Social Media

Social media is an increasingly prevalent and powerful means of communication. The University encourages social media use by its staff and students and seeks to engage through it with the broader University community.

Because social media blurs the lines between people's personal and professional expression, staff and students must think carefully about their online conduct, so as to preserve and protect individual reputations and the reputation of the University of Adelaide as an institution.

  • The University's position on the use of social media

    While social media creates new tools, the same laws, policies, professional expectations, and guidelines for interacting within and outside the University community apply online. The University community remains responsible for the same things, and needs to follow the same behavioural standards, including the staff Code of Conduct and student policies.

    Students breaching these expectations through social media use will face the same consequences under the Rules for Student Conduct (including potential disciplinary action such as censure, temporary suspension and preclusion from current courses of study); and staff will face the same consequences under the University's Enterprise Agreement.

    Staff and students are also entitled to enjoy the same protections and rights online as in the off-line world, such as academic freedom and general freedom of expression. If it would normally be acceptable to express an opinion about something off-line, it is equally acceptable online. However, it is important to remember that the permanence, visibility and connectivity of social media sites can result in communications having a far wider and more permanent audience and impact than in the off-line world, making it even more important to act and express thoughts and opinions rationally, respectfully and appropriately.

    While the University will moderate its own official social media sites, the University will not monitor or sanitise (censor or alter) content posted externally by its staff or students at large, absent reasonable complaints and evidence, or alleged breaches of law or University policy. Ultimately, all staff and students are responsible for their own conduct - but where staff or students use any devices, services or technology provided by the University, or specifically relating to University personnel or activities, all content will be open to scrutiny, moderation and consequences.

  • General principles for using social media

    The rules don't change just because you're using social media: remember that the same standards apply online as in real life - including laws, University policies, behavioural expectations and the rules of common courtesy - and so do the same consequences for breaching them, including student or staff disciplinary processes in the University setting. The following principles provide some additional guidance specifically relevant to social media use:

    • Be respectful, genuine and credible.
    • Remember each social media platform is different. Make sure you understand the nuances and accepted communication style of each tool, before you jump in and start posting.
    • Remember social media spreads far and wide - please therefore post appropriately. If you wouldn't shout something out to a room full of 100 people, you shouldn't post it online either.
    • If you make a mistake, admit it and fix it quickly.
    • Maintain your online presence. Having outdated or unresponsive content on a social media page is arguably more compromising than having no presence at all.
    • Maintain confidentiality. Social media is inherently unsecure and far-reaching in its audience. Don't share any confidential, private or sensitive information through social media.
    • Protect your own safety and privacy. Consider your own privacy and safety before broadcasting real-time details about where you are or what you are doing. Make sure you fully understand the privacy settings you have for limiting who can see your information or posts.
    • Be aware of liability. You are responsible for you own posts, and they are almost impossible to erase. Be sure that what you post won't come back to haunt you later.
    • Think about how your posts might affect other people. If you write something negative or inflammatory about someone on a social media site, the whole community can see it - so it may have a much greater impact on others, even though you may not see that impact first hand. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't post it online.
    • Think about what capacity you are acting in. If you are acting in an official University capacity, or as a person with a University connection, see the additional guidance below. If you are acting in your personal capacity, be sure to make that clear (especially where people might get confused as to whether or not you are speaking on behalf of the University).

    Extra things to keep in mind

    • Distinguish between your personal and professional capacity. Make it clear when you are not speaking on behalf of the University. If an issue relates to your University role and you are commenting on it, you should identify yourself and your connection to the University. You must then behave as the University directs through policies, Codes and employment terms.
    • If you are both a student and a staff member, be sure to distinguish between your roles.
    • Act within your authority. Just as you need authority to speak on behalf of the University to the media or outside entities, you need authority to speak as a University representative on social media sites.
    • Use your online presence to promote the University and not to damage it.
    • Staff should exercise careful judgment when interacting with students on social media sites. The guiding principles should be the same as for your relationships with students in the non-online world, including that you do not exert undue influence (or give the perception of exerting undue influence, or make the student feel like they are being influenced).
    • Something posted on a social media site is still a written communication, so the same legal ramifications can flow, such as defamation, trade practices/fair trading violations or breach of privacy or confidentiality - and because it's written in a permanent forum, it has the same evidentiary value as a more formal, hard copy communication. Check with Legal and Risk Branch before you post something on behalf of the University if you are unsure whether your post could have legal consequences.
    • Respect the University's branding. Structure and design your University social media communications in a way that complies with the Branding & Visual Identity Policy and the Code of Conduct.
    • Reach out to others across the University who are maintaining social media sites or posts, especially when they are targeted to the same audience. Work together to ensure a consistent tone and approach (a clear "University voice").
    • Ask yourself whether there is anyone who you should keep informed about your social media communications on behalf of the University. Think about who you would cc on the same communication if it was in hard copy or email form - the same people probably should be informed about your social media posting.
  • University policies

    The following is a list of University policies that are relevant to social media use. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, but to be a quick reference to the main policies that are relevant to social media use:

    Other resources and guidelines