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SHSU social media policy protests continue

Associate News Editor

Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 01:09

Free Speech Wall - Protests - 9-27-11

Jessica Gomez | The Houstonian

THE RIGHT TO SWEAR. Several student organizations are continuing to protest the university’s social media policy, beginning with a “censored free speech wall” Wednesday.

Organizers of the "Free Speech Wall" are planning two additional events to continue their objection to the proposed social media policy.

The SHSU Lovers of Liberty, Young Democratic-Socialists, Bearkat Democrats and College Republicans will be holding two additional protests in the mall area, including a "censored free speech wall."

Morgan Freeman, president of the SHSU Lovers of Liberty, said the first protest will be on Wednesday, Sept. 28 mall area.

"It's going to be a full protest," Freeman said. "We're going to have signs and everything to help keep pushing our issue."

The second event is a "censored free speech wall," also in the mall area that Freeman said is "basically a free speech wall but we are going to cover up ‘profane' things."

The students put on the event in response to the university's proposed SHSU Social Media Policy and Procedures Manual.

The SHSU Social Media Policy and Procedures Manual affects anyone who joins the opt-in Social Universe group created by the university marketing department.

According to the policy, all groups who use the trademarked "SHSU" or "Sam Houston State University" must join the Social Universe, or remove the trademark.

Groups are contesting sections of the policy that would allow the university to remove any material without official justification, and that limit "freedom of speech."

"To place any limit on [the exchange of ideas] would violate the ultimate purpose of the university, [which is] to educate and promote this exchange of ideas," Freeman said.

The types of groups coming together, Freeman said, is what shows how serious the event's purpose is.

"It is a legitimate problem, serious enough to bring people from every end of the political spectrum," Freeman said. "When we come together we can draw enough attention to battle the ultimate enemy of freedom: Apathy."

Kris Ruiz, associate vice-president of Marketing and Communications, led the project that resulted in-part in the policy.

She said the policy is almost identical to Facebook and other social network policies. She also said that the platform was built with 'community' in mind.

"We encourage those in our university community to share their opinions and any ideas for improvement," Ruiz said. "We want this very powerful tool to work for us all.  I understand there are some concerns regarding some of the language in the social media policy."

 Ruiz will be speaking with the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Sept. 29 about the policy and said she looks forward to the conversation.

"This is the perfect time to encourage discussion and make any changes that will improve the use of social media at Sam Houston State, including any amendments to policies and procedures," she said.

In addition to the student protests, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution saying all policy that affects faculty, staff and students must go through additional channels, including the Council of Academic Deans.

According to Jamie Hebert, Ph.D., provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs, after a university policy is created it goes before the President's Cabinet.

After that, Hebert said, the President's Council usually seeks advice from the Council of Academic Deans, Faculty Senate, Student Government Association, or other issue-relevant committees. (see graphic.)

He said he has already visited with faculty senate leadership to discuss the issue.

"Anything that remotely infringes on First Amendment rights or academic freedom will be carefully scrutinized by all appropriate administrative channels," Hebert said.

The groups now include NORML Kats, but they are looking for more groups to help with the protests.

Hebert said that the policy will be seen by all of the appropriate review processes and that many more conversations will be had before the policy goes into effect.

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