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Northern Illinois University Bans Social Media, Happiness for Faculty

Illustration for article titled Northern Illinois University Bans Social Media, Happiness for Faculty

Northern Illinois University is denying its students access to Twitter, Facebook and other sources of happiness in one’s wistful early twenties.

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Betabeat spoke with an NIU student who posted the “acceptable usage policy” that popped up on his personal computer when he was searching for the Westboro Baptist Church website.

“This kind of policy comes out of the blue,” darkf told Betabeat. “I feel that if someone doesn’t speak out about it at the start, it might be here to stay. I hope they can understand how restrictive it is to students.”

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Whoa there, American university taking its censorship cues from the Chinese government.

Blocking access to information, especially for students, is a bad idea and an even worse precedent to set for other places of higher education. The "acceptable usage policy" even applies to professors and other staff who may be using the NIU web connection. How are they supposed to teach classes on dicey subjects if they can't use visuals from the web? How are students supposed to research? How is anyone supposed to survive?!

Perhaps one of the most controversial of the terms is the restriction on political activities such as surveying, polling, material distribution, vote solicitation and organization or participation in meetings, rallies and demonstrations, among other activities. According to the policy, social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Foursquare are also unacceptable “unless associated with professional responsibilities.”

Real question: what harm has Pinterest ever caused? Has there been a chocolate cake recipe brawl I don’t know about?

Some NIU students have been able to squeeze out a tweet or two, so all might not be lost, but it's not clear whether they accessed social media on their computers or cell phones. The University alerted students to the policy on July 25, which states that they are each subject to random Internet account “monitoring” that could lead to an investigation if the administration finds something they don't like. This is just a terrible idea, but hell, why not reinstate prohibition too. It worked out so well the first time!

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UPDATE: NIU clarified to Jezebel that their intent is to pry social media away from the hands of their faculty, not their students. Only the adults at NIU will be sad about missing Twitter and Instagram cats.

Image via NIU.

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DISCUSSION

I just read the screengrab of the policy and I could feel my blood pressure rising the more I read. If they want to block sites on university computers, go ahead. But telling students what they can and can't see on their personal computers? Fuck right off.

ETA: Oh good, apparently the story was on the Drudge Report, so now the linked article is full of comments about "Obama's America" and all the librulls who definitely support this policy because we're so liberal we hate freedom or something. Yaaaay.