Even the most venerable entities are not immune to economic adversity.

From American Express to Wynn Resorts, drastic action has been taken to ensure survival. The financial firestorm has scorched America’s oldest educational institution: Harvard Universityharvard-logoIn a bold move designed to ensure its fiscal survival, Harvard University today announced that it is selling it’s campus and going entirely online.

Billionaire businessman and 1965 Harvard Business School alumnus Robert K. Kraft purchased the 308 acre campus for an undisclosed sum. Kraft will develop the land into a massive commercial and residential complex in the heart of Cambridge, MA named “Harvard ‘s 100 Yards.”

“This was the most economically viable option;  we will save millions of dollars in toilet paper alone!” said Harvard President Dr. Drew G. Faust.

The school has experience with online learning through its Extension School and development of edX, but will develop a proprietary instructional platform for this new venture: Fully Online Optimized Learning System (FOOLS). In addition to robust learning tools, FOOLS will integrate several interactive features, including a virtual classroom environment similar to Second Life.

“We will miss our beautiful campus, but I am sure it will be equally as invigorating sending instant messages to each other,” Faust added. “L-O-L as they say!”

The change comes at a time of unusual fiscal concern at the historic campus. The university’s $36.9 billion endowment recently suffered losses of at least 22% (estimated at $8 billion) and projections anticipate a further decline. Insiders fear the loss could be even higher once real estate and private equity declines are considered.

AOL founder Steve Case has volunteered to produce thousands of CD-ROMs containing the systems operating system. Nobody expects to use them for anything but improvised coasters, yet Case insists.

Internet raconteur Philip J. “Pud” Kaplan will ease the transition by creating a “deadpool” game in which students can bet which classmate will fail next. Likewise, Facebook founder and former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg will personally design an application to virtually recreate the social scene at the university.

Loic Le Meur and Gary Vaynerchuk will provide a continuous supply of French wine and cheese to the developers, faculty, staff and students during the transition. Social media expert Chris Brogan has also been hired to provide strategic vision while Loren Feldman will produce daily video updates of the technical development using puppets. Shel Israel and Robert Scoble will document the historic transition on Twitter.

“These people are all dopes,” Feldman groaned when informed of the news. “They should have asked me for my opinion since it is always the right one!”

To address any potential psychological concerns Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura will be on call to offer counseling services to those in need.

“The school is getting real,” said Dr. Phil. “Far too often people wait until it is too late to do what’s right.”  Not to be outdone, Dr. Laura is quoted as saying “without dormitories those stupid co-eds won’t be shacking up like unpaid whores!”

With regard to the development of the campus, Robert Kraft — who developed Patriot Place adjacent to Gillette Stadium where his New England Patriots play —  is no stranger to tackling big tasks and succeeding. The 67 year-old Kraft, with an estimated net worth of $6.6 billion, was named the 244th richest American by Forbes magazine.

“As an alumnus I am proud to be a part of this project. Today we are all Crimsons!” Kraft exclaimed.

Preliminary plans call for a residential area divided into four football-themed sections: First Down, Second Down, Third Down, Fourth Down, with an exclusive area for custom homes named Tom Brady Estates.

Also included will be a robust retail area with an array of retail stores. The initial list of national tenants includes HootersVictoria’s Secret, TGI Fridays, Subway, and Jiffy Lube. Patrons with small children can leave their children at “The Antonio Cromartie Daycare Center for Children with Forgettable Names” for a flat fee of $31.

In recognition of the land’s educational roots, a New England Tractor Trailer School (NETTTS) campus, “The Ted Kennedy Memorial School for Underwater Driving,” and a Greer Childers Body Flex Academy — along with several other instructional outletes — will open on the former site of the ivy league school.

With a nod to sustainability the entire development will recycle and reuse its waste at  the Eric Mangini Waste Processing Center. The facility will be heated by the hot air from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT (delivered directly via an underground pipeline).

With safety as a top concern, all 308 acres will be secured by a state of the art security and video monitoring system. Patriots head coach  Bill Belichick was personally involved with the design of the video camera network.

“It’s beyond anything I could have imagined,” commented Belichick. “The video system alone is worth the investment!”

Look for the first phase of  “Harvard ‘s 100 Yards” to open next summer!

PS: April Fools!

Carl's Jr. Happy StarOn Saturday, January 31, 2009 Beth Mansfield, the Public Relations Manager for CKE Restaurants, Inc. (Carl’s Jr.), visited my UC Santa Barbara Extension “buying behavior” class.

She discussed the popular restaurant’s marketing strategy and, in particular, how the company uses social media in its outreach efforts.

Her two-hour presentation was exceptionally interesting and provided my students with tremendous insight into how a large corporation is embracing social media.

What you might find equally interesting is the process by which Beth wound up speaking to my class in the first place. A chronology of the events that transpired is provided below — note the pivotal role Twitter played in all of this (short version: without Twitter none of this would have happened).

It all began with a burger!

On December 20, 2008 iJustine tweeted that she was going to eat a cheeseburger (one of her more “insightful” posts!). I replied with a tweet in which I asked her what her favorite burger was — and included Carl’s Jr in the list of options (one of my more “insightful” posts).

Although iJustine never replied to me, Carl’s Jr. began following me almost immediately. This was ironic because I had no idea Carl’s Jr. was on Twitter and just three days earlier, on December 17, I had experienced a mild issue at a Carl’s Jr. near my house about which I intended to blog.

A week later, on December 24, I did just that and posted a sensational blog post about a negative Carl’s Jr. experience.  Then, to test the power of Twitter and the responsiveness of Carl’s Jr. on December 31, 2008, I tweeted about my aforementioned blog post, hoping to get a reply from the company.

A day later — New Year’s Day 2009 — I received a reply tweet from Carl’s Jr. along with a direct message (a private communication) from Carl’s Jr. explaining crisscut fries are always more expensive than regular fries, but, as a gesture of good faith, the company would send me some coupons.

At this point I still had no idea who was behind the Carl’s Jr. Twitter account.

Amazingly, the next day, January 2, 2009, I saw a tweet from noted technology writer Shel Israel promoting an interview he conducted with Beth Mansfield, the Public Relations Manager of Carl’s Jr.!

After reading Shel’s interview with Beth, I found my way to her personal Twitter account. I then realized she lived in Ventura, CA (which is just a few miles south of Santa Barbara).

I was surprised because I thought Carl’s Jr. was headquartered in Irvine, CA and assumed Beth would living in that area (in retrospect, I was thinking about Taco Bell which has its headquarters there).

This was really the “tipping point” because, prior to it, I did not know that it was Beth who was behind the Carl’s Jr. Twitter account and that she was so close to UCSB.

Realizing a potential opportunity, I sent Beth a direct message  to clarify if she was indeed in Ventura. She replied, indicating that Carl’s Jr. was based out of Carpinteria, CA.  It was at that point I invited her to speak at my class.  I did not know what to expect, but was relieved when Beth was immediately agreeable to the idea.

We went back and forth via direct messages on Twitter to determine the best date and everything. We confirmed the plans once more via e-mail, and then it all came together on January 31, 2009 — slightly more than one month after iJustine‘s tweet put this entire chain of events into motion.

If you’re interested in what Beth had to say (seven previously posted YouTube clips of her presentation were removed per a request from UCSB Extension), her PowerPoint presentation is available online at SlideShare:

Special thanks to Beth Mansfield for spending time on a Saturday to share some of Carl’s Jr.’s social media marketing secrets — and for Twitter, Shel Israel and iJustine (Justine EzarikJustine Ezarik) for helping to make this all happen.