New social media policy offers guidance, inclusion to students

As part of Kansas State’s Action Plan for a More Inclusive K-State, the University published a new social media usage policy for students on Aug. 16, 2021. (Deborah Adeniji | Collegian Media Group)

As part of Kansas State’s Action Plan for a More Inclusive K-State, the university published a new social media usage policy for students on Aug. 16, 2021.

Thomas Lane, vice president for student life and dean of students, served as the lead administrator of the seven-member committee that developed the policy. He said before the policy’s creation, nothing existed to govern what students could and could not do on social media.

“We discovered that there was a social media policy for faculty and staff that was brought forth through the Kansas Board of Regents, but there was really no guidance for student social media,” Lane said. “So, we saw this as an opportunity to engage with students and other campus community members to talk about what are the expectations with regards to social media. What are the resources that are available to students? How can we encourage responsible use of social media while also being mindful of the First Amendment and freedom of expression as a state institution?”

The policy acknowledges the benefits of social media while commenting on the responsibility that comes with its use. While it states the university may take corrective action against social media content or conduct that violates the policy, Be Stoney, interim chief diversity and inclusion officer, said it is not designed as prohibitive.

“Our students need to conduct themselves responsibly and ethically online,” Stoney said, “because we want to support our students who do have that freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but not from the sense of insulting or violating the university policy.”

Zach Perez, senior in mass communications, served as a student representative on the committee. He said the policy makes it clear for students to understand the proper use of social media.

“I think, if nothing else, it gives students … a hard guideline, and it more just defines things that went undefined,” Perez said. “I think that’s where more of the frustration came within the student body, is that there wasn’t specific language or a specific policy to outline student conduct on social media.”

(Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)
Student scrolling through various social media platforms. (Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

The committee began meeting in Fall 2020 and concluded its mission with the publication of the policy in August 2021. During that time, the committee presented policy drafts to student groups for feedback.

“We looked at other universities’ examples of policies, had discussions about what we’d like to see in our policy,” Lane said. “Then bedded that draft to the students who worked on the student code of conduct revision, and then also looked for other opportunities to share with students such as Student Government Association leaders, student leaders within the journalism and mass communications program, and just tried to — after all of those draft revisions — come up with a policy that was put forth to the campus.”

While the social media policy is new to K-State, Lane said it ties in with other policies students should already be aware of.

“For example, our Threat Management Policy, our policy on sexual harassment and discrimination, our policy associated with the student code of conduct … those are all important pieces of the social media policy,” Lane said.

Stoney said the policy will positively impact K-State by following what the Action Plan is meant to accomplish.

“The impact [will be] better dialogue … between students, better dialogue between faculty and students and better dialogue in understanding and asking questions to learn more about others,” Stoney said. “For me, it’s about learning about people, and I think that’s a strong impact that this particular policy will have when we’re talking about an inclusive K-State.”

The student social media usage policy is in the Policy and Procedures Manual on K-State’s website.