The boom in Twitter use is making Universities increasingly susceptible to public scrutiny and scandal as many students are turning to social media to share their thoughts. According to a May 2011 study from the Pew Research Center, 18-29 year olds make up 18% of Twitter users, with over half of them accessing the site on a mobile device.
One such scenario occurred at North Carolina State University when Varsity Basketball player C.J. Leslie tweeted a series of homophobic tweets:
Though the series of tweets made the news and reflected poorly upon the university, Leslie did not face any disciplinary action as it was not threatening and did not violate the student code of conduct. “When these kinds of situations come up we’ve got to be able to say, ‘no, it’s not us’,” said Paul Cousins, director of the office of Student Conduct at North Carolina State University to USA Today. This objective, he says, is often difficult because students are perceived as representatives of the university by the general public. The university issued an apology to the public, and its LGBT community following the controversy.
Another scandal arose in August at the University of North Texas. A video of a sex tape featuring alleged students at the University was uploaded to Twitvid, Twitter’s independent video uploading service. The story made headlines on a lot of Texas media, and rumors and buzz began spreading about the scandal, with the hash tag #UNTsextape trending in the Dallas-Forth Worth area the following days. University officials made sure to distance themselves from the video and reaffirmed that an investigation would find, and punish the users who students involved with the video.
Student accounts are not the only ones susceptible to scandals, an official University of Iowa Twitter account faced a similar scandal earlier this month after referring to Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann as a “cougar.” The university immediately removed the post, and issued an apology to its followers and the public.
Many universities do not have specific social media policies in place for non-athletes, while others such as Colorado State provide guidelines for their students. “We’re not engaged in censorship of student’s access to social media,” Cousins said of North Carolina State University’s lack of policy. Students would, however, be held accountable for posts potentially constituting harassment, threats or otherwise illegal activity.
Such cases, as well as the infamous Anthony Weiner scandal remind us of the viral, and potentially negative effects of social media today. Social media experts suggest being cautious with what you post on social media sites, especially Twitter because of it’s very public, and permanent nature.Tweet