Social Media Policy

Social media networks can be valuable communication tools, especially those that allow people to affiliate with a cause or organization and participate in conversations. There are also inherent liabilities involved with social networks, which range from messages that may offend some readers to identity theft, scams and stalking by sexual predators.

There are a variety of social media pages and blogs implying they represent Western Michigan University, its alumni, athletic teams, colleges, departments, programs and student organizations. To the extent these pages are lent credibility or implied official status, WMU may be viewed as having responsibility for the content.

There is very little value to social media pages and blogs that are rarely updated, and those that contain incorrect information about WMU are detrimental. As with all Web pages, social media pages and blogs require periodic maintenance, and those that allow anyone to join and anyone to post messages or other items, must be continuously monitored.

It is not possible for WMU to monitor or control all social media pages or blogs that imply a relationship to some part of the University, nor do we wish to discourage alumni, students or others from utilizing social networks. We can, however, control which pages will be given official status.

Official status for social media pages

Only social media pages approved by university relations may be listed on any official University Web page, or print or electronic publication. Once approved, they may be listed on the Web pages of a corresponding office, department or program.

Criteria for obtaining official status

  • The primary administrator of the page must be a benefits-eligible employee of WMU. At least one other benefits-eligible employee must have administrative access.
  • If anyone can post content to the page without administrator approval, the page must be monitored. The frequency with which the page must be monitored will vary with the volume of traffic, but should not be less than once per week.
  • One way of measuring the frequency with which a page is monitored is the frequency or regularity of new information posted by the administrators. While the frequency will vary depending on the nature of the page, fan pages that have clearly been abandoned are not a service to alumni, students or prospective students.
  • Official social network pages must comply with any design or other standards adopted for such pages by the University.

Advertising and sponsors (liking and following)

Web policies regarding advertising and sponsors apply to official social media pages. Policies prohibiting advertising include "liking" or "following" other pages and linking to other websites. This is especially applicable to, but not limited to, pages that may compromise the position of the University by endorsing an opinion, product, private business, cause or political candidate. Exempt are comments and links posted by "followers" or "fans" and advertising generated by the site provider, such as Facebook.

Free expression

WMU encourages freedom of expression and recognizes the value of diverse opinions. Page administrators, however, have a responsibility to remove comments, images or other material deemed inflammatory, vulgar or otherwise inappropriate, especially when they appear to threaten the welfare or safety of the poster or others.

Student organizations

The Web pages of registered student organizations are not considered official pages of the University. WMU does not attempt to monitor those pages nor exercise control, unless a specific problem is reported. The same applies to social network pages. Any student organization willing to comply with all standards for official pages, may apply and will be accorded the same status as other official pages.

Exemptions

These standards apply to all existing and future social network pages. Appeals for exemption should be sent to the director of electronic communication, Office of University Relations. If the director does not grant an exemption, and the applicant wishes to appeal further, the appeal may be taken to the Web Governance Council. The decision of the council will be final.

Applying for official status

Applications for and questions about official status for social media pages should be directed to the assistant director of electronic communication in university relations.

Cara Barnes
Assistant Director of Electronic Communication
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433
(269) 387-8435 or 387-8400
cara.barnes@wmich.edu

Application and enforcement

The purpose of this policy is to have a set of standards for social media pages and blogs that can be applied equitably across all areas of the University and can assist department leaders, Web managers and others in planning future Web use. The standards are designed to protect the reputation of the University and the safety of alumni, students, prospective students and others. If absolutely necessary, the University, through various offices, has the physical ability to remove Web pages that do not comply.

Approved March 24, 2010
Amended May 31, 2011
Web Governance Council