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Support & Wellbeing

Misconduct and social media in the Accommodation

By ConductTeam 11 Oct 2023

This article is part of a series on behaviour and communal living issues in residences. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • University policies that might apply to your use of social media

  • Social media and your private content

  • Social media and misconduct

  • Bullying, harassment and disagreements over social media

  • Reporting and submitting evidence of possible misconduct on social media

Sometimes residents find themselves in trouble with the University over things they've posted online. It's often confusing to realise that something you thought was private is actually being viewed much more widely than you thought. It can be a shock to realise this might have formal disciplinary consequences. Here's some information to help you understand what you should consider in relation to your social media use while you're studying at the University and living in the Accommodation. 

University policies that might apply to your use of social media

Students often aren't aware that the University IT Code of Practice can apply to social media use. In Section 8.1, Conduct online and on social media, it states that University policies concerning staff and students also apply to the use of social media. These include: codes of conduct; acceptable use of IT facilities; and disciplinary procedures.

In practical terms, this means that whatever you do on social media shouldn't break any of the rules that apply while you live and study with the University. You can read more about these rules in our articles on The Regulations Relating to the Discipline of Students and your Residence Contract, If you're reported as having potentially breached those rules, the University can take investigate and disciplinary action. Your public accounts may easily identify you as a student at the University, which means other people, including members of the public, may report your content to us.

Social media and your private content

So, what if you think your social media is private, so none of this applies to you? Well, another thing to consider is whether you can reasonably believe a private post or message will stay private. Once your content is online, anyone who can see it can copy and capture it, and share it on without your knowledge or consent. We advise students to not post anything that they wouldn't want in the public domain. There have been a number of recent high-profile cases where students have lost university places or had job offers revoked in connection with their social media content, so bear in mind that once you post something online, it’s out of your control.

Reporting and submitting evidence of possible misconduct on social media

One of the main ways students find themselves investigated for misconduct on social media is by 'bringing the University into disrepute', or in other words, damaging the University's reputation while behaving badly. For example, a video you post on a public account showing vandalism in the Accommodation, or a party held in breach of the lockdown rules, might be considered in this way. The Regulations Relating to the Discipline of Students specifically note that 'any behaviour which brings or is likely to bring the University into disrepute, for example misconduct in a community or other public setting', could be considered misconduct, and it might also breach your Residence Contract. In the scenario above, causing damage to your flat or any area of the residences would directly breach the regulations and your contract. Bringing the University into disrepute and breaching additional regulations or clauses of your contract, by causing noise or damage, could result in more serious penalties. 

Bullying, harassment and disagreements over social media

Misconduct on social media, however, doesn't just include poor behaviour shown in public posts. Direct messaging, targeted messaging in a group chat, or inappropriate messages to or about others may be considered bullying or harassment. This might also constitute misconduct. In recent years, there’ve been a number of reported cases of inappropriate group chats leading to serious disciplinary action, like those in DerbyWarwick and Exeter

It's easy to find yourself in a difficult group chat situation. When people get into disputes about wider issues, there are often communication breakdowns in their flat or block group chats. This can lead to rude, angry and inappropriate messages, and people may be hurt or offended by these comments. A dispute that starts over a kitchen cleaning rota can easily turn into a very heated and hostile online interaction. When the dispute is reported to us, screenshots of those group chats are often submitted as evidence of bullying or harassment. It's easy to get caught up in group chats like this, so be mindful that even if your social media use is relatively private, it can still end up part of a disciplinary investigation, and may still end up being considered misconduct.

Reporting and submitting evidence of possible misconduct on social media

It's worth knowing that screenshots and screen recordings can both be accepted as evidence in the disciplinary process. This includes private and public posts, for example a personal message which constitutes bullying, a group chat conversation where someone makes an offensive joke, or a social media post showing a student breaking a window.

However, we don't monitor social media accounts ourselves, or capture evidence from them. If you want to report an issue using social media content as evidence, we need you to provide that evidence in the form of saved, static files. We can't accept just a link to a social media post, the account name or a description of the misconduct shared. Alongside your saved files, you'd need to write a witness statement to explain the context behind the evidence you’re submitting, and to give your consent for its use in the disciplinary process. For more information on your reporting options, you can read our article on Reporting Misconduct.

Hopefully this article has helped you to understand social media use in the residences, how to report misconduct over social media, and what evidence is accepted, and your rights as a student so you can enjoy your time in accommodation.

- The ACS Student Conduct Team