University ditches controversial social media rules

SHSU’s social media rules drew campus-wide protests.

Sam Houston State University’s social media policy that drew heated criticism from a national free-speech organization and student groups has been nixed by campus officials.

Administrators on the 17,000-student public campus in Huntsville, Texas, said they would scrap the Social Media Policy and Procedure Manual that was protested by disparate campus political groups, opting instead to create a new set of rules from scratch.

The school’s policy stipulated that any student group that uses the university’s name or abbreviation must join the official SHSU social media universe or change their name. A student group would have to change its name to something that was not trademarked by SHSU or face legal repercussions.

If a student organization complied with the proposed university rules and joined SHSU’s “social media universe,” the group would have to hand over its passwords for Facebook and Twitter accounts. Each group’s social media website would be subject to editing by the university.

“To me, it shows that everything we worked for kind of paid off,” said Brian Howard, vice president of the Bearkat Democrats, who along with the campus’s student Republicans, Young Democratic Socialists, and libertarians, met with SHSU administrators to protest the social media rules. “All the effort and all the hoopla—it was all worth it for us.”

Howard said the university didn’t make a public announcement about the end of its Social Media Policy and Procedure Manual.

“It just kind of went away,” he said. “But I’m satisfied with that. … We would have had to change our name completely” if SMSU stuck with the policy.

SHSU’s oft-debated social media policy was among the most Draconian on any U.S. campus, said Adam Kissel, vice president of programs for the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has tracked strict internet stances in higher education.

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