United Airlines isn't the only institution having a bad week on social media.
Goldey-Beacom College faced a barrage of criticism -- in its case over photographs of a promotion it mailed to high school students. The promotion highlighted the Delaware college's commitment to career preparation and scholarships for its pep band. But it did so by trashing music majors.
"Heading off to college to major in music? Well, good luck with that!" said the promotion, which was quickly posted to Twitter and Facebook. "Want a college degree that leads to a real job instead? Bring your instrument to Goldey-Beacom College, earn a practical degree that leads to meaningful employment and join our newly formed pep band to satisfy your continued passion for music."
Music lovers -- many of them music major graduates, gainfully employed -- flooded the college's Facebook page with comments and with ratings of one of five possible stars, dropping the college's rating down to 1.3 before the college closed the rating system.
The college then apologized on Facebook, posting a statement that said, "Goldey-Beacom College wishes to express regret for the offense caused by our promotional mailing, advertising our newly formed pep band. The message lacked good taste and respect for the fine arts in general, and music in particular. This communication was not fully vetted and approved prior to mailing, and certainly does not reflect our core values as an institution. We deeply appreciate music and all the arts, striving in every way to produce well-rounded graduates. We sincerely regret the offense that this caused. We understand those from around the country who were offended, and who reflected that in their one-star reviews on Facebook. We are sorry that this is your introduction to the college."
Negative comments have continued to appear.
Josh Kowalski, a music teacher and musician, wrote on Facebook, "Apology not accepted in the slightest. As a music educator who holds both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in music, this is unacceptable! As an educator I can not believe what I have read in your newsletter, and I will be sure to tell any student that comes to me in search of colleges to avoid your program and school at all cost. And just as a side note, being music is irrelevant and meaningless, then I suppose you will have no problem enjoying your movies, television shows, musicals, parties and other forms of entertainment without any music. Because it is people like me who went to school for this 'meaningless' subject who provide all of this for you. Good day and good luck with your school!"
One irony of the debate is that while the myth of the starving artist persists, most who major in the arts (whether at arts-oriented colleges or institutions with broader missions) are in fact employed. Not only that, but they are generally satisfied with their careers, which relate to their arts training, according to a series of studies by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. The studies also found that these alumni, while happy, aren't wealthy.
One reason for the lack of wealth is that many arts students pursue degrees or training in arts education and build careers that mix professional performance with education. This is very much the case with music.
A study last year by Peter Miksza, associate professor of music education at Indiana University at Bloomington, and Lauren Hime, a doctoral student, found that those in a national sample who pursue careers in music education (which for many starts with a music major) are doing well in their jobs. Within a year of graduation, 93.6 percent are employed in their field and 77.2 percent report the job being "a very close or exact match" to what they wanted. Most also remain engaged in performance, and are happy with their career paths, but aren't wealthy.