UI maintains less restrictive athlete social media policy


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Sports officials at Iowa's universities said they are confident a less-intrusive social-media policy is adequate for the student-athletes, even while other higher-education institutions are rethinking their guidelines.

UI Presidential Committee on Athletics head N. William Hines said the UI's social-media policies for student-athletes do not consist of routinely monitoring the players' use, though the regulation occurs at other schools. The UI has a broader, generic social-media policy stressing student responsibility, he said.

"[Student-athletes] need to be aware that whatever they put on is probably not going to be restricted to who they think they're giving it to," Hines said.

The UI adopted its first social-media policy three years ago, during the rapid proliferation of such sites as Facebook and Twitter. Last year, Hines said, athletics officials debated whether coaches could require members of their teams to be their Facebook friends — but decided against it.

"We said no, that's a private thing, and students have the right to privacy," Hines said. "We needed [a social-media policy,] and adopted one that, I would say, is midway on the intrusiveness of privacy of students," he said.

The regulation was more of an information policy than an enforcement policy, he said. But if athletics officials receive complaints about something posted online, Hines said, they will further investigate the situation.

Athletes at Iowa State University — where officials first created a social-media policy in 2005 — abide by a similarly general set of rules.

"Departmental-wide, the stress is on appropriateness," said Tom Kroeschell, ISU associate athletics director for communications. "But beyond that, it's a team issue."

Kroeschell said higher-profile individuals need to be mindful of their conduct in social situations, particularly involving photographs.

"You have to be extra vigilant, because the media treat you like a public figure," he said. "If there is a picture that you don't want to be on the front page of the paper, then don't put it up there."

Though ISU, like the UI, uses the concept of appropriateness as a general rule, Kroeschell said athletics officials speak with team members a few times each season about universally forbidden online conduct, such as profanity.

Student-athletes actions may be more scrutinized by the general public.

Rick Klatt, UI associate athletics director for external affairs, said student-athletes' social-media activities are more popular than other students' because of their being prominent campus figures.

"If it would embarrass your grandmother, don't put it on your social media," Klatt said.

Kroschell said certain ISU student-athletes have had their social-media privileges taken away by their coaches for a period of time as a result of misconduct.

"The No. 1 concern is just talking with your student-athletes and making sure that they understand they are public figures, and that a certain responsibility comes along with it," Kroeschell said.

UI athletics officials are planning to review the social-media policy next year to see if any changes need to be made, Hines said.

Though ISU officials have no plans for review, Kroeschell said, change at some point is inevitable.

"[The policy] is going to change," he said. "It will have to, because there will always be new ways of communicating."

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