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Community College Restricts Students’ Social Media

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 11 Aug 2011 06:54pm | comments
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Copiah-Lincoln Community College released a new social media policy that got twitter talking.  MPB's Education Reporter, Annie Gilbertson, explains why the new policy might be controversial and why it may be perceived as a violation of free speech.

Regulating social media is largely uncharted waters for colleges, at least that's how Colpiah Lincoln President Ronnie Nettles sees it.  When he announced a new policy warning students not to post inappropriate content to school organization pages, he was surprised that media across the country responded.

Nettles: “The attention this has gotten is kind of unusual in that it was really just a small part of a large board meeting.  I think the term social media really gets people’s attention.”

And it did, making television news locally and twitter feeds across the country. While regulating college athletes online is common, regulating the general student population is largely unheard of, or at least it was after the Supreme Court decided it violated first amendment rights.

Delfattore: “There are Supreme Court decisions that say students are permitted to form organizations that are student organizations within an institution. They are run by the students and represent the students' view point.”

That's University of Delaware Professor Joan Delfattore, who researches intellectual freedom issues. To summarize Delfattore, students in public schools are free to promote any content they like under a university-affiliated student organization's name provided it's not breaking any laws, like calling for violence, promoting underage drinking or posting pornographic pictures of minors.

But Co-Lin's policy simply states inappropriate content should be avoided and does not place precise limits on what could be classified as such. Still, there hasn't been a reaction from students.  Second-year nursing student Leah Greer says she doesn't feel her rights will be infringed upon and her peers should just use common sense.

Greer: “You really can’t control what people say.  Freedom of speech is something we all have, but then again, if you are posting it on Facebook… I don’t think people should post bad things.”

Nettles says the media pushed out the story of Co-Lin’s policy before it was finished, so they may not have caught the last line, “nothing in this policy is intended to unlawfully interfere with an individual’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech or freedom of the press.”


From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.


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