University Web Developers

University Web Developers

We recently had a discussion about posting bad news to Facebook -- specifically, after the death of a student. We've got lots of opinions on the matter, ranging from, "Say nothing/not appropriate" to "Publish an immediate condolence" to "Publish as a means of news distribution" to...other things in between.

Has your institution discussed this kind of thing? What is your policy? Or what would be your policy if you had to make one? And why?

TIA for the insight!

--Kerri
University of Rhode Island

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Thanks everyone for your feedback -- I really appreciate it, and there is a lot to think about. Please keep it coming!

Here's what I've been feeling, just to chime in. Our Facebook presence isn't used specifically for alumni or students or recruiting...it's all of those. And of course we can't be all things to all people. We don't just use it for news -- we use it for fun, too, with a "tell us where on campus this picture was taken" contest every Friday (current students and alums love this), announcements about events (helpful to current students, but also gives prospective students an idea of what goes on here), discussions about current topics of interest (students, alums, and prospectives) -- so there's a lot there.

We're also very conversational. We reply to questions, address people directly in comments, and really have tried to keep a dialogue going with our visitors.

Since we don't use it as a place to "announce news", it didn't seem appropriate to write about the death of a student -- at least not at first. But then, after thinking about it for a while, we realized that *not* acknowledging it within this community that we've built seems kind of...like we're intentionally not talking about something. I could imagine that, when a student heard on the morning TV news that one of our students had died in a car accident, one of the first things they probably did was go to our Facebook page or our web site, looking for something -- looking for information, looking for community, looking for some sort of acknowledgement.

A student who works for me was here when this discussion was going on, and she said that Facebook was the first place she'd go, and if there was nothing there, she'd feel like we were ignoring the tragedy, and the student who died. She recounted a story about a classmate who had been struck by a car a few years ago and died -- and there was no official acknowledgement of it anywhere, other than a memorial service that got a brief mention in an email and an events calendar. She felt that while we demonstrate in other ways that we're an intimate, student-focused university, for someone to just leave us that way with so little recognition or mention made her feel like a number.

I think one of the biggest worries here is whether or not the family would appreciate this kind of mention. On the other hand, the community has lost someone, as well. So it's really tough all around!

Thanks again for sharing your ideas, and keep 'em coming...I hope none of us have to worry about this again for a long, long time.
It seems like the most important acknowledgement--as you say--is that the community lost someone. Expressed that way, it doesn't feel like news or an announcement but a feeling to be honored and shared. Thanks for opening this discussion.Kerri.

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