OK, so I initially just did a quick toss to my facebook status of the following article:
And it spurred the following response from a good friend and colleague:
I agree with you that she should have reviewed her privacy settings. However, I also think everyone was over-reacting to her posts (although I give her institution credit for keeping her on paid leave and even admitting they can’t find any official policy she violated). We all vent and let off steam, and for someone to turn her in for threats without taking context into account is reactionary at best. We’re getting to the point where we can’t say or do anything for fear that someone will take offense and report us to someone. I also don’t agree with the idea that academics represent their institutional brand 24/7.”
Now, my colleague has made excellent points—I agree with all of them and don’t mean what I’m about to say as an attack on her opinion. However, this educator’s situation highlights the sort of care that needs to be taken when being in these spaces.
Most of our laws, governing principles and policies were established way before the advent of social media. Have institutions adapted? We’ve seen pretty soundly that they have not and are moving forward slowly and from a fearful place. And what are they fearful of? Recklessness like the behavior of this educator, who seriously(?) thought it a good idea to be “edgy” and “cheeky” in a public space with little regard for audience. And in the current atmosphere of violence and hostility (hello, “Tea Party Movement” and oh by the way didn’t a professor who was refused tenure just show up on campus and murder three people who denied her?), how can we possibly fault an institution for getting nervous. And don’t even get me started on how difficult it makes the work of convincing administrators that we can be using social media to benefit our students—that we can use these powers for good and not evil.
Now, the title of my blog. Yes, I realize I’ve quoted “the great excuse” of the gun lobby in America. No, I do not believe the phrase “guns don’t kill people, people do” is justification to cave to the gun lobby in America. I do believe they have a point and that only careful education and regulation can improve the effects of guns on American society (just like we license people to drive, we should be licensing people to bear arms—only after they prove they won’t kill innocents should they be allowed to carry them). Am I advocating licensing people to use social media? No. But I do think professionals should educate themselves before they venture into these spaces.