Officials offer mixed opinion on Twitter controversy

Cameron Koch

Students took to Twitter to voice their opinions in response to Tuesday’s Herald cover story, prompting administrators to offer a response.

President Gary Ransdell continued to advise students to use social media responsibly as tweets and posts are always accessible to potential future employers and others.

Ransdell said that the First Amendment is a fundamental part of WKU  and that students will always be able to speak their minds. But he said he didn’t agree with the recent attention on the issue.                                                                                                                        

“A lot of attention seems to have been given to this matter — there’s probably a little too much attention,” said Ransdell, who as of Wednesday said he had not read the Herald’s coverage of WKU’s social media policy.

“I think there’s been some overreaction to all of this.”

Chief Marketing Officer Stacey Biggs wrote a commentary to the Herald that she said reflects the position of the university. This commentary can be found on the Opinion page.

Robbin Taylor, vice president for Public Affairs, when asked via email to respond to the unconstitutional wording of a policy in the student handbook, chose to refer to Biggs’ letter.

The current wording of the policy, “accessible communications deemed inappropriate may lead to disciplinary action,” currently allows for the university to possibly discipline students for tweets or posts the university deems “inappropriate.”

Biggs said that there haven’t been talks with Student Affairs about changing the wording of the policy, in addition to adding specific language to deal with cyber-harassment and cyberbullying.

In Tuesday’s Herald, a statement by Corie Martin, creative Web services manager, said she monitored social media and notified Judicial Affairs of inappropriate posts or tweets.

Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper said this is not the case.

“I don’t know that we have done that in any instance that I’m aware of,” Skipper said. “When we talk about monitoring social media and what’s being said, we’re not necessarily monitoring it for something that’s inappropriate.

“We are looking for recurring issues or problems that students might be having so we can address those issues and correct them.”

Skipper said the department isn’t out to get students but rather to help.

“It’s not like we’re trying to take down anything that somebody may have said that’s negative about the university — that’s going to happen,” Skipper said. “Like any business, we’re looking at ways to improve customer service, and students are our customers.

“If they are having a problem with something, and they vent about it on Facebook or on Twitter, that gives us a chance to address that issue and make a difference for them.”

Biggs echoed Skipper’s remarks.

“The thing is, people say negative things all the time, and that’s fine — they have every right to,” Biggs said. “We do look for those things. We see those things to see if there’s something we can fix, something we can make better — that’s what we do.

“If somebody wants to go out there and complain about something here, whatever it happens to be, they have every right to do that. We know that.”

Biggs said the only time an event remotely mirroring reporting a student to Judicial Affairs was a case where Biggs’ department noticed a student worker saying inappropriate things on social media. The department notified the student worker’s supervisor, who then had a talk with the student. The content was then removed.

Given a chance to respond in regard to disciplinary action taken against students for abuse of social media, the office of Judicial Affairs said that Michael Crowe, the director, would not be made available for this story.

Another comment by Martin in Tuesday’s paper said that the university is working with the WKU Police Department in some cases involving alleged Twitter harassment.

WKUPD has no knowledge of these conversations, said Mandi Johnson, public information officer for WKUPD.

Martin wasn’t made available to comment.