Some notes and observations regarding NYU’s proposed Social Media Policy

1) This was apparently written in the Public Affairs Office. The “Responsible Officer” listed is the Vice President for Public Affairs. There was no consultation with faculty that I can tell. There were no meetings about this policy, there were no surveys of faculty to see how they use social media tools in research and teaching, and yet the Faculty Senate is expected to give its approval without question. Such a policy should NOT be implemented without substantial faculty input and support.

2) The Public Affairs Office should not be issuing policies that have anything to do with faculty’s use of Social Media except in the context of institutional accounts. This policy does have a section dedicated to Institutional Media Accounts (Section III), and that is the ONLY place where the Public Affairs Office should be involved in drafting such a policy.

3) The perfunctory statement on Freedom of Expression and the Academic Community (Section 1a) is inadequate and contradicted in other sections of the policy.

4) In Section II the policy conflates electronic communications such as email with the use of publicly available Social Media tools (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, for example) which should be considered separately.

5) Section IIb purports to prevent “misuses” of electronic communications. While references to preventing threatening behavior seem reasonable on the surface, this section of the policy could in fact be used to bring sanctions against faculty, staff, and students for such innocuous behavior as posting a picture of someone wearing a Game of Thrones tshirt. (If you think I’m kidding about this, see recent happenings in New Jersey: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/16/bergen-community-college-faculty-and-president-conflict-over-many-issues#sthash.PS3sZyg5.dpbs ) There is NOTHING in this policy that would prevent administative retaliation against a member of the faculty using perceived “threats” as an excuse.

6) Section IIb also prevents “engaging in conduct that disrupts NYU operations or creates a foreseeable risk of doing so.” ANY criticism of the university, its policies, and/or its administration could come under this rubric. My tweeting about this policy could be seen as sufficiently disruptive and could become an excuse to attempt to shut down my social media accounts.

7) Section IIb also prohibits “Engaging in prohibited electioneering” but this goes completely undefined.

8) Section IIc prevents members of the NYU community from altering or creating their own versions of NYU marks. This section needs to be amended to protect satirical speech.

9) Section IVg is entirely inadequate in protecting faculty who use social media as part of their teaching. It was obviously not written with input from anyone in the classroom.

10) This policy should absolutely NOT be passed in its current form. A committee of faculty should be convened to design an APPROPRIATE social media policy that protects freedom of expression and academic freedom as well as establishing reasonable guidelines for social media use. This policy does not do that.

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