Social media makes higher ed more vulnerable: 5 things colleges can do about it

Avoiding a social media frenzy at your university

You've seen the headlines.

An organization creates a "Professor Watchlist" to keep tabs on liberal professors who allegedly try to quiet their conservative students. Social media firestorms erupt in response to faculty members' tweets.

The internet has exposed individuals in higher education to new risks, argues Mark Carrigan, a digital sociologist and social media consultant at the Sociological Review. Carrigan writes that, while social media can be a valuable tool for colleges and universities to engage those outside of their campus community, it often also becomes a venue for controversy, polarization, and inflammatory rhetoric.

Carrigan recommends five actions that colleges and universities can take to protect their campus community on social media:

  1. Consider creating a shared fund to help individuals pay damages;
  2. Start including social media training as part of professional development for faculty and staff;
  3. Help faculty understand that their words on social media may be read and critiqued by a wider and more diverse audience than in other venues;
  4. Prepare faculty to have their research taken out of context for political reasons or otherwise; and
  5. Make public a list of protocols and policies that determine what will happen in the event that a faculty member is threated or attacked online (Carrigan, "Vitae," Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/29).

Social media guidelines for institutions and faculty

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