Social Media Support and Resources for School of Public Service Faculty
SPS Dean’s Office
Social Media Support and Resources for School of Public Service Faculty
- Roles, Actions, and Resources: An Overview
- For the Individual Faculty Member
- For Program Leads and Director-Level Positions
- For the SPS Dean’s Office
- Appendix A: Managing Harassment
- Appendix B: Faculty Safety and Support Checklist for Administrators
- Appendix C: Sample Unit Statement in Response to Harassment
Social media is increasingly integral to University daily operations, pedagogical and research activities, and general means of engagement with internal and external communities. It is a resource that enables Boise State faculty to more fully participate and lead in a global society. Yet, as a university, we recognize that this critical arena may sometimes present challenges to the well-being and perhaps even safety of our faculty members. With this in mind, we have worked to identify and develop resources of support and guidance for how best to manage concerns often related to the use of social media. This document borrows heavily from a similar document developed by the University of Iowa, which gave its permission to Boise State to reproduce and revise that document.
The document is designed to assist School of Public Service (SPS) faculty at Boise State University in responding to situations in which faculty members are targeted by individuals or groups outside of the University based on the content of the faculty member’s scholarship, teaching, opinions, and/or service. It addresses potential concerns in such situations and informs faculty and staff about resources available to assist individual faculty members and SPS administrators. The university had adopted a similar, but more general document, which can be found on the Boise State website.
The foundation for this document is the University’s clearly stated support for academic freedom and freedom of expression. Academic freedom for faculty members in teaching and research is essential to the University’s educational mission. As described in policy, the University protects academic freedom, even with regard to controversial issues or ideas that may provoke disagreement in the public. Likewise, as citizens, faculty members enjoy strong protection for freedom of speech. Rooted in the Constitution, free expression is necessary for the robust intellectual exchange on which the University’s teaching and research missions depend. Thus, the targeting of scholars for their ideas or views may not only threaten harm to those individuals, but also strikes at the University’s academic core. These principles are outlined for students and the university community.
Through this document and other means, the School of Public Service at Boise State University seeks to offer resources and support for faculty who may be subject to the intimidation, harassment or injury that participating in public discourse and expressing unpopular ideas may generate.
This document is “content neutral,” meaning that it is designed to offer support for faculty members across a wide spectrum of views and areas of research. For example, it may be useful for faculty who come under attack for their conclusions related to social or political issues.
This document focuses on threats, intimidation or harassment against faculty members from outside the University. For information about policies and procedures governing harassment committed by Boise State employees, students, and/or third parties interacting with Boise State employees or students on campus, please see Boise State’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policy; the Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, and Stalking policy; the Workplace Violence ;olicy; and the Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment policy. Information about filing a complaint that falls under one of these policies can be found at Boise State’s Human Resources office or via Boise State’s Title IX compliance office.
Other Boise State policies may be applicable. In particular, Boise State faculty may be interested in the following:
- Boise State’s Social Media guides provide helpful information for managing university-owned social media accounts.
- Boise State’s Recording Learning Activities policy governs how and whether students and faculty may record course learning activities, such as lectures.
Boise State does not currently provide hard and fast rules for faculty who are active on social media. In the School of Public Service, public engagement, communication, scholarship, teaching, and service are strongly encouraged. Having a social media presence may be a part of that. Some general guidelines for good practice might include the following:
- We suggest that faculty do not initiate social media contact with students; if a student reaches out via social media, it is up to the faculty member if they wish to respond/accept a social media connection.
- Be clear about what professional boundaries you wish to set via social media with students, staff, faculty, and administrators. Having some personal rules in place about contact requests, how to communicate, and whether you wish to create strong boundaries between personal and professional expression will help you articulate your expectations, values, and boundaries to yourself and others.
- In your self-descriptions on social media, you may want to note that your posts or other content do not reflect the views of your employer.
- Develop digital literacy skills and think carefully about how to represent yourself online. This Inside Higher Ed article is a great start.
- See Appendix A, Managing Harassment, for additional suggestions.
When in doubt, SPS faculty should reach out to the SPS Faculty Director and/or SPS Dean’s office with questions or concerns, including for guidance in interpreting appropriate policies and procedures.
Roles, Actions, and Resources–An Overview
In matters of safety and security, individual faculty members are encouraged to make use of University, college, campus, and other professional resources to assist them in responding to an immediate situation, as well as to address any concerns that arise in the longer term. A list of resources is provided in this document.
Numerous resources are also available to support academic administrators in responding to external attacks against Boise State School of Public Service faculty members when appropriate. Knowing about relevant resources and support in advance of a crisis will help our colleges and campuses respond more effectively when a situation requires immediate action.
Each situation is different, so we offer advice and resources, not prescribed procedures. This section offers suggestions for individuals at various levels in SPS, including:
- Individual Faculty Member
- Program Leads, Faculty Director, and other Director-Level roles
- Dean and Associate Dean
Individual Faculty Member
Immediate goals: Ensure your safety. Identify your primary concerns and seek out assistance.
The following suggestions may be of use in your personal safety planning:
- If you believe your physical safety is at risk, immediately notify the policing agency in your home jurisdiction or call 911. For safety concerns on campus, contact Boise State Public Safety at 208-426-6911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Notify your Program Lead. Your Program Lead should contact the Faculty Director and the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will notify university partners and leadership, if appropriate. See the “Faculty Safety and Support Checklist” (Appendix B) for ways in which the School of Public Service might be able to support you. You do not need to manage this experience on your own.
- If you believe the individuals targeting you know where you live and you are concerned about safety in your home, create a safety plan for home and work.
- Depending on the severity of the harassment, safety plans may include subscribing to services such as DeleteMe. While SPS and Boise State do not endorse or may not be able to pay for particular services such as DeleteMe, individual faculty members may want to consider this or similar services for removing their personal contact information from online search engines.
- If you are experiencing gender-based harassment and/or harassment that is sexual in nature, consult the Title IX Coordinator or the Gender Equity Center to ensure that you are fully aware of your rights and resources.
The following suggestions may be of use if you are experiencing online harassment:
- Do not delete any messages, but you may want to disengage from reading all emails in your inbox, listening to all voice messages, etc. Preserved messages may be of use in identifying the harassers and pressing any relevant charges. Consider asking a friend to monitor social and other media on your behalf and to keep you apprised of any developments or threats. The CARE team or the Department of Public Safety may be able to assist in rerouting future emails.
- You or someone you trust may want to create a log to document and archive all threatening emails, tweets, Facebook posts, and phone messages. Save screenshots of harassing or threatening social media posts to preserve as evidence in case the author deletes the original post.
- Be cautious about responding to threatening emails, tweets, blog comments, etc. In most cases, it will be in your best interest not to respond. Although responding may seem like the right thing to do, it may only provide harassers with additional material and serve to prolong social media harassment. The SPS Dean’s office will work with university administrators and the Office of Communication and Marketing, when appropriate, to help you determine whether and how to respond. If you choose not to respond, you may also want to encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same. Review “Managing Harassment” (Appendix A) and visit the Managing Social Media Harassment web page for more information.
- Remember that communications you send and receive using your University account or on the University’s system may be subject to a public records request under Idaho’s Public Records Laws.
- Protect your cyber-identity (e.g., cell phone, network access, social media). You may want to update your passwords for email, social media sites, etc. Boise State’s Office of Information Technology and the Office of Communications and Marketing may be able to offer additional guidance, and you should also request a current copy of the “Protect Your Information” guide from email@example.com.
- Consult with your Program Lead, the Faculty Director(s), the SPS Dean’s Office, and the CARE Team assigned to your case for assistance in responding to the situation. For example, you may want to consider preparing a concise message to articulate your position in your own words and distribute to colleagues as a form of reputation management. Should you get media requests related to the incident, the Dean’s Office will work with Boise State’s Office of Communication and Marketing, the Provost’s Office, and/or the President’s Office in deciding whether/how to respond.
- Reach out to friends and develop a support system, or seek professional assistance. The Boise State Faculty Ombuds can be a useful resource, as can the Boise State Employee Assistance Program, which provides free, confidential, short-term access to counseling services.
- Know that you are not alone as an academic who has experienced this type of harassment. Several scholars have written about the coordinated and systemic patterns of attack against scholars and faculty members. Connect with others who have gone through similar situations to decrease your isolation and learn from their experience. The American Association of University Professors may have useful resources, as may be the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the American Civil Liberties Union.
- Faculty concerned about becoming the targets of harassment may want to consider purchasing individual professional liability insurance, such as through AAUP, or legal coverage through the ARAG Group Legal Plan, offered through Boise State’s Human Resources.
- Consult with your Program Lead, Faculty Director(s), and/or the Dean’s Office if you feel this harassment or attack has affected your progress toward tenure, promotion or reappointment.
Program Leads and Director-Level Positions
- Contact the faculty member as soon as you become aware of threatening or intimidating behavior against them, if they are unaware. Meet with them to offer support in the initial days of the incident and review the “Faculty Safety and Support Checklist” (Appendix B) to ensure the faculty member is aware of campus resources.
- Before all else, work with the faculty member to address their on-campus and off-campus safety and security concerns. Be aware that the identity of the faculty member may influence their individualized needs (e.g., parental status, faculty rank, minoritized identity).
- Report the situation to Boise State Campus Assessment Resource and Education (CARE). CARE Team members are trained to assess these situations and assist with coordinated responses, as needed.
- ● If you are a Program Lead, notify the Faculty Director immediately. Director-level administrators should notify the Dean’s office as soon as possible, and after ensuring the faculty member is physically safe.
- ● It is possible that social media and phone intimidation and harassment will be received by multiple offices. Inform Team Support members on a need-to-know basis; contacting the SPS Operations Manager is a good first step. Ensure that unit staff members whose responsibilities may include answering harassing phone calls are supported and informed about strategies for being on the front line (e.g., a script or template response, instructions for preserving phone messages to aid future investigations). The Dean’s office can help with messaging.
- Stay in communication with the Dean’s office to ensure a coordinated response. Share details of the situation on a need-to-know basis and be mindful that all email communication and text messages may be subject to request via subpoena or other legal process.
- Consider the well-being of other SPS faculty, staff, and students (e.g., co-authors, graduate assistants, front-line staff). Consult with the threatened faculty member about what and how to share information with the department. If possible, bring people together to discuss the situation, the department’s actions, and available support resources.
- Facilitate the physical movement of assigned classrooms and/or workspace if feasible, and if the affected faculty member requests it.
- Facilitate the removal of the faculty member’s direct contact information from SPS and other university webpages and the University directory, in collaboration with the Provost’s Office, the Dean’s Office, Human Resources, and the Office of Information Technology, if the affected faculty member requests it.
- If the attacks are identity-based (e.g., harassment based on gender, race, sexual identity, religion, country of origin), consult with the Office of Institutional Compliance and Ethics to counsel the faculty member about their options and explore additional support and resources for the faculty member and others in the unit who share their identity (e.g., students, colleagues, staff).
- After addressing the faculty member’s safety and security concerns, keep in mind the potential effect of this event on their academic career. For example, if their scholarship was attacked, discuss how or whether it will affect their future research trajectory. Connecting the faculty member with other scholars who have experienced similar attacks may be useful to contextualize the events within their broader career goals and experiences; the Dean’s Office and/or Provost’s Office may be able to facilitate these connections on campus.
- Discuss issues of academic freedom in regular forums (e.g., faculty meetings, student seminars), including attention to ways that external forces may attempt to silence scholars through social media attacks and the resources available to respond when or if attacks occur.
- If you become the target of harassment, consult with the Dean’s office and refer to the strategies recommended for faculty members (above) to ensure your own safety.
SPS Dean’s Office
- While our first instinct may be to respond and defend with a rebuttal online, it’s important to understand that engaging in a dialogue on social media can sometimes make matters worse. Each situation should be evaluated on its own. The Dean’s Office will consult with the Provost’s Office and/or the President’s Office before responding publicly.
- If a response is warranted, the leadership message should defend academic freedom, the importance of faculty safety, and the development of learning environments in which difficult issues are discussed and dissected. The Dean’s Office will work with executive level offices and perhaps also with university to develop a message that emphasizes University values, draws on best-practice examples from other campuses, and addresses potential concerns of multiple constituents (e.g., faculty, alumni, legislators, donors, students). See Appendix 3 for an example of such messaging from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
- The Dean’s office should support faculty and SPS administrators in following the steps recommended above, reviewing the faculty support checklist (Appendix B), and will also liaise with university staff and administrators in developing a response to threats and harassment.
- If a crisis emerges, the Dean’s office should consult with the targeted faculty member to share how the office would like to publicly handle the crisis and discuss any concerns they might have. Program Leads, Director-level administrators, and/or the Operations Manager will be involved in crisis management conversations to ensure that efforts are coordinated.
- The Dean’s office should support Program Leads and Director-level administrators by offering assistance and resources as needed.
- Consider inviting the CARE Team to present about their role and resources before a crisis occurs.
- The Provost’s office and President’s office will be informed about targeting on a need-to-know basis. It is likely that social media and phone harassment will be directed at multiple offices. Informing all relevant individuals in these executive offices will strengthen SPS’s ability to engage in a coordinated response.
- Dean’s office staff members whose responsibilities may include answering harassing phone calls are supported and informed about strategies for being on the front line (e.g., a script or template response, instructions for preserving phone messages to aid future investigations).
- When necessary, the Dean’s office may also consider informing other offices/staff members who may field phone calls, including Development, Alumni Relations, Admissions, Career Services, etc., so they can respond with the appropriate messages.
- Publicize protocols for dealing with internal threats and harassment (e.g., from students or staff). Provide training opportunities and resources for college faculty and staff. For more information, see Boise State’s Non-discrimination and Anti-Harassment policy (Policy 1060), Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, and Stalking policy (Policy 1065), Workplace Violence policy (Policy 12040), Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment policy (Policy 12050), and other University policies.
- Depending on the nature of the attacks, the SPS Dean’s office is aware that students, staff, and faculty who share the identity and/or research area under attack (e.g., LGBTQ students, if the faculty member’s sexual identity is under attack; Black, Indigenous, and students of color, if the faculty member’s racial/ethnic identity is the focus; international students, if the faculty member’s country of origin is the focus) may also be experiencing trauma because of this incident. The Dean’s office may consult with the Office of Institutional Compliance and Ethics, the Provost’s Office, the Gender Equity Center, or other university offices as appropriate to arrange for support services for students and staff in SPS.
Appendix A: Managing Harassment*
According to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, 41 percent of adults report being the subject of harassing behavior online, and 66 percent have witnessed harassing behavior directed at others. Responding to online harassment can be challenging, even scary if the harassment becomes threatening. The University’s Office of Strategic Communications recommends the following options.
- Ignore them. The goal of social media agitators (commonly referred to as trolls) is to elicit a response. The good news is that even the most persistent trolls typically move on if you ignore them long enough.
- Block them. Several social media platforms allow you to selectively prevent others from following you, seeing your posts, or commenting on your content. Please note that when you block someone, they may become aware of the block and may choose to criticize you on their own channels.
- Respond. If someone is sharing misinformation about you or your work, consider sharing a brief response to correct the falsehoods. This will likely result in additional posts from the harassing party, but it does give you a platform to set the record straight. It’s highly recommended that you consult with your Program Lead, Director-level administrator, or the Dean’s office in determining whether to respond and the best avenue for doing so. For instance, responding to Twitter attacks with a reply on Twitter may not be the best strategy.
- Record and report. If you feel at all threatened, contact the proper authorities and keep a record of the hostile or threatening posts. Take and save screenshots in case you need to file a police report or take legal action.
*Managing Harassment, https://osc.uiowa.edu/managing-harassment, retrieved from University of Iowa (September 17, 2019) and modified for use by the School of Public Service Dean’s Office, Boise State University.
Appendix B: Faculty Safety & Support Checklist for Administrators
This checklist helps Program Leads, Directors, and/or Deans to address possible concerns and provide resources in the immediate and longer-term aftermath of a crisis in which faculty are targeted for their ideas or views. The academic unit administrator and/or their designee may use this checklist when meeting with the faculty member to gather information and create a safety plan. It may be useful to capture as much information as possible during these interactions in order to limit the number of times the faculty member has to retell the story.
What is the nature of the harassment? When did it begin? How has it changed since it began?
In what environment(s) is the harassment occurring (check all that apply)?
☐ Social media
☐ In the classroom
☐ In the office
☐ At home
☐ Voice messages left on campus phones
☐ On-campus stalking
☐ Via media requests
☐ Harassment of family members/children
Is the harasser someone who is known or been identified? If so, please provide that information.
What is the faculty member’s greatest concern?
Appendix C: Sample Unit/University Statement in Response to Harassment
Monday, Sept. 13, 2021
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
This weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It was a time to reflect on the senseless loss of life, the heroism of many and how that event shaped our country and the world.
Recently, one of our professors shared thoughts on 9/11 on social media. These comments have been the subject of much scrutiny and vehement disagreement by critics. That is their right, just as our professor has the right to free speech, however uncomfortable it may make anyone feel. What cannot be tolerated are the harassment and violent threats that we have seen in response that have been directed at this professor. Our Department of Public Safety is in contact with the professor and has engaged the support of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Some have asked the University to condemn the professor’s comments and others have demanded the professor’s dismissal. Neither of those actions will happen. As the home of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, free speech for all people across the political spectrum, within the limits of the law and the University’s anti-harassment policy, is one of our key values. Speech can be offensive, hurtful or provocative. Still, Syracuse University will stand by the principles of free speech and by our commitment to keeping our community safe in the face of threats and harassment.
Chancellor and President
David Van Slyke
Dean, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs