Other Ky. public schools lack social media rules for students

Cameron Koch

WKU’s student handbook policy regarding “inappropriate” messages doesn’t have a counterpart among other large public universities in Kentucky.

The policy states “accessible communications deemed inappropriate may lead to disciplinary action.”

The student handbooks of the University of Louisville, University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University do not contain a policy toward accessible communications resembling WKU’s.

Both UK and U of L do have social media guidelines that advise students, faculty and staff to think before they post, not to say anything they wouldn’t say in public and to avoid using university trademarks, logos or images without prior approval.

Policies and restrictions specifically for faculty and staff as well as for university-run social media sites are also listed.

Many of the guidelines echo President Gary Ransdell’s social media awareness Facebook post on Feb. 15 in which he encouraged students and employees alike to “be smart” about social media.

WKU does have social media policies and guidelines located in the WKU Communication and Branding Manual that involve faculty and staff, as well as university-run sites or accounts.

Gail Hairston, a public relations officer  at UK, said that UK currently does not have a specific policy in the student handbook regarding social media.

“If a student uses social media to harass someone, that would fall under the student code in regard to harassment,” Hairston said. “But there is nothing specifically about social media.”

Hairston said UK does keep track of some tweets using the UK hashtag. Hairston also said if certain posts or tweets are brought to the department’s attention, then they are obligated to investigate.

Stacey Biggs, WKU’s chief marketing officer, said the social media monitoring done by her department is used for a similar reason — to identify problems students are having on campus and to help fix them, not to seek out inappropriate student posts or tweets.

The UK Student Affairs website recently added a new addition that allows students to file various complaints with the university so that they can be dealt with and fixed.

Howard Bailey, vice president for Student Affairs, wrote the WKU student handbook policy about inappropriate communications and said that there are currently no plans to change it.

Bailey said it has absolutely nothing to do with censoring student speech on the Internet.

“I don’t know if it needs to be changed,” Bailey said. “If changes do occur, it will be in the summer when the policies in the handbook are reviewed.”

“The office of Student Affairs is committed to making sure students at Western Kentucky University will always have their free speech and First Amendment rights protected.”