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UW-River Falls’ social media policy evolves

February 17, 2012

UWRF has a social media policy that most students do not know about unless they have violated the policy or are involved with the athletics program.

However, whatever students are posting on their own personal Twitter or Facebook accounts is not being followed by the University. Students cannot get in trouble personally for their own postings on social media sites.

If the social media pages are connected to a group that is representing the University, they will be monitored and talked to by University Communications if there is content that goes against the policy.

According to the UWRF social media policy on the University Communications page, the purpose of social media sites that represent UWRF is to support the mission, goals, programs and sanctioned efforts of news, information, content and directives of the University.

The website outlines what one can and cannot post or talk about online while representing UWRF or posting anything regarding the University. The Athletic Department also follows “the University’s social media policy along with the UW System’s policy,” said Jim Thies, sports information director for the athletics department.

The Student-Athlete Handbook, accessible through the athletic department website, stresses that athletes should familiarize their selves with terms and conditions of the websites they use and with the UW System and UWRF Acceptable Use of Technology policies.

Brittni Gullickson, a freshman, was not aware of the UWRF social media policy. Gullickson said that she would have liked to been notified of the policy, “if something big was going on I would like to know about it. I am not going to say anything bad about the University but I would like to know about it phase by phase.”

Two sophomores, Mia Kuroki and Jonathan Reid, both did not know about the social media policy as well and said they too would have liked to know about it because they would not have wanted to get in trouble for posting something online and to know the consequences of violating the policy.

“We handle incidents on a case-by-case basis and until it becomes a major issue, we are not going out of our way to introduce the policy to new students,” said Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor.

Fry commented that the unsanctioned use of social media has not been a big issue for the university. The issues that they deal with are mainly about the use of copyrighted images and materials.

“To date the issues we have addressed deal with individuals using copyrighted UWRF images on their account and then posting material that is inconsistent with the mission of the University,” Fry said in an email.

Michael Brun, a senior at UWRF, became aware of the University’s social media policy last school year after he violated it. “I made the mistake of using an image of Freddy Falcon as a Twitter avatar to promote my weekly radio show on WRFW,” said Brun.

Amy Christensen with the University Communications department contacted the radio station to take down the Twitter account because it went against the policy.

Brun commented in an email, “The University has an image to uphold and a brand to protect, so it makes sense that University Communications wants to keep on eye on social media associated with it. The problem is that students are used to having complete control over their online identity, and it’s easy to forget there are social media rules in the real world.”

Christensen, a marketing specialist, said, “Students have freedom of speech and can say anything they want on their own personal pages but should keep in mind that whatever they say could have a bearing on them in the future.”

“We have a couple accounts we are monitoring. If the accounts mention our name [UWRF] then we see it,” said Christensen. Christensen said that their main concern was about students, faculty and staff adhering to branding guides of the University such as their logo. “The policy is only one year old and students are still in a gray area when it comes to the policy.”

Looking ahead, the University Communications department will continue to evolve the policy as social media continues to grow in the future.