The Weekend Update is not your typical community newsletter.
“An 18 year old was mega intoxicated trying to get into the wrong address,” an Oxford Police Department (OPD) Facebook post from Aug. 29 reads. “When the police officer arrived, he did not grasp the whole uniform look and asked the officer ‘what year are you in school?’”
Snippets like this one are posted weekly to the Oxford Police Department's Facebook page. These posts started in 2017, when Lieutenant Lara Fening decided it was time to find a way to directly communicate with the community.
“I had wanted to put out an informative update, just in the interest of community outreach,” Fening said.
She emphasized that in this new era of news, people need to get more creative with how they are presenting information to the world. Fening said that nowadays “people don’t know how to receive information.”
Fening believes that as newspapers and other traditional forms of media become less prominent, there is confusion surrounding the best way to communicate with local organizations, like police departments.
“I think that it is a tool that we use to improve the communication with our public,” Fening said. “With the feedback we have received from the public, we feel that it has worked out fabulous.”
Fening said the average resident appreciates the updates as the police department works toward transparency with its constituents.
“Even if it’s minor, they are being informed on the front end,” Fening said.
But some, like Miami University Dean of Students Kimberly Moore, feel the Weekend Update aids in stereotyping the university’s student body.
“Sometimes we have an urge to throw a monolithic view over the student body,” Moore said. “Students seem to be getting more and more diverse in their interests.”
Fening said she never identifies anyone as a student of Miami, but there’s some level of assumption involved.
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“I never say that it is a student,” Fening said. “Perhaps there is an implication from the reader that that is what it is.”
To Moore, the updates target Miami students, even if they don’t call out the university by name.
“There’s a ton of assumptions in this town, that’s easy to do,” Moore said. “When you have a town of six to eight thousand that all of a sudden balloons to 26,000 people, it’s easy to assign Miami students responsibility that may or may not be factual.”
Ava Ostrom, a first-year psychology major, believes there are unfair student implications.
“I understand why people would feel [offended] because the Weekend Update often shares details that don’t necessarily need to be relayed to the public,” Ostrom said.
Fening believes otherwise.
“The benefits we see from that outreach outweighs that kind of criticism we might get from revealing what is public record,” Fening said.
Jonathan Vigoa, a first-year kinesiology major, feels it is a great way to stay informed about what is going on in the community.
“It is really interesting to see what happens on the weekends, and makes me feel like I'm informed about what’s happening,” Vigoa said. “It is also very interesting to read.”
As to why there’s contention over the Weekend Update, Fening thinks it has everything to do with the light shed on student activities.
“There have been times when Miami has probably not wanted to see it” Fening said. “”It’s highlighting [student issues] to them.”
Another point of contention is the tone in which these updates are written.
Fening said people will read the updates as funny regardless of the tone she writes them in. Fening said OPD avoids including stories of a sensitive nature, and she reads through every report multiple times before it gets published to find stories that are helpful to the public.
Moore encouraged students unhappy with the update to have conversations with others and not put too much value in the posts.
“I have 100% faith in our Oxford Police Department,” Moore said, “and that they would be willing to listen and have a conversation.”