ILLUSTRATION: JEFF KOTERBA
Q: We have a faculty member who tweeted an inflammatory excerpt from his research, which had a strong bearing on state legislation on the November ballot. The piece was on his personal Twitter feed, but he's prominently identified as a faculty member at our university. Even with a disclaimer that the views expressed are his own, the media picked it up as a story that our institution's research proves proponents' positions.
Do other universities have social media policies or guidelines to help protect their institution from a faculty member manipulating research for a political purpose and damaging the reputation of the university?
A: Your situation illustrates how expertise can be a double-edged sword. This is a feature of academia, perhaps more so than in private industry.
It sounds like your quarrel is more with the character of the reporting rather than with your colleague, whose right to form and share thoughts and opinions, even inflammatory ones at inopportune times, is constitutionally protected.
Is there opportunity here? Has your institution made sure that its position on the matter is widely known? Does citation of one of your faculty members give you a chance to clarify or amplify that? Rather than attempting to control what comes out of the marketplace of ideas, can your institution make a compelling argument?
—Hal Legg, chief communication and marketing officer, SUNY Oneonta
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