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Social Media Guidelines

Updated August 2021

Social media has become a heavily observed and monitored source for commentary, breaking news and updates on critical issues. As such, the college sees these communications as an essential element of strategic communication that should be shaped and guided by general policies.

The following guidelines bring together a number of the college’s policies, principles and codes of responsibility to help members of the Smith community as they engage with the public on behalf of the college through new and evolving means.

At the core of Smith’s passion for dialogue is a strong belief in free speech, diversity of thought and mutual respect. These guidelines do not, in any way, seek to infringe upon or limit those expressions. Instead, this document should be read as a set of best practices and thought-provoking suggestions on how best to navigate a rapidly changing field of communications.

This document does not impose any new rules that limit or control speech on or off campus. Rather, it collects existing policies and laws (academic freedom, privacy and acceptable use policies, respect for copyright, etc.) and interprets them in ways that will be beneficial for Smith College employees who, through social media, administer accounts on behalf of the college.

In addition, it includes a section for employees who use social media for personal purposes that could, in the public eye, be viewed as official Smith communications.

In accordance with applicable laws, the college strives to make its social media accounts reasonably accessible to all employees. If an employee who is disabled is unable to gain access to an account, please contact the Office of Disability Services.

Using Social Media on Behalf of Smith

As departments and offices increasingly find social media to be useful in communicating to their respective audiences, individual staff or faculty members may find themselves in an administrative role that makes them de facto spokespersons for Smith College.

Employees using social media on behalf of the college must abide by all applicable state and federal privacy laws, including but not limited to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of students’ records, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects the confidentiality of personally identifiable medical information.

In addition, remember that comments made about other individuals that are proven to be false or damaging may expose you or the college to libel suits. When appropriate, Smith College policies including the Acceptable Use Policy (excerpted below in bullet points) should be consulted, as any social media account created on behalf of the college falls under the governance of these policies.

  • Do not use Smith’s computer resources to facilitate or engage in any illegal activity.
  • Do not use Smith’s computer resources, including its email lists, to endorse, promote, canvass for, or support a political party or political candidate that in any way violates the college’s legal requirement to remain politically neutral.
  • Do not use audio, images, videos, movies or likenesses of people without their written consent.
  • Do not use licensed library resources in any way other than for noncommercial, educational, scholarly or research use.
  • Do not use Smith’s computer resources for the purpose of commercial or profit-making activities.
  • Do not use computer resources for fundraising, business solicitation or advertising by groups or individuals other than officially recognized campus organizations.
  • Do not use the college's name and logos in ways that suggest or imply the endorsement of other organizations, their products or services without appropriate approval.
  • Do not capture or store protected information such as credit card and Social Security numbers on college servers or systems, except as explicitly provided by other applicable policy or procedure, without prior consent of Information Technology Services.
  • Do not use Smith’s information technology to circumvent the intent of other campus policies.

Violations of the college’s Acceptable Use of Computer Resources Policy may result in discipline.  In addition, some offenses are punishable under state and federal laws. Other policies that should be consulted include the Statement of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression and the Bullying and Cyber-Bullying Policy.

What considerations should be made when first setting up a social media account on behalf of Smith?

When setting up a social media account on behalf of the college, account administrators should contact the Office of College Relations to discuss best practices around content, security and other elements outlined in this policy.

The account should never be registered to an employee’s individual email address; rather, accounts should be linked to a departmental email address to ensure continuity of account management.

Account security is one of the most important elements in establishing a social media presence. Social media administrators should limit access to social media outlets through passwords and other controls and must follow data security protocols established by the college’s Information Technology department. There have been several high-profile examples of college social media outlets being hacked due to lapses in account security.

What is expected of an employee using social media on behalf of Smith?

In addition to the content you post on social media, feedback and comments are an important and highly visible element of your social media presence.

Social media is not static. When you post content on behalf of the college, you open yourself (and, by extension, Smith) up to comments and discussion. As an administrator, you are expected to monitor your social media presence and ensure, to the best of your ability, that your community follows the same guidelines that are outlined in this document.

For example: As a page administrator, you are expected to remove any postings that defame or violate the privacy of others, or that violate any of the policies of the college as laid out in this document.

Maintaining an active social media presence is a significant commitment; the Office of College Relations monitors the college’s official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts on a regular basis throughout each day. Departmental administrators are encouraged to check their accounts at least once a day.

Are employees administering social media accounts on behalf of Smith expected to act as censors?

As a member of the Smith community, you accept a responsibility for fostering thoughtful and respectful dialogue among your communities. This means that, at times, feedback posted by others to your departmental social media account may be critical of Smith—but that does not necessarily mean it should be deleted. Censorship of content that does not violate existing policies is strongly discouraged.

Deleting a post or comment that is critical of the content you are posting may do more harm than good. The college encourages its community to engage commenters in dialogue—and personable, back-and-forth communication can often go a long way toward clarifying and resolving issues. Rely on your followers to help protect your site; they may correct or engage a negative post on their own, which is an invaluable form of engagement.

As always, contact the Office of College Relations if you have questions regarding this or any other guidelines.

Personal Social Media Accounts

At all times, and in all media (including personal social media), the release of confidential information—including confidential information about Smith students, prospective students, faculty, staff or alumnae—is strictly prohibited by the Smith College Code of Conduct.

Beyond existing policies governing confidential information, lobbying and other activities outlined in the Code of Conduct, Smith College does not seek to impose any regulations on the personal social media accounts of faculty and staff accessed outside of the workplace. You should be conscious, though, that as an employee of Smith, you may be seen by the general public as speaking on behalf of the college.

As such, any personal communication (including that conveyed through social media) that may be reasonably seen by a third party as being representative of or conducted on behalf of Smith College should be clearly noted as being personal and not official Smith communication. For more detail, please see the Solicitation section of the Employee Handbook.

These guidelines are not intended to restrict employee rights to engage in concerted, protected activity with fellow employees over the terms and conditions of employment.