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Campus discusses social media uses, issues

“It’s complicated,” a panel of Pittsburg State University faculty and staff agreed Monday, when they addressed the issues surrounding the use of social media.

“It’s complicated,” a panel of Pittsburg State University faculty and staff agreed Monday, when they addressed the issues surrounding the use of social media.

Mark Arbuckle, associate professor in communication; professor in mathematics; Jamie Brooksher; university general counsel; and Chris Kelly, associate vice president for marketing and communication; shared their perspectives of the legal and practical issues surrounding the use of social media by university faculty and staff. The discussion, “Faculty perspective on social media,” was held in the Overman Student Center.

The panelists acknowledged a heightened interest in campus social media use in response to the social media policy adopted by the Kansas Board of Regents in December. A taskforce is expected to make recommendations to the board about possible changes to the policy in April.

The panel members said their purpose was not to address a specific policy, but talk about the broader principals and issues surrounding the use of social media.

Arbuckle began by talking about the history of academic freedom on university campuses, saying it was a basic First Amendment issue.

“A professor’s job is to profess,” he said. “The idea is as old as academia, itself.”

Brooksher talked about limits to free speech, noting that the First Amendment was adopted to protect citizens from government. She described three categories of speech: fully protected, not protected and somewhat protected. She said determining whether speech is protected is often a balance between the public employee’s right to speak and a government employer’s interest in avoiding workplace disruption.

Huffman described the way she uses Facebook to communicate with students. She said she does not “friend” students, but always accepts friend requests from students who request it.

“I started because students don’t use e-mail anymore,” Huffman said.

She said that Facebook has helped her communicate with alumni and former students as well as with colleagues and national organizations. Huffman said she is careful about the kind of content she posts.

“As a faculty member, I try to model the social media footprint for students,” Huffman said.

Kelly said the Office of Marketing and Communications is a heavy user of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The office drives the conversation with regular content about events, students, faculty and alumni, he said, and also responds to questions and requests.

Kelly said one of the things that has surprised him is how often students on campus will use Twitter to report things like a Wi-Fi interruption or power outage.

“They often don’t pick up the phone and certainly don’t take the time to send an e-mail,” Kelly said.

He said his office passes this information along to the appropriate people, who then take care of the problems.

“It’s just good customer service,” he said.

The panel discussion was sponsored by the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology and Library Services.

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