WESTERN FRONT: No social media policy, no problems for WWU Athletics
Oct. 16, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By Emily Frasier, Sports Dept., The Western Front
Go to westernfrontonline.net - Twice-weekly student newspaper of Western Washington University
Western Washington University Athletics lacks an explicit set of guidelines for social media conduct. However, Butch Kamena, Western's compliance officer, asks student athletes to use common sense and remember they not only represent themselves, but the athletic department and university as a whole.
Universities have faced a new frontier of student athlete guidelines with the rise of social media. Some universities have even gone to the lengths of hiring third-party firms to monitor their student athletes' social media conduct.
In 2010, Ohio State University's star quarterback posted pictures via social media showing conduct that violated NCAA rules. Ohio State wanted to prevent another scandal from happening again. In order to keep tabs on its athletes, the university entered a $143,500 annual contract with JumpForward, a sports management firm, to monitor its student athletes' social media use, according to a Student Press Law Center report.
Compared to Ohio State, Western employs a more relaxed approach to ensuring its student athletes represent the university well.
Before the season, Kamena holds meetings with each team individually. Within the context of NCAA rules, they discuss social media, Kamena said.
"The basic thing we say to them is that as a student athlete you represent something beyond yourself, and your social media use should reflect that," Kamena said.
After meeting with all the athletes, the teams can set a more formal policy, Kamena said
"I am not aware of any [monitoring], and don't do any personally, but there may be [monitoring] on a coach-by-coach basis," Kamena said.
Softball head coach Amy Suiter requires her players to be friends with WWU Softball on Facebook. She and her staff monitor some of the athletes' social media interaction that way.
"We say we are not going to put anything on [Facebook] that we wouldn't want our grandmother to see," Suiter said. "It is more about education than it is policy."
Education involves talking to the student athletes about who actually looks at social media, and taking into consideration the role model figure that athletes play in the community, she said.
Western's volleyball team has a more formal social media policy. Junior outside hitter Emily Cotter said the whole team is asked to sign a document that lays out the social media guidelines for the team specifically.
Some of the guidelines on the document include no photographs of alcohol, no revealing photographs and they have to be Facebook friends with their coach, Cotter said.
"Whether we like it or not [social media guidelines] are in place to benefit us and protect us," Cotter said. "Even if we don't agree with them, I think it is important that we still follow them."
Men's soccer head coach Greg Brisbon does not monitor his players' social media use. Similarly to Suiter, he asks that his players use their common sense when posting to such sites.
In the case of inappropriate social media use, there is no set protocol to how the athletic department handles such behavior. It is the coach's job to assess any situations and go from there.
Inappropriate social media use is anything that shines a negative light on Western or the athletic department, is negative towards coaches or fellow athletes or violates NCAA rules, Kamena said.
"If you are in a picture wearing Western gear, what you are doing should not reflect badly on the school or athletic department."
Both Suiter and Brisbon agree inappropriate social media behavior would be dealt with depending on the situation.
"If something does come up, then it will be dealt with in-house with the team," Brisbon said. "We have never had an issue [with social media] so far."
The level of inappropriateness would determine whether or not Butch would be involved, but the team would probably just take care of it, Suiter said.
"Handling inappropriate social media use would be on a case-by-case basis," Kamena said, "It would probably be dealt with in conjunction with the coaches."
In the absence of strict rules regarding social media, the athletic department trusts the athletes will use their better judgment, and uphold a positive image to their university and community.
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