College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu shared the following message regarding social media with students on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020:
I hope the beginning of the semester is going well. I certainly wish all of us were on campus right now, but I know we will be together soon.
In the meantime, I wanted to address something I find troubling. A number of people have shared a disturbing social media post with me, one that doesn’t reflect our campus values. While the person involved in this particular incident is not an enrolled College of Charleston student, there may be other social media posts similar to it in the future, so I want to use this moment to talk to you about your responsibility around social media and our official policy regarding social media (you may access that policy here). Please note: any actions which violate College policy will be handled through our Student Code of Conduct process.
Your generation has it much different than previous ones. Fair or unfair, that is just the way it is. Comments, photos and videos you put on your personal social media accounts have unimaginable reach and longevity.
Some might argue that this is a good thing. Here is a way to put on the record a person’s true character and their beliefs. Or, others may rightly argue First Amendment rights as it relates to freedom of speech and expression. The bottom line, however, is that everything you say and do online has real consequences, intended and unintended.
Whether you like it or not, you have an audience and you have a powerful platform. That means your posts can cause hurt and harm to others and can create an unwelcoming environment. And that hurt and harm are completely counter to what we are trying to do here and our commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming community.
What I hope you will learn at the College of Charleston is responsibility with that powerful tool that is social media and also to have respect for others, both in your personal and professional lives. When we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion as a core value of the College, we mean that everyone at the College of Charleston feels a part of our community, feels welcomed and feels valued for their unique contributions. So, before you post anything, ask yourself: do your statements, photos or videos on social media make others feel welcomed and valued or are they divisive and harmful?
For me, the best rule of thumb is this: would you make this comment in a crowded room with both friends and strangers? Essentially, that is what you are doing every time you post a comment, video or photo.
Again, you are living in a time that is unlike any other in human history. The ability to share your thoughts and actions with so wide an audience is both exhilarating and daunting.
To help you understand this responsibility better, the College of Charleston has put into place many different teaching tools, such as Diversity EDU and Critical Conversations, as well as so many other programs and curricula on campus that broaden your perspectives and world views.
I know this message is probably already TLTR (too long to read), but I hope you get the point I am trying to make: think before you post and always treat everyone with respect.
If I sound like a concerned father, it’s because I am one. If I sound like a concerned university president, it’s because I am – and I am yours. If I sound like just another “OK Boomer” adult, well, I am that, too, but I hope my experience and my perspective can help guide you as you continue to develop into the amazing, intelligent person that you are.
Because, at the end of the day, we are in this together, and we are all Cougars!
Andrew T. Hsu, Ph.D.
College of Charleston