Protect the brand


Corryn Carter, Viewpoints Editor

In the era of instant information, social media has become a top news source. Equipped with features to provide up-to-the-minute coverage, people use their social platforms to receive updates on local, national, and global issues. While many university student-led organizations have embraced the use of the more popular social media platforms, some of the Alabama State University Student Government Association (SGA) leaders and other prominent university officials often encourage students to log off to keep swirling controversy that could tarnish the brand to a minimum. The issue is that this social media is not the root issue. 

The social media culture at ASU is unlike that of many other institutions. The campus is completely unified by the #myasu hashtag, as both students and alumni post personal thoughts, university complaints, business advertisements, and party flyers on the hashtag. Videos from campus events frequently go viral; videos posted by MYASU Buzz, the unofficial university news account run by alumnus, Cameron Kelley garnered more than 600,000 views this past week. The level of social media engagement that the school hashtag receives gives the school motto, “When we have class, the world takes note” new meaning.

Because college-age students are Twitter’s primary users, the assumption would be that the university would embrace its platform. However, as allegations against SGA officials have surfaced on the school’s hashtag, many are singing a different tune. Several have condemned the use of the platform to have pertinent discussions about the misuse of funds, neglect of Constitutional duties, and other serious offenses alleged by the Student Senate against the executive officers. They have also called for students to cease discussion of university issues on social media. Instead, administrators request that students address their concerns in more appropriate settings.

This collective outrage came to a head just before Christmas break, as students took to the university hashtag after allegations of misuse of SGA funds were reported by The Hotspot ASU. The Twitter timeline was full of concerned students who were alarmed to find that their student government leaders had spent nearly $3000 for a single weekend. Several of them felt completely justified in their belief that the university does not prioritize its standard student, citing the dissolve of the GAP Fund and trust scholarships without forewarning.

While I do agree that addressing negative concerns on the Internet can be detrimental to the school’s image, blaming social media is a gross neglect of much larger issues. Social media is not the primary problem, it is simply the vehicle used to have concerns addressed.

Countless times, the complaints on the university hashtag have alerted officials to a campus problem. Last year, students used the hashtag to voice their concerns about the WiFi, and after months of complaints, the Office of Technology Services (OTS) used student concerns to devise an effective solution. Also, students’ concerns about the campus housing crisis prompted officials to have a comprehensive meeting explaining the various facets of the problem so that students might better understand the issue. Additionally, when allegations about SGA officials hit the internet, a discussion about how students feel the university does not operate in their best interest ensued.

Therefore, the issue is not social media, it is the university’s failure to create outlets for students to address their concerns before they choose to go to the Internet. 

I understand that no institution is perfect. They all have their issues and concerns that can be improved. However, on several occasions, this university has neglected to address these problems before outrage on social media occurs.

Failure to do so has created distrust among students. They do not feel loved and prioritized by the university and that has much harsher consequences than a few complaints on the university hashtag. Students who transfer often talk about how they felt as if they did not matter and that they felt like numbers in a system, as opposed to human beings. Their love for the university is often thwarted by the problems university officials failed to address.

For this university to operate, it needs the support of its students. Until a viable means of communicating issues to university officials and SGA officers arise, social media will continue to be the convening place for complaints. Keeping the students satisfied must become a top priority, otherwise, the effort to protect the university brand is lost.