Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It is argued that authorities have violated this right by prosecuting those who express themselves freely in cyberspace, for example WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange vs US. This may implicate any and all of us, especially students – do we have the right to speak freely?
Keefe, a nursing student from the US, was expelled for posting “disturbing” content on Facebook. Whether or not his posts were truly disturbing is not the only issue here – his lawyer explained that these posts were private, therefore the school must have “violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure”. Another example is the case of Ngole; a student expelled from Sheffield University after writing anti-gay marriage opinions on Facebook. Cases like these are being taken to court on the justification of First Amendment rights – this podcast by the Knight Foundation discusses the recent change in attitudes towards students and their use of social media.
The case of Tony Fisher shows that University lecturers also need to be cautious of their use of social networking sites.
In Topic 3, I mentioned that social media platforms are used by employers for recruitment purposes, highlighting the importance of professionalism. Therefore, there is also scope for University and College administrators to use web media as a disciplinary, expulsion (!), and even recruitment tool. It was found that 97% of colleges integrated social media into their recruitment efforts, according to NACAC. This report also found more than half of students gave links to their blogs to help the recruitment process (thanks #UOSM2008!). However, it’s wise to note the obvious negatives about this use of social media. A recent survey found that 31% of college admission staff used Facebook whilst 29% used Google to learn about their applicants. Of these, 30% reported finding information that negatively impacted on an applicants’ admission chances. Also, more than 75% of applicants expressed concern over admission officers Googling them. Take this quick poll:
In Topic 2, I discussed a BMJ article which stressed how common it was for healthcare professional students to blur the line between their personal and professional lives. 44% of respondents reported seeing unprofessional material posted by colleagues, and majority of participants agreed that guidelines and policies for social media platforms would be beneficial. Whilst I initially contended this, further reading has shown me that it may do us a world of good. Maybe implementing social media policies can put a stop to students who quite frankly misuse our rights to “express ourselves”, for example the case of Hannah Kern.
Medical students have very specific guidance written by the General Medical Counsel which we are made aware of throughout our degree and career. I have collated information from various sources to produce a set of “Social Media Guidelines” for all students.
However, an issue still remains – is it ethical to enforce these “policies”, when we should have the right to speak freely?
David Hanners (2013). Student expelled from Brainerd nursing school for Facebook comments sues. TwinCities. Accessed on 20th April 2016.
Agency (2016). Christian student kicked off Sheffield University course for anti-gay Facebook post. The Independent. Accessed on 20th April 2016.
Anonymous (2014). “Absolute Arseholes” And “Idiots”: UoN Lecturer Slams Students And University On Public Facebook Profile. Impact Nottingham. Accessed on 20th April 2016.
Russell Schaffer (2013). Kaplan Test Prep Survey: More College Admissions Officers Checking Applicants’ Digital Trails, But Most Students Unconcerned. Kaplan Test Prep. Accessed 20th April 2016.
Jonathan White, Paul Kirwan, Krista Lai et al (2013). ‘Have you seen what is on Facebook?’ The use of social networking software by healthcare professions students. British Medial Journal Open. Accessed 20th April 2016.
Will Payne & Taylor Auerbach (2014). EXCLUSIVE: The TRUE identity of med student ‘Elizabeth Raine’ who planned to sell her virginity and why she really backed out of the auction after bids hit $801,000. The Daily Mail Online. Accessed 20th April 2016.
General Medical Counsel guidance (2013). Doctor’s use of social media. Good medical practice. Accessed 20th April 2016.
Freedom of Speech in Social Media Age – courtesy of NewsLaundry.com
Tony Fisher Facebook quote – courtesy of Impact Nottingham http://www.impactnottingham.com/
Full interview podcast with Knight Foundation Senior Advisor Eric Newton – courtesy of CNet.com http://www.cnet.com/news/study-youth-social-media-use-relates-to-free-speech-support-podcast/