COMMENTARY: University defends policy

Stacey Biggs

I am writing in response to your multiple articles related to social media use at WKU. Your stories implied that we monitor and censor every word that is said about WKU and immediately punish anyone who says anything negative. That is far from the truth. The fact is that we strongly encourage the use of social media and enjoy watching the interaction between current and future students, parents, fans, reporters and others.

As any responsible organization should do, we follow what is being said about WKU via social media outlets. We want to be part of those conversations! We realize of course that not all statements regarding WKU or specific people will be of a positive nature, and that is perfectly OK. We view negative comments as an opportunity to make improvements and to turn a negative into a positive.

The Administration’s intent is not to censor students or others in their status updates, tweets, or other posts, nor are we in any way attempting to infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights. Rather, the niversity uses social media to interact with our audiences in order to build relationships, answer questions, welcome visitors to campus, solve problems, and continue to broaden the university’s reach.

The university has to offer some amount of protection to its students. Any policies or guidelines that may be put in place in the future would be to protect innocent students from cyberattacks or cyberbullying via social media, not to tell them what they can or cannot say.

We also feel a responsibility to students to provide guidance and direction on social media etiquette in order to prepare students for their futures. While anyone certainly can say anything they want about WKU or specific people, there is a big difference between what you “can” say or do and what you “should” say or do. We have an obligation to protect the reputation of WKU and the overall brand. That is not accomplished through punishing or threatening students with legal action — it is done through education and communication. The overarching message is to carefully consider how you’re using social media, especially if you are or will soon be in the job market, because you never know who will see what you post.

We encourage students to consider that Facebook is forever. Some don’t believe that employers really do take the time to find job candidates online. What we want students to realize is that the status updates (and pictures and videos and tweets) that they post today could become problematic as they begin a professional job search.

The Herald specifically quoted President Ransdell’s Facebook post from February 15 encouraging responsible use of social media, but what the article failed to mention is the reaction that his post received. As of this writing, that post had 35 shares, 215 Likes, and 18 comments. The post was also referenced on the main Western Kentucky University Facebook page and had an additional 19 shares and 70 Likes. The reaction to his good advice was overwhelmingly positive and supportive.

The tone of two of the articles undermines all of the good things that are happening at WKU via social media. Students today are more connected to each other and to the university than we ever thought possible. It goes beyond the social to the practical. Students are able to find answers to their questions and resolve issues through these types of interactions. In other words, the good far outweighs the bad.

The explosion of social media use has also created many positive opportunities and outlets for change. There are great tools to meet other students, share ideas, showcase your experience and skills, to network, and to find job openings. The key is to become familiar with those tools and to use them wisely.

Stacey Biggs,

Chief Marketing Officer