The UC Davis incidents which included a campus police casually pepper-spraying a group of student protesters and students using silent protest as a response to the UC Davis Chancellor illustrates the need for campuses to formally adopt social media to communicate. More importantly, social media is needed to provide a venue for their communities to express and process their emotions and thoughts when events so shocking as this event requires communities to come together, to have dialogues.
I was shocked, upset and disappointed at what had happened and as an employee of the University of California system, I was embarrassed and thoughts of “those could have been one of the students I know” and questions like “How can we avoid that from happening at UCSB?” and “What are our campus administrators doing to prevent this from happening?” came to my mind. I also wanted to know what students are thinking and how they are reacting to the events. I couldn’t wait for campus assemblies few days later to process what I was feeling and to hear what others are thinking. I needed to find and share information and I needed to connect with people that could relate to my perspectives, those who work in higher education, in the UC system, in student affairs, those who work with students.
Throughout the weekend, I had short exchanges with folks I have met online via twitter and facebook. I found information from blogs, videos from youtube by those who were at the event and who witnessed them firsthand. I found out about UC President Yudof’s response and his plan to meet with every UC Chancellors to discuss how to implement system-wide policies on how to properly respond to these types of incidents. I also found via twitter from a former UC employee that this was not the first time pepper-spray had been used at student protests and that at UC Davis, one student wrote about “administrators, students and police have been coordinating an under-the-radar response team to infiltrate student protest groups, relay information to administrators and police leadership and control peaceful gatherings in response to tuition spikes and budget cuts.”
What I had wished during the weekend was more connections with my fellow UCSB colleagues, students and those that can relate to me. Believe me, those like me who have the need to connect online will use social media, with or without university approval. In these times of crisis, universities really need to understand the need for two-way communication and to have avenues for their communities to be able to process their thoughts and provide outlets for dialogues. For those still seeking some kind of quantifiable metrics to justify the use of social media, how about the fact that sometimes, it’s not all about ROI.