4.10 Social Media Policy

Social media is a powerful communication tools that has a significant impact on organizational and professional reputations. Because they blur the lines between personal voice and institutional voice, the College of Mount Saint Vincent has adopted the following policy to help clarify how best to enhance and protect personal and professional reputations when participating in social media.

Social media platforms are defined as media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Examples include but are not limited to blogs, Wikis, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, as well as photograph sharing sites such as Flickr.

Both in professional and institutional roles, employees need to follow the same behavioral standards online as they would in real life. The same laws, professional expectations, and guidelines for interacting with students, parents, alumni, donors, media, and other College constituents apply online as in the real world. Employees are liable for anything they post to social media sites.

While this document will provide more specific guidelines to help navigate particular interactions, all these spring from a set of basic principles:

  1. Don’t post anything you would not say.
  2. Assume anything you post is public, regardless of privacy settings.
  3. Assume anything you post is permanent.

4.10.1 FERPA

All legal privacy laws and policies regarding student records must be followed without exception. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) ensures the privacy of “Educational records” of students. At no time should information that is considered part of a student’s educational record be submitted, posted, or referenced through a social media network.

A social media site can be used for instructional purposes. Student content created and/or posted to fulfill a course assignment using social media does not violate students’ privacy rights, if done properly, and in accordance with FERPA. Here are some policy suggestions for instructors who want to incorporate social media into their classrooms:

  • When students are assigned to post information to public social media platforms outside of the College LMS, they should be informed that their material may be viewed by others.
  • Students should not be required to release personal information on a public site.
  • Instructor comments or grades on student material should not be made public. (Interestingly, grades given by other students on “peer-graded” work can be made public under FERPA). (ACE, 2008)
  • While not clearly required by law, students under the age of 18 should get their parent’s consent to post public work.

FERPA does not forbid instructors from using social media in the classroom, but common sense should be used to ensure the protection of students.

It is important to exercise extreme attention to student information and err on the side of caution in these situations. When utilizing social media for instruction, some planning can ensure that student, faculty, and College rights are protected. Any doubts or questions can be addressed to the Provost/Dean of Faculty.

4.10.2 Policies for all Social Media Sites, Including Personal Sites

  • Protect confidential and proprietary information: Do not post confidential or proprietary information about College of Mount Saint Vincent, students, or alumni. Employees must still follow the applicable federal requirements such as FERPA and HIPAA, as well as NCAA regulations. Adhere to all applicable college privacy and confidentiality policies. Employees who share confidential information do so at the risk of disciplinary action or termination of employment.
  • Respect copyright and fair use: When posting, be mindful of the copyright and intellectual property rights of others and of the College. Intellectual property rights must be respected when utilizing networks whether for personal or professional purposes. When posting materials owned by others, an individual bears the responsibility of compliance with licensing and copyright requirements. For example, some materials may allow posting under Creative Commons Licensing which may have more liberal use terms, in contrast to a book publisher that may have more restrictive use terms. When in doubt, one should request permission from the publisher, content creator, or owner of the materials. These same considerations should be applied to institutional material’s and your colleagues’ materials.
  • Don’t use CMSV seal or name for endorsements: Do not use the CMSV seal or any other College images or iconography on personal social media sites in a manner that may indicate endorsement, agreement, or sponsorship by the College. Do not use CMSV’s name to promote a product, cause, or political party or candidate. The Use of CMSV’s seal shall comply with the Branding Guide published by the Office of Public Relations and found on the CMSV website. The CMSV seal is the Colleges official public identifier (visual mark). In the majority of official CMSV communications, the seal shall be used to ensure consistency of the college’s image. For detailed information on CMSV’s branding, please see the Branding Guide on the College website or consult the Office of Public Relations. Be advised these standards are updated periodically and should be checked regularly to ensure compliance.
  • Respect College time and property: College computers and time on the job are reserved for College-related business as approved by supervisors and in accordance with the Information Technology Users’ Privileges and Responsibilities document.
  • Do not violate College Policies: It is a violation of College policy to posting any material that violates College policies and procedures, such as the College’s policies against harassment and discrimination.
  • Terms of service: Obey the Terms of Service of any social media platform employed.

This section applies to those posting on behalf of an official College unit/department, though the guidelines may be helpful for anyone posting on social media in any capacity.

  • Think twice before posting: Privacy does not exist in the world of social media. Consider what could happen if a post becomes widely known and how that may reflect both on the poster and the College. Search engines can turn up posts years after they are created, and comments can be forwarded or copied. If you wouldn’t say it at a conference or to a member of the media, consider whether you should post it online. If you are unsure about posting something or responding to a comment, ask your supervisor for input or contact the Office of Public Relations.
  • Strive for accuracy: Get the facts straight before posting them on social media. Review content for grammatical and spelling errors. This is especially important if posting on behalf of the College in any capacity. (See Section 3: Institutional Social Media below.)
  • Think before you post: Understand that content contributed to a social media site could encourage comments or discussion of opposing ideas. Responses should be considered carefully in light of how they would reflect on the poster and/or the College and its institutional voice. The college supports and respects the intellectual property rights of copyright holders. Content posted on the internet must conform to copyright law.
  • Remember your audience: Be aware that a presence in the social media world is or easily can be made available to the public at large. This includes prospective students, current students, current employers and colleagues, and peers. Consider this before publishing to ensure the post will not alienate, harm, or provoke any of these groups.
  • Personal Sites: On personal sites, identify your views as your own. If you identify yourself as a College of Mount Saint Vincent employee online, it should be clear that the views expressed are not necessarily those of the institution. When participating in an online community, content of postings should benefit the community as a whole. Consider the nature of the community and the expectations of its members when contributing. Do not use membership purely as a means of promoting yourself or your organization. Do not use the name of the College to endorse products, causes, political parties, or candidates.
  • Photography: Photographs posted on social media sites easily can be appropriated by visitors. Consider adding a watermark and/or posting images at 72 dpi and approximately 800×600 resolution to protect your intellectual property. Images at that size are sufficient for viewing on the Web, but not suitable for printing.
  • Images: Remember that the policies of College of Mount Saint Vincent related to purchasing and using images apply online as well as in print. Contact the Office of Public Relations with questions.

4.10.3 Institutional Social Media

If you post on behalf of an official College unit, the following policies must be adhered to in addition to all policies and best practices listed above:

  • Notify the College: Departments or College units that have a social media page or would like to start one should contact the Office of Public Relations. All institutional pages must have a full-time appointed employee who is identified as being responsible for content. Ideally, this should be the head of the department. The responsibility for content is not linked solely to an individual but to their position; if the responsible individual leaves the College, his / her replacement would assume responsibility for content unless other arrangements are made by the head of the department.
  • Acknowledge who you are: If you are representing CMSV when posting on a social media platform, acknowledge this.
  • Have a purpose and a plan: Departments should define their goals in using social media on behalf of the institution, messages to reach those goals, and audiences, as well as a strategy for keeping information on social media sites up-to-date. The Office of Public Relations can assist and advise you with your social media planning.
  • Link back to the College: Whenever possible, link back to the College of Mount Saint Vincent site. Ideally, posts should be very brief, redirecting a visitor to content that resides within the College web environment. When linking to a news article about CMSV, check first to see whether you can link to a release on the College’s website instead of to a publication or other media outlet. If the publication or posting is on another media outlet, the Website Communications office can assist by posting a link on the College’s website, ensuring the connection back to the College.
  • Protect the institutional voice: Posts on social media sites on behalf of the College should protect the College’s institutional voice by remaining professional in tone. No individual College department should construe its social media site as representing the College as a whole. Consider this when naming pages or accounts, selecting a profile picture or icon, and selecting content to post—names, profile images, and posts should all be clearly linked to the particular department or unit rather than to the institution as a whole.
  • Violation of the Institutional Social Media Policies Risks Disciplinary Action or Termination of Employment.

Approved February 28, 2014