For a number of years I’ve believed we urgently need a conversation about social media governance within higher education. This is a general term for a range of mundane issues which emerge from the use of social media by those within the university (academics, students, support staff, managers etc) in ways which are likely to be seen by others within these groups. These are examples of the questions entailed by social media governance:
- How should academics comport themselves in relation to students on social media?
- Is criticism of one’s institution protected as a matter of academic freedom or can it be curtailed in the name of professional responsibility?
- Can academics claim to be using social media privately if they have a public profile which identifies their institution?
- Should online statements pertaining to an academic’s area of expertise be treated differently from those which lack this link?
- Do universities have a responsibility to protect their staff from online attacks provoked by what are perceived to be controversial opinions?
At present these are occasionally debated in education media, discussed in professional development workshops and negotiated in disciplinary proceeding (informal and formal) but we don’t yet have a systematic conversation about it, let alone a coherent policy agenda which attempts to deal with the deep challenge which these developments pose to norms of accountability and free speech within higher education.