The university-run “SVSU I’M BOSS” Facebook group will be shut down and deleted by the end of the day today, according to administration officials tasked with the group’s oversight.
The group’s closure was announced to university staff and the student body by email on Friday, Oct. 13.
According to a statement from Academic Advising Director Daniel Strasz and Director of Web Communications Jason Swackhamer, it will be replaced by two new groups that will be open only to first-year and transfer students.
“These groups will only be open to these respective cohorts, and they will be archived following each academic year,” the administrators stated. “These groups will answer students’ questions and share relevant information to help these students navigate the University environment. “
Once I’M BOSS is closed, University Communications plans to direct students toward SVSU’s Facebook page for general information requests and to existing channels for specific event information.
“These existing channels include Student Life’s weekly events email blast, Student Association’s Potty Postings, SVSU Engage (formerly known as OrgSync) and various web-based events calendar feeds,” Strasz and Swackhamer stated.
The status of I’M BOSS has been unclear to students for months due to a freeze on admissions to the group and the removal of the group administrator’s account in February. The group has grown and evolved since it was created in 2010 and now serves as an all-purpose SVSU-related social hub for its users.
“The I’M BOSS page was created by the university to help first-year students navigate the campus but has evolved to the point that it no longer met these goals,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Deborah Huntley. “It is now a platform that engages a large number of people, many no longer at SVSU, on a wide range of topics, without clear focus. The group became difficult to administer and had clearly strayed far from our original intent.”
Strasz and Swackhamer also cited multiple reasons that administration officials shut the group down, including the creeping scope of the group’s content and the reputation damage of any inappropriate content on I’M BOSS being officially associated with the university.
“As the administrators of the I’M BOSS group, SVSU is responsible for all content on the pages, even when it does not reflect our values,” the administrators stated.
Discussions among administration officials on what should be done with I’M BOSS began after the Academic Advising Center lost administrator control over the group from February to June of this year.
“The decision regarding the future of I’M BOSS was taken very seriously by university administration beginning this summer,” Strasz and Swackhamer stated. “Several meetings about the future of I’M BOSS occurred with groups that included faculty, staff, administration and student representatives.”
Dean of Student Affairs Sidney Childs briefed Student Association on the impending removal of I’M BOSS and their plans for its replacement during their Sept. 11 open meeting.
“At the beginning, they did say the end of September,” said Student Association President Lauren Kreiss. “But the end of September rolled around and nothing happened, so I was under the impression that they were going to get more feedback, which they should have done.”
On Friday, Oct. 13, Kreiss, Speaker McKenna Ciner, Ombudsman Karah Hoch and Representative Jack Duly met with Childs to discuss their concerns with the closure of I’M BOSS.
“The meeting could have gone in a different direction,” Kreiss said. “In the future, I hope that administrators will take these kinds of things more seriously. We’re trying our best to be the voice of the students … but we’re not being heard to the point that we should be.”
I’M BOSS was originally created by the Academic Advising Center as a retention program under Bryan Crainer, who at the time was the coordinator of First Year Programs and an academic advisor.
“Our intention then, it was an open group, but we would be providing the content there,” Crainer said. “For the better part of a year, there wasn’t a lot happening in that group that wasn’t initiated by us. Early on, we would post articles on successful study habits, we’d throw out fun surveys; it was very much academic success-related things.”
The group saw significant growth during Crainer’s tenure, owing to his office’s outreach to first-year students during orientation and academic advising appointments.
“It was certainly created with a very naïve mindset of, ‘We’ll start this group and invite a bunch of people, and it’ll just be sharing things to help them be successful academically,’” Crainer said. “Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine it would spiral into this.”
When Crainer left Academic Advising to take his current job as associate dean for Student Life and Leadership in May 2013, I’M BOSS had under 1,000 members. Over the years, it grew to just over 5,500 members, until Academic Advising lost administrator control over the group.
The shared office Facebook account that Academic Advising was using to administer the group was deleted for violation of Facebook’s terms of service. Facebook requires users to create accounts under their own real names.
“These accounts were reported to Facebook, who then shut them down, leaving the group without administrators from February to July of this year,” the administrators stated. “When Facebook removed administrative rights to the group this past year, it removed our ability to add or remove new users.”
According to Strasz and Swackhamer, attempts by Academic Advising to regain administrator power over the group were unsuccessful until this summer. Once Academic Advising regained control of I’M BOSS, oversight over the group was given to University Communications.
“University Communications was assigned administrative rights due to their role as the social media monitors for the university,” the administrators stated.
Under University Communications, I’M BOSS has Swackhamer, Assistant Director of Web Communications Holly Larose-Roenicke and another administration-owned account named “A.C. Valley” set as administrators.
A.C. Valley functions as a shared office account for Academic Advising, run by Strasz and Director of Orientation Programs Rachel Florence-Spaetzel. The account has been used to remove posts and ban users. Academic Advising created the account to shield SVSU administrators from being contacted directly on their personal Facebook accounts by anyone unhappy with a moderation decision.
“People were responding directly to the University Communications employees’ personal accounts, and that became problematic,” Strasz said.
The administrators maintain that despite the deletion of I’M BOSS, the university remains committed to respecting the free speech rights of students.
“As an institution, SVSU and its staff value the role of free speech at the university in discussing these issues,” their statement read. “It is our hope that students will continue to discuss these social issues beyond I’M BOSS with respect to each other’s ideas and points of view.”