Students mixed on WKU’s policy

Cameron Koch

It’s no secret that nothing is private on the Internet, but the controversy caused by WKU monitoring student social media use has many students thinking about social media’s influence.

Kendrick Bryan, executive vice president of the Student Government Association, said he is a major advocate of free speech but at the same time warned students of the dangers of using social media irresponsibly.

“WKU students need to watch themselves, be more careful,” Bryan said. “Employers and others view those accounts.

“I’m concerned with cyber bullying more than anything. Other than that I think students should be able to use those accounts respectfully,” he said. “It’s concerning to me that WKU is looking more into that, but it’s a very complicated situation.”

Senior Josh Newman said WKU does not have the authority to take away constitutional rights and does not want the university moving in the direction of censoring negative comments or criticisms toward WKU.

Newman, an SGA senator, caught flak from the university after posting vulgar comments about Athletics Director Ross Bjork the night before former Head Coach Ken McDonald was fired.

“People are going to say things — that’s just how it is,” Newman said. “I criticized my athletic director about a basketball coach in a vulgar tone, which I shouldn’t have done.

“However, at a bigger university, at University of Kentucky for instance, things get said like that all the time and I guarantee students aren’t brought into Judicial Affairs for it.”

Newman said he learned a lot from his experience, namely that comments made on social media are always accessible and irresponsible usage could harm him as he applies for graduate school and jobs.

Dawn Wientjes, a junior studying public relations, said from a PR perspective she thinks WKU is doing the right thing.

“I think it’s a good thing they are regulating. If I was working for a client I would want to put them in the best light possible,” Wientjes said. “I wouldn’t want my client company to be saying foul things on Twitter — it makes them look bad.

“If you are part of WKU, you represent the school.”

As a member of the golf team, Wientjes said she has always been told that she represents the university and not to use social media to shed negative light on the university.

“I don’t think people realize it has that big of an effect,” she said.

Caitlin Pike, also a public relations student, believes the university is taking the right steps in terms of monitoring student accounts and what is being said.

But Pike said there is a fine line between monitoring and censoring, and  WKU is coming close to crossing it.

“I think it’s proactive for the university to be seeing what’s going on online. You need to see what your audience is saying,” Pike said. “However, adding something into the code of conduct with the potential to be called into Judicial Affairs is really excessive.

“It can backfire on the university if they become known as ‘Big Brother’ and censor what students are saying. You have to wonder what else they are doing if they are taking the time to watch student Twitter accounts.”