Ann Landers not amused by college try at humor

February 16, 1993|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

Ann Landers doesn't have much of a sense of humor, Western Maryland College has discovered.

The nationally syndicated advice columnist today criticizes the private college in Westminster for its whimsical advice to cash-strapped parents. In a financial aid brochure, the college suggests that parents play the lottery or send chain letters to help pay their children's tuition bills.

"Send a letter to 200 people promising them good luck if they return two bucks and send the letter to 10 of their friends," the Western Maryland brochure says. "[The proceeds should cover grad school tuition, too]. Remind them that bad luck will come their way if they don't act within five days."

The passage was meant to amuse, but it offended a single mother of twin girls who are high school seniors. She queried Ms. Landers:

"What do you think of an 'institution of higher learning' that would send such material?" wrote the parent, who signed her letter, "Nonplused in Edison, N.J."

Responded the columnist: "What do I think? I think it is not too cool for a university to be sending out material that has jokes in it. Humor has its place, and literature acquainting the public with a college should not be funny."

Not so, say college officials.

"We thought the light touch would get parents more involved in it," says Joyce Muller, director of public information at the college. "I would say parents need all the comic relief they can get."

Most of the brochure is devoted to routine advice about applying for financial aid, with a rundown of various loan and grant programs. Tuition, room and board at the 1,200-student college add up to $18,280 this year.

Working with the North Charles Street Design Organization in Baltimore, the college came up with asides such as "The Gain-Loss Equation" for sending a kid off to college. Benefits BTC include: "Plenty of room for the in-laws." "No more car pooling to the sounds of Guns 'N' Roses and Public Enemy. From now on, it's National Public Radio."

The mailing has gone to about 43,000 families. Only one person has complained, Ms. Muller said. Officials on campus are not sure if the complaint came from the same person who wrote to Ann Landers.

All in all, college officials are delighted that their school is appearing in the Ann Landers column, which runs in The Evening Sun and about 1,200 other newspapers.

"If anything, it might help the college by giving us some free publicity," said Rodney L. Joyner, associate director of admissions.

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