During the session there was some handwringing about the laws not keeping pace with technological innovation. I fully understand that the laws have not kept pace. For the most part, however, it's not the laws that are creating problems for our universities. If people break the laws (FERPA, HIPPA, public records, piracy, sunshine...) then the laws should be enforced. Just like they are enforced for those who break these laws in the physical world.
My concern is with the policies we've been creating for social media that go above and beyond what we expect of people in the physical world. For example, I proudly wear my NC State hat when I am out and about the community. When I run into people they know I work for the university. In conversations I don't preface my every comment with, "Now realize, I'm speaking for myself and not my university, blah blah, blah..." I don't say, "Ooops, before I speak please let me remove my NC State wear." Yet, I am not supposed to participate as myself in social media spaces if I cross-the-line into my professional responsibilities. If I participate in a networked social space I am only supposed to do it through an official channel. In effect, I've been removed from the public discourse in the few areas where I might actually offer some informed thought.
The biggest problems facing our universities are not the laws governing cyberspace. The laws are not preventing us from participating in public conversations. It is our own policies that are the problem. They are killing us. To paraphrase Cory Doctorow*, the biggest threat to our future is not that people might do something inappropriate in social spaces; the biggest threat is obscurity. Our current policies are taking us well down that path. We need to fix them so that the new default is to engage. Abstaining from the conversations is not an option.
* For me -- for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity. Cory Doctorow