University provides faculty with document on social media support, resources

October 28, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As faculty members continue to use social media for their professional and personal lives, Penn State has released a new document offering instructors support and resources to respond to situations where faculty members are targeted by individuals or groups outside of the University. 

The 16-page document, “Social Media Support and Resources for Penn State Faculty,” reaffirms the University’s support for faculty members’ academic freedom and freedom of expression and discusses threats, intimidation or harassment against faculty members from outside of the University. 

The document offers resources and advice for not only individual faculty, but also academic unit administrators such as department heads, division heads, school directors, associate deans for academic affairs and chief academic officers; college or campus strategic communications directors; and unit executives such as deans and chancellors. 

“Ultimately, faculty should know that they have a variety of sources of support if they experience some sort of threat or harassment on social media,” said Abby Diehl, assistant vice provost for faculty affairs. “They shouldn’t feel they have to resolve the situation on their own.” 

The online document includes instructions on safety, links to University Police and Public Safety, lists of various offices that are able to assist faculty, references to Penn State policies and procedures and other resources. 

“The point is that we wanted to let faculty know there is a network of individuals who can assist and resources to access,” she said. “Online harassment is challenging and disruptive, to say the least, and anyone using social media should understand if or when to respond, when to ignore,  when to block someone from seeing your page, or when to report to authorities if necessary.” 

The document was adapted from a similar paper developed by the University of Iowa for its faculty members at the request of the Faculty Advisory Council to the President. A number of individuals and units at Penn State were involved in developing Penn State’s version, including the Affirmative Action Office; the Behavioral Threat Management Team; Jacqueline Edmondson, chancellor and chief academic officer at Penn State Greater Allegheny and chair of the Academic Leadership Council; the Office of Educational Equity; the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Strategic Communications; Nicholas Rowland, past chair of the Faculty Senate; the Graduate School; and Jennifer Hamer, professor of African American studies and women’s, gender and sexuality studies and senior faculty mentor in the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity. 

“Penn State unequivocally supports academic freedom and freedom of expression,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones. “That was the impetus for this guide, which is meant to assist and protect our faculty against harassing behaviors online.” 


Last Updated October 28, 2020