In the interest of transparency, I must confess that my first attempt to persuade my organization to adopt the social media policy I wrote for it as written hasn’t been successful (but I endeavor to persevere). I once again must find my spot in the long, sad, line of public relations pros who spend their time hoping their unheeded recommendations don’t become dire prophesy foretold.
Rather than officially establish a social media policy, Grand Rapids Community College leaders decided to mention social media in the “Authorized User Agreement” (AUA) for the college. This is a problem.
Beyond the “burying” effect it has (ensuring no one will read it in the same way no one reads the fine print of cell phone contracts), there are two concerns people in higher education should have with lumping social media policy in with AUAs:
1) AUAs only apply to college equipment and the college network. They don’t apply to an employee’s personal phone, computer, or internet access. YET – most (if not all) of the policies employees are bound by at work also apply to them off-hours. The employee handbook: applies. FERPA: applies. HIPAA: applies. You get the idea.
2) AUAs are obtuse and selectively-enforced. They’re the “McDonald’s Coffee is Hot” warning of communications policies.
From all that I’ve seen, AUAs seem to exist solely to pad flimsy cases for firing employees to avoid wrongful termination lawsuits.
C-suite can’t come up with enough dirt on an employee to can them? – Throw in a trumped-up charge that they “violated the AUA” by watching YouTube videos on their lunch break (horrors!) or installed a freeware weather applet for their desktop (gads!).
If you ever see me grinning wryly with a faraway look – it’s because I’m envisioning how, at that moment, there’s an employee somewhere in the world being disciplined for violating an organization’s AUA by an HR representative who is also currently violating the AUA (by using a work email for personal use, or installing the Spongebob Squarepants screen saver on their PC).
Another unintended negative consequence of folding social media policy into the AUA is that the student newspaper for the college is now concerned about the language of the AUA, worrying it will be used to kick students off of lab computers for using Facebook.
I understand the need for IT departments to indemnify themselves and to protect the technology and network that serves their organization. I really do; people do a lot of stupid things with their keyboards. The AUAs we’re using, however, are not cutting it. They need to be practical and relevant – and they need to either apply to everyone, every time or no one at any time.