Why Should a School Support Blogs

Cathy Gellis, a BU law student and blogger asked for my opinion of whether the BU law school should support a blogging infrastructure like Harvard’s. I thought I’d answer that here rather than in an email.
I think every school should consider supporting/providing blogs. In the 90s, it was popular for universities to offer web space to it’s students. Presumably to both (1) encourage students to dabble in web technologies (ie to learn some html) and (2) to foster communication and personal identity (ie to share some ideas). Those 90s systems are still in place at schools like BU, but at least BU’s version (people.bu.edu) does not support the newer technologies needed to run some of the more advanced blogging software. It would not take must to update some of the tools that are already in place at most universities to make blogging easy for students.
That said, the low cost of hosting and availability of cheap and free software to support blogging is precisely the reason it is so easy to start a blog using a private service like blogger or typepad. There are no technological limitations preventing everyone the BU law school from starting a blog tomorrow, but there are some advantages to supporting/providing blogs at the school level. School-provided blogs offer convenience and a sense of shared identity in a commerce-neutral setting – the same factors that I think have lead to wide-spread success of university email systems (evidenced by the fact that many students still prefer their .edu email accounts over feature-rich free commercial services). By taking the affirmative step to provide blog technology to students, a school is actually encouraging blogs.
Whether a school wants to encourage blogs is up to the school, but I think it is a great idea. I think the essential purpose of educational institutions is to foster the exchange of knowledge and ideas, and I see blogs as one of many forums available to accomplish this.