The Commentary Police

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has got some problems. The public university is now in day five of a strike by faculty over issues of transparency and financial accountability.

But there’s the strike itself and then there’s the way the university deals with the strike. The school is having a little trouble with its Facebook page.

According to an article by William Freivogel in the Gateway Journalism Review:

Even as the university was coming to last-minute agreement with three of four unions late Wednesday and early Thursday, it was removing critical comments from a Facebook page that had been open to student, faculty and alumni comments. Some of the postings contained foul language and clearly could legally be removed. Others argued the pros and cons of the labor dispute. One message, repeatedly deleted, said, “Please settle.”

Students who monitored the site said that, for a time, only those messages critical of the university were deleted, while those critical of the unions were left on the site. Some students whose messages were deleted said they then found themselves unable to log back into the page. By mid-morning on Thursday, the page contained only official university messages.

University spokesman Rod Sievers said the school was deleting the messages because some of the comments were “profane,” “personal attacks,” or “pretty vile.” Because the college has only a single person monitoring the Facebook page, however, “that person couldn’t keep up with the profanity and personal attacks. So the university had to stop all comments,” Sievers explained.

Really? Because it seems that in a time of major news the school’s Facebook page would naturally receive more comments. It’s appropriate, and necessary, then to bring some more people in to monitor Facebook comments. It’s certainly not necessary to remove all critical content in order to remove all vulgar content.

Sievers further explained that, because this was SIU’s official Facebook page, the university maintained editorial control and was free to remove whatever comments it wished.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer