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Council developing a club social media policy

By Chloe ’19

Marlborough has little regulation of club-run social media accounts. All-School Council is taking the initiative to redefine Marlborough’s social media presence by proposing new social media policies.

Approved club social media accounts are sparse. There is currently no outlined approval process beyond simply communicating with the Administration, which requires the sharing of login information. 

“We have been pretty careful about how many [accounts] there were simply because we didn’t have any policies or practices in place in terms of how to monitor them and how to make sure they were active, appropriate and so on,” Director of the Upper School Laura Hotchkiss ’86 said. 

However, among the dozens of student clubs, classes, teams and organizations, many are eager to create accounts, or have already done so of their own volition, and the School has no definitive mechanism for discovering “illegal” accounts.

Marlborough students are required to sign the Student Technology Responsible Use Policy at the beginning of each academic year, which states: “Students must obtain express permission from the School or the member of the community before creating content (digital images, video, audio, etc.) to post on websites, including social networking sites, if that content refers to or identifies the School or a member of the School community.” This statement does not speak to the process of creating club-specific accounts, nor does it specify the existence of such a process.

Without an account registration policy in place, the creation of social media accounts without the School’s knowledge can unintentionally deface the public image of the institution and risk liability for revealing minors’ information. When an account is on the School’s radar, they are able to monitor and remove posts if necessary. 

“From my perspective I think it’s just the idea that the School wants to present itself in the best light, and that it would be good to partner with students who want to do that,” Assistant Dean of Life Brett Quimby said. 

All School President Charlotte ’19 supports implementation of clear guidelines that allow the Administration to keep a list of registered accounts and their account details. She says that students could potentially acquire authorization using a Google Form application, similar to how clubs obtain permission to order sweatshirts.

“We should have an easy application process and verified accounts, instead of not having them at all or having them illegally,” Charlotte said. 

Hotchkiss specified that accounts would likely only be granted to clubs that have been established for a reasonable amount of time and have “demonstrated consistent membership.”

Captain of the Marlbots robotics team Emma ’19 said that there are significant benefits of having a social media presence, particularly as a STEM-focused group. The Marlbots account was established before Emma took the reigns, and the Administration was already aware of its existence.

“We’ve been able to increase our presence as women in STEM… We’re able to interact with other girls’ robotics teams, too,” Emma said. 

The team also offers promotions, such as shout-out posts, to their sponsors through their social media platform that help pay for new technology, including a laser cutter. 

Social media is also useful, Emma said, as a way for audiences beyond the Marlborough community to learn about school activities and student life.

“It’s really great for prospective parents to see what the Marlborough robotics team is all about… It’s a very different feel when the student is the one posting on Instagram and showing what we’re doing week-by-week,” Emma said. “As social media obviously is getting larger and larger, Marlborough having an increased presence on there wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.” 

Among the groups that have sought approval for an Instagram account of their own is All-School Council, which was denied an Instagram profile on which they hoped to post reminders, pictures of council and videos for the student body to enjoy. Director of Communications Carly Rodriguez explained that council’s idea was vetoed by the administration in an effort to streamline Marlborough’s social media presence.

“Historically we’ve encouraged people to submit their photos and news for sharing on the @marlboroughlife account vs. creating their own individual club accounts. This has helped centralize the information so that our community members can follow one active, robust account,” Rodriguez said.

Charlotte saw this obstacle as the perfect opportunity to explore options for implementing legislation beneficial to all students. 

“Because social media is becoming more and more central to our lives, we might as well have a rulebook,” Charlotte said. 

Because the majority of unauthorized accounts mention Marlborough or some variation of the School’s name within their account descriptions, finding most of them is simple. The ease with which the Administration could track down unregistered accounts using a social network’s browser function would contribute to enforcement of a potential policy.

Council hopes to have the Administration on board with a tentative policy by the end of the school year.

In the meantime, Charotte emphasized the importance of student input and hopes to hold a meeting to hear from club leaders and others who would be affected by a new social media policy. 

Quimby says that Council is open to hearing what the student body thinks about School-associated social media accounts. 

“I think that this is one of those places where we are constantly evolving and seeing what the best practices are,” Quimby said.

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