Thursday, December 10, 2009

Andrea's social media headaches

When we last left this story, Andrea's department chair had been contacted by the University's Office of Legal Affairs about her activities on third-party social media sites. Her chair wanted to see her first thing in the morning:

Jim Goodfellow is Andrea's department chair. He's had a rough night of no sleep in anticipation of his conversation with Andrea. He is dreading it. He's been at the University for some 25 years, and these younger faculty are very different than his colleagues were back in the day. He knows he serves at the discretion of the faculty, and most days he walks an interesting tightrope. He's gotten to his position in life by seeking consensus, not making waves, and following the rules. It seems these days that 90% of his time is spent on personnel matters.

Today his focus is on Andrea. She's an incredibly gifted scientist and educator. She is totally committed to her job. She's emblematic of the rising-stars that define the new face of higher education. She also generates a ton of grant money. He's guessing that she won't much care whether she's gotten sideways with the University's administration or not. He's scheduled to meet with her first thing...

"Andrea, we have a bit of a problem with some of your use of technology," says Jim. "Apparently the University isn't too happy with your use of Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook. The Office of Legal Affairs says that you've entered into contracts on behalf of the University by accepting third-party terms of use, and that this is strictly forbidden. They've written asking you to stop using them in the conduct of your University job functions. They shared the policy with me that says that you are completely on your own here, and doing it without the University's permission."

"Okay Jim. I'll get right on that," smiles Andrea. "Does that mean they'll be upping my email quota? Cause you know, the only reason I went to Gmail in the first place was that I was continuously running out of storage. Hey, don't you forward your University email to Google? Doesn't just about everyone?"

"This isn't about me or anyone else. It's about you Andrea," Jim continues. "Apparently they also have concerns with your blogging and use of Twitter." They say that using your personal accounts in the conduct of University business violates the new social media policy." He hands her a printout to read:

The University has established an application process for groups to be recognized by the University as official social media accounts.
The policy only applies to social media accounts created to represent groups, departments, programs, entities, etc. and does not apply to private individual accounts.
Please note that while the University utilizes these services they are not involved with the management or ownership and do not endorse them. Each service maintains its own privacy policy, terms of service and other policies. The University cannot be responsible for your use of these sites.

Jim continues, "And the CIO is asking some questions about domain names? Some crap about University URLs being required for all our sites. He says that any exceptions require his sign-off."

Andrea is taken aback. "Right, like he would ever approve my blog. He'd insist that I use the University's blogging platform. That system works nearly as well as the campus email," she chuckles. "You know, in our business it's sometimes easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I just took the path of least resistance. Let's just ignore the attorneys and maybe they'll go away."

"I'd like to Andrea," says Jim, "But there's this bit about some state and federal laws being broken."

to be continued...

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