Upon accepting the appointment as Dean, I immediately ceased posting to my personal Facebook account and opened a new account using my decanal title. I did the same thing with my Twitter account, which I had really only started as a vehicle for keeping up with my teenage children. I kept the Linkedin account as it was since these connections and the use of the platform is more business focused. I'm learning Instagram, Pinterest and Google + now. Why? Because my students and alumni use these tools more often than email as a form of modern communication. We can debate the value of face-to-face communication and traditional memos and letters, but the bottom line is that if we want to capture attention and convey information, then understanding how each of these tools can be most effectively used is an important part of the job. I believe this wholeheartedly and prioritized resources to hire a
social media staff member who works with both our IT and Communications departments, as well as with individual faculty.
On the positive side of social media, I have used Twitter to find students in the building needed for a meeting or event. Funny, it has sometimes been easier to get a response from a tweet than from an email. At times, especially during Superstorm Sandy when our region was in chaos, Facebook proved to be the best method to communicate with masses of students. Alumni tend to read announcements of events on their Facebook news feed more often than opening up email blasts from the Law School that may be perceived to be "junk mail." In fact, the positive feedback about "the Facebook Dean" has been great. Countless alumni and current students stop me regularly to comment that appreciate
knowing what is going on at the Law Center "real time." I also use Facebook as a forum to share an interesting article about trends in legal education. This sometimes generates discussion through comments – engaging students, alumni and faculty in on on-line conversation. Using Linkedin has
enabled alumni to connect for referrals and to discuss upcoming networking opportunities, and it can be fertile ground for students to identify potential mentors. In addition to my use of these tools (and on these I do all of my own posting), the Law Center and many departments/offices maintain their own Facebook pages as a means of communicating with students and alumni (e.g., Career Services, Student
Services, Alumni Affairs and the Library). The Alumni Office also set up a group on Linkedin where announcements can be posted and information can be shared with those in the alumni community who choose to join.
There are some drawbacks however. For example, this week at our adjunct faculty meeting, one faculty member commented on how she observed a student tweeting in class. She was tech savvy enough to "call him out" using his own game by sending him a tweet letting him know she was on to him and could read what he was doing. It stopped. There have been times students have been “called out” by classmates because of comments made about peers and faculty on Facebook…sometimes while they were in class. At first year orientation we include a session on social media ethics and professionalism. It is possible that on law school sponsored social media sites, a participant may feel compelled to make a negative comment about the institution. For private schools, they may have a choice of whether to allow the comment to be posted and/or whether to delete. For public schools, however, it is possible that the sites could be considered a public forum, thereby implicating First Amendment issues. Further, public schools may have to develop and administer record retention policies for postings on these sites to ensure compliance with state access to records laws. It is a good idea to develop a social media policy.
In my opinion, the benefits outweigh the cautionary tales, and I urge my colleagues who are not engaged in this form of communication to experiment with one or more of the tools discussed. I also invite you to send a friend request to me at Dean Patricia Salkin, to follow me on Twitter @DeanSalkin, or invite me
(Patricia Salkin) to connect on Linkedin.