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Subject:

Social Media Policy: Not So Private Professors

From:

Dan Kern <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 2 Mar 2010 09:03:07 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (280 lines)

Not So Private Professors 

March 2, 2010 

Whether it's avoiding bars frequented by students or politely declining the
occasional social invitation, professors often make an extra effort to
establish boundaries with their pupils. But social networking sites, which
are often more public than they may appear, are lifting the veil on the
private lives of professors in ways they may not have expected.

Gloria Gadsden said she thought she was talking only to close friends and
family as she vented on Facebook about her students, but the East
Stroudsburg University sociology professor has since learned the hard way
that her frustrated musings were viewable by some of the very students she
had consciously declined to "friend" in the past. A small change to the
settings for Gadsden's online profile allowed the "friends" of Gadsden's own
"friends" to read her updates, and in so doing created a controversy that
the professor now feels could damage her career and her chances at tenure.

Gadsden was placed on administrative leave last week after a student
reported two Facebook postings that some have interpreted as threats
<http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100226/NEWS/226034
4> . On Jan. 21, Gadsden wrote "Does anyone know where to find a very
discreet hitman? Yes, it's been that kind of day ." Another post in the same
vein came a month later, as Gadsden opined: "had a good day today, DIDN'T
want to kill even one student :-). Now Friday was a different story." 

Gadsden's suspension and the continuing investigation into her postings not
only highlight the seriousness with which some colleges are responding to
any sign of a security threat, but also further removes the illusion that
faculty members -- or anyone, for that matter -- can maintain a completely
private life on the Internet. 

Until last week, Gadsden said, she thought that by limiting her cyber
friendships she could maintain the firewall between her personal life and
her role as a professor. But she believes an update to Facebook's software
automatically altered her settings, removing the barriers Gadsden had
carefully erected. 

"I actually did see that page as something that was not a part of ESU, not a
part of my professional life," she said. "I don't invite students into that
part of my life."

And yet, in they walked. 

Colleges have for years been warning students to keep their Facebook and
Myspace pages free of embarrassing photos or writings, but a more recent
phenomenon is the emergence of concrete policies governing how faculty and
other employees use social media. DePaul University and Ball State
University, for instance, both have approved social media policies, and Ball
State's specifically notes that social media sites "blur the lines between
personal voice and institutional voice." 

"Privacy does not exist in the world of social media," Ball State
<http://cms.bsu.edu/%7E/media/DepartmentalContent/UMC/pdfs/BallState_SocialM
ediaPolicy.ashx> 's policy says. "Consider what could happen if a post
becomes widely known and how that may reflect both on the poster and the
university." 

East Stroudsburg does not have a social media policy, and university
officials were unable, on Monday, to point toward a specific policy that
Gadsden may have violated through her postings. Prior to her meeting with
administrators to discuss the postings, Gadsden said, "I have never been
told by my department chair or any administrator about any specific
guidelines about social media." 

University officials emphasized that Gadsden was placed on paid
administrative leave during the investigation, which -- unlike suspension --
is not considered a disciplinary action.

Alabama Shootings Inform Response

Faculty may make efforts to preserve their private lives, but professors
really have "24-7" jobs and can never fully distance themselves from their
identities as educators held to high standards, said Brad Ward, who advises
colleges on using social media. 

"Anybody who is representing an institution is an extension of that brand,"
said Ward, chief executive officer of BlueFuego. "Everyone should be aware
at this point that what you put on the Internet isn't always private." 

But what exactly can be discerned from a faculty member's Facebook postings
or a 140-character "tweet"? When considering matters of campus security,
such limited information needs to be analyzed in the context of a larger
profile of the professor, according to Ann Franke, who consults with
colleges nationally on issues of risk management. A college examining
threats should be examining a host of issues, including whether a faculty
member has experienced a professional failure or exhibited behavorial
changes, Franke said.

"A good threat assessment process takes that person's life into context, not
just the words," said Franke, president of Wise Results LLC.

There is also evidence to suggest Gadsden's intended audience interpreted
her postings as jokes. One friend said she was "ROFL," or "rolling on the
floor laughing," upon reading Gadsden's request for a hit man. 

While not taking a position on East Stroudsburg's response, Franke noted
that colleges often have a tendency to overreact in the wake of tragedies.
There is little doubt that the recent shootings at the University of Alabama
in Huntsville were in the back of administrators' minds as they evaluated
whether Gadsden's postings constituted a threat. Indeed, Gadsden said that
when she met with administrators to discuss the postings they specifically
mentioned Amy Bishop <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/02/12/uah> ,
the Huntsville professor charged in the killings of three professors on the
campus last month. 

"Given the climate of security concerns in academia, the university has an
obligation to take all threats seriously and act accordingly," Marilyn
Wells, East Stroudsburg's interim provost and vice president for academic
affairs, said in a written statement. "The university's knowledge of the
online statements comes with a responsibility to act in a manner that
ensures the safety of our students, employees and our campus community."

In such a "hypersensitive" environment, it's reasonable to conclude that
universities would have a formal response any time someone raises safety
concerns in good faith, said Brett Sokolow, managing partner for the
National Center for Higher Education Risk Management. Universities are
trying to create a culture of awareness about campus safety, and if they
didn't respond to concerns "it would tell the community, 'Hey we don't take
these things seriously, so why call us?' " 

While Gadsden thinks her university overreacted, she said she can appreciate
why some response was necessary.

"If something happens and they didn't do anything about it, they have
students and parents who are going to be suing them," she said. 

Gadsden said she plans to file a formal grievance contesting her
administrative leave, but she plans to cooperate with the university's
demand that she undergo a psychological evaluation.The Facebook page won't
be deleted, but Gadsden has given up any illusions about privacy. 

"I honestly have to say that people have too much faith in the Internet,"
she said. "I think the Internet can be as dangerous as it is wonderful." 

Christopher Conway, an associate professor of modern languages at the
University of Texas at Austin who has written about social media for
<http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2007/10/16/conway>  Inside Higher Ed
and other publications, said Gadsden's case should be instructive for other
faculty. 

"I believe that Facebook and similar sites have contributed to the collapse
between personal and professional boundaries, which is very troubling,"
Conway wrote in an e-mail. "All faculty should strive to maintain a modicum
of distance and professionalism, both in real and virtual space. There are
many reasons to do this, but the most compelling is nothing more than
protecting oneself from regrettable situations like this. It's just not
worth the risk."

-  <mailto:[log in to unmask]> Jack Stripling 

Go
<http://www.insidehighered.com/layout/set/print/news/2010/03/02/facebook#Com
ments>  to comments (2) > 

 

Top of Form

Comments on Not So Private Professors 

*	Mixed reviews... 
*	Posted by James on March 2, 2010 at 6:45am EST 
*	I have been following this story over the last week, and have mixed
feelings about the issue. I understand the concerns among university
administrators, especially in the hypersensitive environment generated by
the Amy Bishop tragedy. On the other hand, I think the university
administrators are negotiating an issue that maybe legally precarious.
Nevertheless, I found Professor Gadsen's remarks concerning her students
completely unprofessional regardless of venue, intent, or current issues.
The fact that her "friends and family" found her comments funny did little
to change my opinion in this regard. In addition, she knew, or should have
known, this information was available to anyone, including her students,
interested in tracking her activities on this open forum. 

I have not embraced this form of social networking as a means of
communicating with anyone, and I think the problems illustrated in this
article confirm my persistent reservations. Personally, I do not feel the
need to be hyper-connected with anyone after I spend the day extinguishing
inflammatory remarks posted within Blackboard, managing social networks in
the classroom, responding to a daily plethora of personal and professional
e-mails, etc. Furthermore, I suggest that the final commentator made an
excellent point: The lines between faculty and student become blurred in
these types of venues. Moreover, the line between one's personal and
professional life disappears entirely! While I enjoy my students, and I love
my work, I also enjoy and value my personal privacy. 

I simply cannot understand why anyone, student or faculty, would feel the
need to put his or her personal life on an open source network. Just my
observations and opinions, and I am looking forward to reading others as the
day progresses. 

*	Posted by Don Heller at Penn State on March 2, 2010 at 7:45am EST 
*	While I have some sympathy for Professor Gadsden, she ultimately has
to bear responsibility for her actions. While there have been some changes
to the Facebook privacy rules, they've been fairly well announced on the
site, and it is her responsibility to understand how those rules apply to
her postings. This is even more the case when she's going to joke about
hiring a hitman. Even if she did not have students as friends on Facebook,
one of her other "friends" could have easily shown the postings to campus
authorities. And because she specifically mentions students in the second
posting, ESU had little choice but to act.

C Copyright 2010 Inside Higher Ed 

 

Source:  http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/03/02/facebook

 

 

 

Dan Kern

CC12, Reading

East Central College

1964 Prairie Dell Road

Union, MO  63084-4344

Phone Direct:  636-584-6607

Fax:  (636) 584-0513

Email:  [log in to unmask]

ECC main phones:  636-583-5193 & -5195

ECC web address:  www.eastcentral.edu

 

http://www.studentveterans.org/

 

www.vietnamwomensmemorial.org

 

Veterans Day 2009: http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/

 

Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You
may both be wrong. (Dandamis, sage [4c BCE]) 

Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is
it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks
the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a
position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it
because one's conscience tells one that it is right. (Martin Luther King,
Jr.) 

Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner. Put

yourself in his place so that you may understand what he learns and

the way he understands it. (Kierkegaard)

 

To freely bloom - that is my definition of success. -Gerry Spence, lawyer
(b. 1929)    [Benjamin would be proud. I think, I question, I Bloom.]

 


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