Policies & Contracts

1008 - Social Media

Subject: Social Media

Section: U1008

Date: April 5, 2012


To provide guidelines for the responsible use of blogs, networking sites, and other social media for staff employees.


The University recognizes blogs, networking sites, and other social media (collectively referred to as “social media”) as possible tools to support the University’s educational and operational goals. This policy applies to staff employees when they participate in social media as part of their job duties. It also applies to staff employees’ participation in social media at any time that they give the appearance of speaking on behalf of the University or its affiliates; identify themselves as University employees or as affiliated with the University; or discuss the University or its affiliates. Staff employees are responsible for the content they publish on social media and should use good judgment. Staff employees should be mindful that the things they say or do on social media are publicly available and searchable and may be forever accessible. As provided in the University’s Business Conduct Policy, comments, expressions, and other postings on social media must be honest and respectful of others; respect confidential, personal, and proprietary information; and comply with applicable law and University policies.


Social media: Online, electronic, or Internet media, tools, communities, and spaces for social interaction, sharing user generated content, or public or semi-public communication. Social media typically uses web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogs. Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, blogs & microblogs, online profiles, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video, email, text, instant messaging, music-sharing, and chat, to name just a few. Examples of social media include but are not limited to the following: LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, Skype and blogs.

Blogging: Making an entry into a written online journal or forum that is accessible to users of the forum, blog, or Internet.

Cyber-vetting: Refers to accessing publicly available social media or using search engines such as Google and Yahoo to review the online activity or suitability of staff employees, applicants, or job seekers.


  1. Staff employees are reminded that the use of University property is primarily for the purpose of performing University business. Staff employees should make sure they are aware of department/unit specific standards regarding Internet and social media usage on University property and during business hours.  Personal use of the Internet including social media on University property or during business hours must not involve unprofessional or inappropriate content (not otherwise protected or authorized by law), must not interfere with employment responsibilities and productivity, and must be consistent with the Eligibility and Acceptable Use Policy for Information Technology.  Staff employees should consult with their immediate supervisors before using social media for work-related purposes.
  2. It often is difficult to distinguish between personal and professional activity in social media; thus, staff employees who identify themselves as an employee of the University or use their University email address must state, “The opinions expressed are my own, and they do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer” unless the University has formally designated the staff employee as an official spokesperson of the University. If you have questions regarding whether a staff employee is formally designated as an official spokesperson, please contact University Communications. The following are examples of postings on social media that violate this or other University policies:
    • I support Jane Doe for City Council…John Doe (Director of Account Management, University of Chicago);
    • We are using Brand X software at the University of Chicago, and it’s the worst. Sara Smart (Technology Analyst).
  3. Staff employees must safeguard and use confidential information consistent with 601 Treatment of Confidential Information. Thus, staff employees must not disclose or post Confidential Information on social media. In addition, staff employees must not use trademarks, logos, copyrighted, or other proprietary information of the University or others in personal blogs, personal postings, or other social media.
  4. Staff employees must not use social media to harass, threaten, discriminate, or disparage employees or others affiliated with the University. Staff employees’ postings and use of social media must comply with 201 Equal Employment Opportunity, 606 Workplace Violence, and 609 Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment. However, the University understands that staff employees may communicate with their co-workers about the terms and conditions of their employment through social media, and that these exchanges may be protected by law.  The following are examples of postings on social media that violate this or other University policies:
    • A rear view picture of a coworker bending over;
    • I work in the Lab at the University of Chicago, and my supervisor, Tara is a liar and an idiot; tomthumb@uchicago.edu; and
    • Derogatory comments about a coworker and his religious beliefs.
  5. Staff employees’ communications on social media should be consistent with the University’s policies, standards, and principles and should not denigrate or insult others.
  6. Staff employees should contact Human Resources and use caution before deciding to “cyber-vet” a staff employee, applicant, or job seeker. Cyber-vetting must be consistent with applicable law and University and department/unit policy including but not limited to 201 Equal Employment Opportunity, 202 Recruitment and Selection Process, and 609 Unlawful Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct.
  7. Managers and supervisors should consult with Human Resources before providing employment references for current or former staff through social media.
  8. Staff employees should not request, pressure, or require employees or others affiliated with the University to share passwords to social media nor should employees or others affiliated with the University be pressured or required by a staff employee to “friend” or otherwise establish an online or social media relationship.  Managers and supervisors should be especially cautious and exercise good judgment when communicating on social media with employees, students, alumni, or others affiliated with the University.
  9. If a staff employee has questions about this policy or a specific posting out on the web or wishes to report a posting that may not comply with this policy, please contact the staff employee’s supervisor, the Human Resource Administrator (HRA) for the department/unit, or Human Resources.
  10. The University may require staff employees to remove posts that violate this policy or applicable law.
  11. Staff employees who violate this policy may be subject to corrective action up to and including termination of employment.


Employees represented by a bargaining unit may be governed by the appropriate bargaining unit agreement.