua said, “they all know it’s happening.”
That is the understanding of most students. “The parents want to see what’s going on here,” said Payton Warner, 20, a junior criminal justice major from Cape Cod, Mass.
“I do think people would definitely be disappointed,” Passalacqua said, if there was a softer rook video.

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