TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A College President’s Twitter Strategy

OnoInside Higher Ed, A College President’s Twitter Strategy:

The University of British Columbia’s president, Santa Ono, is a social media star among college presidents.

On Ono’s Twitter feed, there are beautiful pictures of the UBC campus, details of upcoming events and celebrations of the achievements of students and staff.

When not promoting his institution on Twitter, Ono shares more personal posts: a recommendation for a local ramen bar, a quote from Pablo Picasso or the news that the Harry Potter play just won six Tony Awards.

Mixed in with these promotional and personal posts, however, is the occasional statement of university policy. And that, students say, is a big problem.

A recent editorial in the student newspaper, The Ubyssey, criticized Ono's approach to social media. The article described how Ono's tweets are sometimes at odds with information provided by the university, adding that it is “unclear what separates a random Twitter thought or a kind comment on Facebook from an official statement.”

This “blurring” of social media presence and office responsibility has opened Ono up to “blunders, intentional or not, that make the line between policy and post terribly ambiguous,” said the article.

Describing one such “blunder,” The Ubyssey editors said that when they reached out to UBC Public Affairs asking for a statement on the imprisonment of alumna and women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul in Saudi Arabia, they received a phone call with the message that Ono “was about to tweet.”

“We were understandably confused,” wrote the editors. “Twitter is not usually the place to make policy statements -- at least, not for our president.”

The tweeted statement from Ono fell flat with faculty members, who described the response as “strange and tepid.”

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