The news that a 22-year-old undergraduate of the institution, Miss Oyinlola Rotimi, gave birth on campus, was ignited by the use of social media. The news about the circumstances surrounding the unusual birth went viral on social media within minutes of its occurrence.
On June 19, the social networks were flooded with stories that Oyinlola, who was delivered of her baby in one of the toilets of the university’s hostel, wanted to flush the baby down the toilet and kill him.
The story spread fast on Facebook and Twitter, with many blogs also feeding on it. Students of the institution who were sitting for their first semester examination were not left out in spreading the false story.
For instance, on Twitter, some students employed the use of the hashtag #MoremiBaby and without clarifying the circumstances that led to the delivery, they spread the information on the social media. Bloggers who make avid use of the social media soon caught up with the story and the Nigerian blogosphere was flooded with the unclarified story.
The young lady’s name, department and level and the room she stayed that day in the hall of residence circulated widely on the social networks such that the shortened form of the university, ‘OAU’ broke into trending topics.
However, one would have expected the Obafemi Awolowo University management to engage members and non-members of the university community on its social media platforms, with a view to setting the records straight.
This turn of events has, yet again, highlighted the need for educational institutions, especially higher institutions of learning, to embrace the new media.
Using the same social media platforms that promoted the incident’s circulation on cybersphere could have gone a long way to alter the speed and the nature of the negative mentions the incident had on the social media, as well as the backlash it brought on the name of the university.
A search on popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter revealed that the OAU management has no prominent presence on the platforms. Confirming this, the spokesperson for the university, Mr. Abiodun Olanrewaju, told our correspondent on the telephone on Wednesday, that the institution made it as a policy not to run the affairs of the university on social networks.
“We won’t want to run the affairs of the university on social media,’’ he said.
Further enquiries as to why the university made the decision could not be ascertained, as he said he was not authorised to speak further on the issue.
However, a senior official of the institution, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said the decision not to have official social media accounts for the university was taken in 2011 by the management.
He said, “The University has a fully functional website and there was a time the management was trying to integrate social media to its online presence. But after much debate by the management, the idea was jettisoned because there were fears that the seeming advantages could be outweighed by the frivolities being perpetuated on the social networks, which could be harmful. ’’
However, one wonders why OAU has decided to stay aloof while other institutions in its class have since embraced the opportunities inherent in the use of the social media.
For instance, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State has official Facebook and Twitter accounts with which the institution communicates with thousands of its students who spend quality hours daily on the Internet on their smart devices.
Also, the University of Ibadan tweets via @UniIbadan, while its Facebook page which has a decent following of 24,395 fans are being utilised by the ivory tower in conjunction with its official website as their digital communication channels.
A university’s social media presence is an extension of the school’s brand and universities that are fortunate to have well versed and active student population who use the social media should embrace the use of social media as an inexpensive and on-the-go platforms for quick information dissemination.
Higher institutions of learning may need to put guidelines in place to ensure appropriateness of their official social media activity. Such social media strategy and guideline should reflect core principles driving the university’s vision and mission, such that it spells out authenticity and transparency.