Social Media Privacy and WWU
By Lauren Vizcarra
Can what you post on social media get you in trouble with Walla Walla University?
Many students at WWU have social media accounts. Instagram, Facebook, and the ever popular TikTok are just some examples of social media platforms used by students.
There are positive and negative aspects to social media use. Positive uses of social media include connecting with friends, building relationships, and strengthening social awareness and empathy. However, there is also a potential for misuse and outright harm when using social media.
Unofficial WWU Instagram accounts are an example of both positive and negative usage. There are numerous accounts run by students anonymously such as @walla.freshadvice, @wwucrushes, and @wwumemes_. These accounts post, as their Instagram handles suggest, advice for students, confessions of crushes, and memes regarding life at the school. 
The account @wwuclassof2024 is an unofficial WWU Instagram account that was made because the creator was “hoping to make a community for all incoming freshmen.” Students in the WWU class of 2024 have the option to direct message this Instagram page with photos of themselves and a short bio. Then, @wwuclassof2024 will post their pictures and bio where other students can see and virtually meet others from their class. 
Then there are the unofficial WWU accounts like the infamous @wallawallaconfess, which was eventually deleted. This account fostered the spreading of rumors and called students out by name. 
So the question is: what is WWU doing about these unofficial Instagram pages? The short answer is nothing. Doug Tilstra, vice president of student life, says that there is nothing the school can do about these accounts, harmful or otherwise. Since they are anonymous, there is no accountability. That said, if and when students make a report about a specific post from one of these accounts, the school does an investigation. 
Bullying and harassment are against the student handbook and code of conduct, and cyberbullying is specifically mentioned in the equal opportunity, harassment, and nondiscrimination policy from the WWU human resources department. Both the handbook and this policy mention “rumors sent by email or posted on social networking site” as violating school rules. [5-6]
What about when a student posts on their private social media accounts? Both Tilstra and David Iwasa, assistant vice president for student life and dean of students, say that WWU is not actively combing through students’ personal social media profiles looking to get them in trouble. That said, if another student, staff, or faculty member sees that a student posted about engaging in a banned activity (like drinking alcohol) and takes a screenshot and makes a report, the school must investigate. [7-8]
There are several disciplinary measures that can be taken if a student is found violating school policy. The lightest measure is a verbal warning and the harshest is dismissal. It is Iwasa’s prerogative to decide on disciplinary measures, and if it is a particularly hard case, he assembles the Conduct Board. The Conduct Board is like a jury made up of two faculty members, two staff members, two deans, and two students appointed by ASWWU. Iwasa only votes to break a tie. 
The school does not have the resources to search through students’ social media accounts. However, Iwasa cautions students to be careful what they post because nothing on social media is really private. He doesn’t want students to regret what they put out into the online ether. Beyond getting in trouble with the University, Iwasa doesn’t want what a student posts online to hinder them in future career aspects or other endeavors. Nothing is private and nothing is ever completely deleted, he warns. 
The people who follow The Collegian Instagram account, many of them students, voiced their opinions. The Collegian Instagram account posted a poll on their Instagram story. When asked, “Are you conscious of the fact that what you post could get you in trouble?” 86% of the respondents said “yes” and 14% said “no” with a total of 133 people responding. It seems that most respondents, based on the results, are aware of the potential consequences whenever they post something to social media. 
Maksim Gospodchikov, freshman product design major, is aware that the University might see what he posts, but is unconcerned about it. While he is aware of it, Gospodchikov does not feel that the University is spying on him or invading his privacy. The potential of the school seeing his Instagram profile does not influence what he does or does not post. 
Gospodchikov says that he uses common sense when deciding what he will post. “How would a future employer react if they saw my post?” is something he considers before hitting the post button. This mentality helps Gospodchikov to discern what to post or not post and he sees it as “just common sense.” 
- Correspondence with @walla.freshadvice, @wwucrushes and @wwumemes_, Instagram, 2/23/21.
- Correspondence with @wwuclassof2024, Instagram, 2/23/21.
- Interview with Doug Tilstra, 2/23/21
- Walla Walla University website. Student handbook and code of conduct (2020-2021). Retrieved 2/28/21 from https://bit.ly/2ZY6GUH.
- Walla Walla University website. Equal opportunity, harassment, and nondiscrimination policy. Retrieved 2/28/21 from https://bit.ly/37Y2adc
- Interview with Doug Tilstra, 2/23/2,
- Interview with David Iwasa, 2/25/21
- Interview with David Iwasa, 2/25/21
- Collegian Instagram poll, 2/25/21
- Interview with Maksim Gospodchikov, 2/24/21