Wikipedia:Your alma mater is not your ticket to Wikipedia

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Wikipedia has strict policies about the notability of people, and the creation of a new article about a non-notable individual frequently results in the speedy deletion of the page. However, it is common for people to go to their alma mater's Wikipedia page, and add their name or a friend's name to the list of "notable alumni." Here is some advice: don't do it! Namechecking is the unacceptable practice of listing the names of non-notable individuals in another Wikipedia article.

Reasons for practice[edit]

The practice is fairly common for a few reasons.

  1. It's easy. Creating a brand new Wikipedia article takes some effort, and requires that the user be a registered editor. Adding a sentence or two about a person is easy, and can be done by anyone.
  2. Individuals often have nostalgia for their alma maters, and want to be associated with it.
  3. Among people who don't frequently edit Wikipedia articles, there may a misunderstanding about notability. Just because you have a number of degrees, own a small business, sit on your town's council, and feel important doesn't necessarily make you notable.
  4. This kind of namechecking is more likely to evade detection. New articles are patrolled by other editors, and will be submitted for deletion if the subject is not notable. For university articles, non-notable names are only removed if someone viewing the article sees them and removes them.

How to detect[edit]

It is easy to detect non-notable names on a university alumni list. There are some recurrent characteristics.

  1. Person does not have their own Wikipedia article, and thus their name is not highlighted blue. Occasionally, someone notable won't have their own Wikipedia article yet, but will be listed in their university article, but that's the exception to the rule.
  2. Description of person or their achievements uses peacock terms, such as "world-class", "leading", "prestigious", or "renowned." Truly notable individuals don't need puffery because their achievements speak for themselves.
  3. A laundry list of positions held or awards won. Notable individuals often have a brief description on a university alumni list that focuses on their main accomplishment (e.g., governor of a state, Nobel Prize winner). Conversely, to compensate for their lack of notability, multiple jobs and awards are often listed for non-notable individuals. If you see terms like "won third place" or "assistant to", the person is not notable.
  4. A list of names that seems disproportionately large for the size and reputation of the school, or which shows a large number of recent graduates.
  5. This is the sole edit by the user who added the name, and in some very overt cases of self-promotion, the name added and the editor's name are similar (e.g., "User:JSmith" adds the name "John Smith" to a university alumni page).

Other variations[edit]

There are a few other variations of university namechecking.

  1. Including the names of instructors and professors who don't meet Wikipedia's notability of academics guideline. As a general rule, if an academic is a "distinguished professor" or is a leading expert in a field, they are notable. Most others, particularly ones with titles like "instructor", "lecturer", "assistant professor", or "associate professor", are not notable.
  2. Undergraduate or graduate students who add their name to the Wikipedia page of a notable professor who they do research with. Wikipedia clearly states that notability is not inherited from a personal or business relationship with another person. It's extremely rare for a student to be notable for their academic work, and students who work for a notable professor are not notable.

Problems with namechecking[edit]

Adding the names of non-notable individual to a university's Wikipedia' page is bad for several reasons.

  1. It undermines Wikipedia's legitimacy as an encyclopedia. Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites provide people a forum to discuss their lives. Wikipedia is meant to provide factual information about notable topics.
  2. The material is often neither verifiable nor neutral, thus violating core Wikipedia policies. There are usually few independent sources of information for non-notable people, so there is no way to confirm the background of someone described as a "renowned scientist" or "prominent business leader".
  3. A user who adds a non-notable name often has a conflict of interest, being a family member or close friend of the person being added. In some cases of unbridled arrogance, a non-notable person adds their own name to their alma mater's alumni list.

Solutions[edit]

  1. Don't engage in namechecking. If you believe that a person can meet Wikipedia's notability of people guideline, initiate an article about them. Then add a link to that article onto the university's Wikipedia page.
  2. If you see people's names listed in an article that are non-notable, remove them. If you are uncertain about a person's notability, place a question on the article's talk page, or post the question on the notability noticeboard.

See also[edit]