The growing popularity of social networks and blogs over the past several years has created a unique dilemma for many universities.

While some schools have explicitly stated their policies on online posting and sharing, most are faced with the duty of assessing potentially problematic cases individually to determine whether the student is in violation of any rules or regulations.

Many students at UTSA have profiles on social network sites, write blogs or post videos to YouTube, but do they know what the rules are?

“Things that could get a student in trouble are threatening violence, saying something discriminatory, or harassing. It’s very much on a case-by-case basis,” Associate Director of Student Judicial Affairs, Todd Wollenzier said.

“We have to look at it to see if it’s freedom of speech or if it violates one of our codes of conduct.”

Section 202 of the student code of conduct states that disciplinary proceedings may be initiated against any student for a violation that relates to “the time, place, and manner of expression or expression-related conduct.”

Students who violate the code of conduct can be subject to punishment ranging from disciplinary warnings to expulsion, depending on the action.

College students around the U.S. have experimented with “risky” online content sharing through blogging, video postings and social network profiles.

Following the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s recorded history, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) student Alexandra Wallace posted a video of herself voicing her displeasure with Asian people on campus calling their relatives back home.

In the video, she imitated an Asian dialect and expressed her annoyance with the “hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every year.”

Wallace was not reprimanded by UCLA because her actions were protected by the First Amendment and the right to freedom of speech. She later made the decision to leave the university after receiving death threats.

Len Audaer, a law student at Syracuse University was placed under investigation and faced “extremely serious” charges for his blog about life at Syracuse. The blog he intended to be comical contained unflattering remarks about a school administrator and fictitious stories about events at the university.

Syracuse decided to drop the investigation and Audaer issued e-mail apologies to the people he talked about in his blog.

Most employers also create policies about acceptable use of social networking. This not only affects existing employees, but students who are applying for new jobs or internships.

“No matter what you think about the fairness of employers judging possible candidates off of their social networking sites, it happens,” Interim Director of Career Services Audrey Magnuson said.

Magnuson says she advises students to consider the opinions that people could potentially form based on pictures and posts that can be publically viewed.

“I would suggest considering what messages you are sending, especially if you don’t have privacy settings on. If you or one of your friends posts potentially ‘damaging’ information to your professional reputation, think twice about leaving it out there where it can be seen.

“It is just not good practice,” Magnuson said.

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