Tips for faculty using social media
Whether you are in the process of developing an online presence or are merely hoping to protect your personal account, these tips can help you navigate a new era of digital expression.
Universities often have specific policies governing social media. Read up on them to make sure you know what is expected of you. Such policies should be consistent with the First Amendment, as well as the principle of academic freedom.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
It may be necessary to remind administrators, fellow faculty, or students of the principle of academic freedom. Understand this principle—and its limitations—especially as it relates to free speech.
Even if you identify yourself as an employee of a university, your views should be understood to be your own. However, it may be safer to make clear that you are not speaking for the university and that it does not necessarily share your views.
KNOW BEFORE YOU POST
When posting on social media, do not expect the public to separate your personal and professional personae, even if you post from a private account. University leaders may also have grounds for concern if you post content related to your field of expertise that raises questions about your ability to carry out your professional responsibilities. (In other words, writes Keith E. Whittington, a Princeton professor and the author of Speak Freely: “An engineering professor who makes a hobby of Holocaust denial might expect to be shielded from professional repercussions, but a historian of twentieth-century Europe espousing the same views should expect closer scrutiny and likely adverse professional consequences.”)
While it takes time, building supportive online communities who will come to your defense if you experience harassment can be immensely helpful.
See PEN America’s Online Harassment Field Manual