While Tuesday night marked the conclusion of the 2008 national elections, University Communications and the New Media Lab are offering students a chance to participate in their own competition. The “Minute with the President-elect” Video Contest asks students to combine political activism and their command of the video camera to create an original short for YouTube.

An e-mail from University Communications, sent out to all students on Oct. 24, explained the contest in full.

“You have one minute to meet with the next president of the United States,” read the prompt. “What would you say?”

Due by midnight on Nov. 30, entries must be uploaded to the University’s official YouTube page. Launched this past May, the page features a variety of videos from Wesleyan students and facult—pportunities to connect the University to the millions of individuals who use YouTube.

Though the contest is titled “Minute with the President-Elect, “ videos can be up to two minutes in length. Free expression is welcome so long as entries do not violate YouTube standards.

The e-mail explained that the contest’s winner will be decided by the video’s viewer count total and video rankings. It also highlighted the potential prizes and inherent benefits of entering the contest.

The e-mail read: “What’s in it for you? A chance to give the White House a piece of your brilliant mind, win the $100 cash grand prize for best video as judged by viewer count and video ranking, show the world what Wesleyan is made of, and gain a worldwide following for your creativity.”

According to Mark Bailey, Director of University Relations and Development Communications, this is the University’s first bid at Internet video contests.

“To my knowledge, this is the first Wesleyan video contest of its kind,” wrote Bailey in a separate e-mail. “Certainly in terms of the subject and engagement with YouTube.”

He also believes this type of contest is unique to the University.

“Think about it,” wrote Bailey. “Who better than a Wesleyan student to go one-on-one with the President of the United States?”

In fact, the contest is part of a larger initiative taken by Information Technology Services (ITS) to augment the University’s Internet presence. With new technologies, the University is eager to make both faculty and student contributions available on the World Wide Web. Bringing the University’s name to YouTube—and, hopefully, to iTune—re two efforts meant to further that goal, said Ganesan Ravishanker, Associate President of ITS.

“We’re rethinking the way the web and new technologies should be used to tell the world about Wesleyan,” said Ravishanker. “We asked ourselves, ’How do we send out a message about how creative and intelligent our students are?’”

University Communications and ITS worked together to develop the contest for undergraduates. Bailey explained that the creation of the contest was a collaborative effort.

“A few of us [from University Communications] were talking about the Presidential election and the thought occurred: Wesleyan students are smart, informed, and engaged,” he wrote. “What would a Wesleyan student have to say to the President if they had a minute in the Oval Office? The ’Minute with the President-elect’ Student Video Contest was born. University Communications and the New Media Lab in ITS developed this inaugural version of the contest.”

This desire to harness the academic endeavors and efforts of University students goes beyond the contest. As part of the new media initiative, Ravishanker agreed that the goal is to increase student contribution online—whether in the form of a video, artwork, or even a written paper.

“We’re actively launching ourselves into the two-way interaction online,” said Ravishanker. “This particular contest is a start in that direction.”

Ravishanker explained that this two-way interaction, deemed Web 2.0, involves the ability to upload material and then have others comment and rate these contributions.

Bailey explained that the ability to both submit and comment on the contest’s video entries raises awareness of the intellectual discourse at the University.

“[The goal is] to raise awareness of the stimulating intellectual environment here at Wesleyan and share with each other and the world,” wrote Bailey. “We are all eager to see what themes emerge in the entries, to see and hear what ideas find an audience and inspire others to add their voices to the ’Minute with the President-elect’ contest.”

Some students, however, are wary of the impact that a contest can have on political discourse and activism at the University. Nathan Mackenzie ’12, a member of the Wesleyan Democrats, expressed his skepticism.

“It shouldn’t take a YouTube contest to get people to participate in politics,” he said.

Bailey says he has only encountered favorable responses thus far.

“Reactions have been positive,” he wrote. “Wesleying got it right away. This should be engaging and fun.”

Baily does admit, however, that few—if any—entries have been submitted as of yet.

“We hope people aren’t waiting for some [other students] to go first,” he said. “The sooner your entry is posted to YouTube/Wesleyan, the better your chances.”

The grand-prize winner and nine runners-up will be announced online Dec. 3rd.

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