Social Media Director at U of M Becomes Casualty of Social Media Transparency

Jordan Miller Case Study Collage

[Disclosure: I applied for the University of Michigan Social Media Director position.]

In October of 2011, the University of Michigan announced that it had created a Social Media Director position.  I was elated; it was a great sign that the practice was gaining the recognition it deserves.  In February of 2012 they announced that after “dozens” of applicants (a suspiciously low number for that high-profile of a position with an elite school that paid $100k/year) they had selected Jordan Miller to be their new Social Media Director.

Flash-forward to December 7 when a post appeared on Reddit titled “UM Social Media Director Jordan Miller lies on resume about bachelors degree, keeps job.” posted by citizenthrowawayx.  The post contained links to three scans of documents that pretty conclusively demonstrated that Miller had indeed lied on her job application claiming to have completed her studies at Columbia College in Chicago when in fact she had not.

Jordan Miller's Followgram Profile Description
Jordan Miller’s Unfortunate Followgram Profile Description

As of today, Miller resigned from the position at U of M.

There’s a lot more to the story (that the anonymous individual who did the legwork and posted the damning information is an ex-husband who happens to also work at U of M and who is involved in a custody battle, alleging that Miller manufactured child abuse allegations against him to negate his custody of their child) but I’m less interested in that than the larger ramifications of this case study in how not to approach social media.

Beat the Dead Horse: Radical Transparency

What I can’t get over is that someone would think they could get away with something like this in applying for (1) a social media leadership position at (2) one of the best universities in the US.  Who thinks this sort of deception can last in such a position of scrutiny?

Forget unethical (although it’s certainly that), in the age of radical transparency duplicity is just plain impractical.

Digital Shrapnel

Here is just a sampling of the ripples Miller’s lying has sent off in the direction of everyone she’s had contact with:

U of M Human Resources: Why doesn’t the University of Michigan’s Human Resources Office vet the higher education credentials of its applicants?  How many of the rest of the university’s employees are lacking in degrees from accredited higher education institutions?  Why didn’t the HR department take action on this information when it was forwarded to them “a few weeks ago?”  Why did it take contacting the university’s Compliance Hotline to get something accomplished?

Past Employers: Now that we know Miller lied on her U of M job application, does that mean that she lied on her application to the Ann Arbor News?  As a journalistic organization that trumpeted her hire and is now reporting on her downfall – it’s incumbent upon them to now shine that same light on themselves and their hiring practices.  How many of their other reporters are lacking in degrees from accredited colleges/universities?  Why don’t they verify higher ed credentials? Ditto to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the advertising agency that employed her for a year and a half.

References: This kind of situation makes me less inclined to want to give out references or endorsements, which are becoming ever-present on social networking sites.  You practically trip over them logging in to Linkedin, they’re on Facebook and its apps (like Branchout) and everywhere else.

Past Work: If Miller lied about something as substantial as her higher ed credentials, what else is lurking in her past?  Has she fabricated any of the information in the stories she wrote for the

What They Think I Do - Super Hero

Social Media Pros: Specializing in social media is already a profession that hurts for credibility.  Here’s a comment from the story announcing Miller’s hire typical of the opinions of many people on social media:

“Wow. $100K per year to Twitter (aka “gossip”) and create seminars teaching other people how to Twitter (aka “gossip”). It’s too bad the UM doesn’t have any marketing students or anyone like that, who could devise and maintain “social media” strategies as part of their degree programs. What’s another $100K in taxpayer dollars anyway? It’s just disgusting. A hundred THOUSAND dollars a year. It’s incredible.”YpsiVeteran

This act can’t help but contribute to the sentiment that social media pros are charlatans and hucksters.  As a result, all of us suffer.

The Other Applicants for the Position: There were some other applicants for the position who were probably better-qualified than Miller (whose social media credentials I found to be surprisingly sparse – leading me to long suspect that there was some sort of backroom arrangement for the hiring process which is depressingly common at higher ed institutions).  Forget me, Lindsay Blackwell comes to mind – even I was impressed by the multimedia site she set up to apply for the position.  I worry that U of M will eliminate this position and kill a great opportunity for someone else (and an opportunity to show how far ahead of the business world the academic world is in terms of social media acumen).

The Silver Lining

Radical Transparency is here to stay.  It is the norm.  It is one of the rules of the ecosystem.

As we work to get past the social norms that are in conflict with this new reality, we can facilitate this by making use of all of the amazing computing power arrayed before us.  There is value in verification – think of what Linkedin could do to further attract employers as a job posting website by offering the verification of credentials.

I’m not optimistic about the odds of it happening, but hopefully the human resources world takes this opportunity to reflect on how outmoded its conventions for vetting job applicants are.  There are so many ways to measure the abilities of people online, and so few HR departments are flexing all of those resources.

Regardless, it’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out (and it is literally playing out right now on Reddit as Miller’s ex-husband is able to respond to the questions and comments of other Redditors).

4 thoughts on “Social Media Director at U of M Becomes Casualty of Social Media Transparency

  1. TomLeykisFan says:

    Dude, get a grip. No one gives a shit if she fraudulently misrepresented herself to gain employment at private businesses. EVERYONE should give a shit she fraudulently misrepresented herself to gain six-figure employment at a taxpayer-funded institution in an era when tuition is skyrocketing and appropriations from Lansing are plummeting. Everyone in addition should be outraged that UM thinks its appropriate to pay someone six figures for a fucking director of social media position that pays less than half that for an equivalent position at other public universities in Michigan. Even more insulting is that the Univ thinks it is appropriate to not verify the educational credentials of those who are going to make six fucking figures. If they’re not going to check the educational credentials of janitors, nobody cares. But those who are going to make $100k? OUT-FUCKING-RAGEOUS.

    I guess you learned a valuable lesson. Next time you apply for a job at scU-M, tell them you have three fucking degrees from Harvard and that you graduated at the top of your class each time. That is, only do that as long as you’re not embroiled in a bitter custody dispute. But as long as you have your shit together, it’s the easiest money in the world!


    1. Derek DeVries says:

      I’m certain virtually all private sector employers would care if their employees lied to them in their resumes. An act like that is the sort of indicator of trustworthiness and character that rank high in surveys on traits employers seek in new hires.

      As to the compensation for the position, it’s hardly inappropriate. I defy you to find a comparable position anywhere in the entire state of Michigan (I worked for over a decade in social media for higher ed and I’m not aware of one; I believe U of M is the first to create such a position). It’s actually well below the median for the position in the private sector:,24.htm

      I do agree with you that the real scandal is the fact that U of M does not vet the credentials of their hires (or at least they didn’t in this case; the burden is on them to now prove this isn’t a widespread problem). The fact that something like this could take place at such an elite university makes me suspect that there was (as I mentioned) a quid pro quo in the hiring process. I’m willing to bet they turned away numerous individuals who were far more well-qualified from across the US – which would be hard to explain.


  2. mel2nyc says:

    Wow. Who is making the hiring decisions at Michigan? Should Lisa Rudgers be scrutinized? This should get the ire up from applicants, employers and just about anyone. Wow.


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