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This blog is both acceptable and unacceptable

May 14, 2010

The University contacted students on Wednesday to inform them of the university’s policy on the use of social networking sites, such as blogs, microblogs such as Twitter and forums such as Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and so on. The link to the policy given was¬†http://campus.leeds.ac.uk/isms/guidelines/social_networking.html, and the text there indicates that “Social networking sites must not be used as a platform for airing dissatisfaction or criticism of the University, its staff, students or facilities.”

(UPDATE: please note that as of this morning, shortly after this information was posted, the above link has been removed by the University. We will keep checking the placement and wording of the policy online)

Certainly, the UCU agrees that staff and students should be protected from online abuse, and that we all have the right to a dignified online existence, free from harassment or misrepresentation.

However, the prohibition on airing dissatisfaction or criticism of the University or its facilities is clearly unacceptable, and Facebook has lit up with student outrage in recent days. This prohibition directly contradicts the university protocol on freedom of speech which is explicitly endorsed by both the University Council and LUU. The two protocols cannot exist side by side, and our writing so here is both acceptable (under the protocol on freedom of speech) and unacceptable (under the policy on the use of social networking).

Unsurprisingly, this policy has not been negotiated with the UCU.

As the UCU at Leeds use Facebook, Twitter and blogging with open and free comments, we have sought a clarification on whether the University, with this policy, intends to close down our online activities. We have yet to receive a reply.

(UPDATE 2: It is understood the policy may have been published prematurely, and has been taken down so that it can go through the appropriate consultation procedures. At ease.)


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Doormat permalink
    May 14, 2010 7:21 AM

    It’s interesting that the actual numbered rules for use of Social Networking sites seem pretty reasonable (with the exception of the catch-all don’t bring the “University into disrepute”). Certainly no mention of not criticising the university, just obvious things about not harassing individuals. It’s the general press-release stuff at the top which is massively over the top (indeed, perhaps just that one sentence!)

  2. H H Chau permalink
    May 15, 2010 12:42 AM

    Common sense prevails. Who authorises this policy in the first place? Simply withdrawing it is not enough. An explanation and an apology are in order. What kind of tax-payer-funded organisation has the right to avoid public scrutiny especially when the equipment (web server and client) and time do not belong to it. Staff sells their labour not their souls. Students, who pay tens of thousand pounds, are no doubt entitle to their opinions.

  3. H H Chau permalink
    May 15, 2010 1:11 AM

    I utterly dissatisfy and strongly condemn the members of the senior management of the University of Leeds who even attempt the following policy. “Must not”? The university has no right to limit anybody’s freedom of speech via whatever channels one sees fit.

    “Social networking sites must not be used as a platform for airing dissatisfaction or criticism of the University, its staff, students or facilities. Any such complaint should be addressed through the Complaints Procedure.” (http://campus.leeds.ac.uk/isms/guidelines/social_networking.html – accessed 14/5/2010)

    I suggest the above policy to be amended as, “The University of Leeds must not abuse the All Staff email list nor its corporate website for spreading propaganda.”

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