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Imagine a dream site for policy wonks—something like an on-demand C-SPAN where the best discussions and lectures on public policy issues can be downloaded and viewed from the leading academic institutions around the world.
Such is the University Channel—a new consortium of prominent colleges, universities, and leading policy research centers that posts unedited policy work by faculty, students, and distinguished guests in a public format. As a charter member of the University Channel, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs has taken a leadership role in promoting an electronic platform that is rapidly becoming a leading source of reliable policy information for state, national, and international policymakers.
The site (accessible at http://uc.princeton.edu) was initially developed in 2005 by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University who approached the LBJ School, as well as the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs at Middlebury College, to serve as charter members. Within the University of Texas at Austin, a further collaboration with the Vice President for Public Affairs, the College of Communication, University Libraries, and the LBJ Library and Museum has been formed to contribute to the site.
"Already, the University Channel has had a tremendous impact," said Jeffery R. Patterson, assistant dean for operations at the LBJ School. "The prototype became available to the public in July 2005, and is now is generating more than 650,000 visits a month, with nearly 100,000 downloads a month from its podcast alone."
This has been a terrific fit with the LBJ School's increased use of live webcasts and video downloads of guest speakers and topical panels. Viewers through the University Channel can tune in live or watch the video replay of former President Bill Clinton's LBJ School commencement address, Senator John Glenn's presentation to students on public service, or Senator Joseph Biden's informal talk with LBJ students about the politics of the Iraq War. The site links these events back to the LBJ School's own online video archive, the Screening Room.
The success of the site was validated when it was chosen among the Top Ten Podcasts of 2005 by Slate magazine, and was named among the "100 Best Practices of 2005" by Campus Technology. The site also provides a potential TV viewing audience of more than 5 million, through the University Channel's TV redistribution partners, for viewers who watch the programs on their local access, on-demand, or IPTV channels.
The University Channel was created so that the public can hear the full-length presentations of academics, researchers and policymakers who are dedicated to solving the problems of the world. Universities routinely host these kinds of public affairs events, but until now, lacked a way of collecting this information from respected and influential centers of public policy and providing it to a wider public.
Over the past year, the University Channel has grown to more than 34 college and university partners, who each contribute audio and video presentations, commentaries, and feeds on contemporary topics ranging from international affairs and economics to politics and social policy.
"The opportunities to incorporate the University Channel into daily classroom instruction are exciting," said Patterson. "The ability to maximize curricula and debate through access to the lectures and presentations of peer institutions could be boundless."
The Woodrow Wilson School's dean Anne-Marie Slaughter said that the University Channel fills the need for a public platform for the serious discussion of the critical issues of our day. "Universities have access to such an extraordinary wealth of resources to help us think intelligently about the most pressing issues of the day—both from within our faculties and from top practitioners around the country and the world who come in and share their analyses and experiences," commented Slaughter. "We want to make these resources available to a much wider public, to provide viewers with the kind of analysis and dialogue that rarely gets aired on commercial media."