Social Media Policy Pitfall

by kristendom on December 19, 2013

Yesterday the Kansas Board of Regents passed a new social media policy that sets an extremely dangerous precedent for higher education. According to the policy:

“Improper use of social media” means making a communication through social media that…impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers, has a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty and confidence are necessary, impedes the performance of the speaker’s official duties, interferes with the regular operation of the university, or otherwise adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services.

Let’s move past the obvious issues with freedom of speech that this policy has – I suspect there will be plenty of blog posts about those in the coming days from people who can write about them far more effectively than me.

Let’s talk instead about the fact that we are supposed to be in the business of educating our students, and part of that education is how to live in a world with social media. Now we are dealing with the fact that these educators are not going to be able to use at least some of the tools they need to be teaching their students to use (because let’s be honest, who in their right mind feels like they post ANYTHING on social media with a policy like that in place?). We are also shutting down a possible means to communicate with students and even each other. For many of us, social media has become the only way we can reach many of our students – now the folks at Kansas have effectively had that medium closed to them.

I fear that other universities will soon follow suit, and I only hope that most do not. Should this become the norm in higher education, we are shutting down a chance for our employees to share their thoughts in writing, to build relationships online, to learn and teach – and isn’t that what universities are supposed to do?

Meanwhile, I won’t be surprised if my many friends and colleagues from KU suddenly disappear from social media together. Who would blame them?

  • Jack Breffle

    I’m sensing a bit of an overreaction here. Wouldn’t part of role modeling responsible social media use include a lot of the stuff in that policy anyways? and its very subjective language in a way that covers the university in case someone is using social media to stalk a student or display/pronounce professionally inappropriate things or spending their entire work day on facebook (which is not OK even if you were job titled Social Media Coordinator).

    • Kristen Abell

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jack. I don’t disagree that I’ve posted about the worst-case scenario here, but that’s exactly my point – that the worst-case scenario leaves staff and faculty unprotected in a way that they have to be more fearful than confident using a medium that our students are using regularly. And having been at universities as long as I have and seeing the worst-case scenario play out, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to project that it has the potential to play out here.

Previous post: