Marks: Social media presence calls into question professionalism of ASUO executive slate

Today, social media is a significant form of communication. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr, people spend hours a day building their social media presence. Some choose to protect their personal lives with privacy settings, while others don’t mind lending their every thought to the general public’s ear.

People are entitled to put whatever they want on social media, but choosing what to post becomes more of an issue when you’re in the public eye. More specifically, politicians must be conscious of how they express support and receive critique.

One example of this is Donald Trump, who has slammed us with an onslaught of rude tweets since before he was elected. A notable instance is when Trump denounced the New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS and CNN as the “enemy of the American people.” He is entitled to his opinion, but the critiques seems to stem less from the news sources’ actual credibility and more from the fact that they are critical of Trump’s politics. Furthermore, his complaint didn’t specify what about these news sites made them devoid of credibility. It appears as though Trump saw news that wasn’t supportive of his campaign and decided that the sources were no longer credible, since they didn’t agree with him.

This sort of behavior leads me (and I’m sure many others) to further question Trump’s ability to conduct himself in a mature and professional fashion. But Trump’s social media presence isn’t the only one we need to be aware of. Political social media presence is relevant on the University of Oregon campus, in regards to ASUO student government.

After the Emerald Editorial Board ran a piece in which they critiqued the one-slate ASUO campaign, there was some backlash. As with any column (coming from someone who works on the opinion desk) criticism and contrary opinions are expected. However, one of the people criticizing the editorial was a member of the slate: Vickie Gimm, at the time running for external vice president.

As more articles about the ASUO election came out, Gimm’s online comments became increasingly aggressive and laced with expletives. These comments were shocking and I knew I wouldn’t be the only one to be critical of them. I wondered if she was merely responding to critique in an irrational and over-the-top way, and was normally much more professional. However, an investigation of her Facebook led me to the post announcing that she was running for ASUO, which revealed that her aggressive manner was not an isolated incident.

In an interview for this column, Gimm emphasized her disdain for respectability politics.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t abide by respectability politics. That is something I don’t participate in,” Gimm said. She went on to clarify that “respectability politics is the behaviors that go into determining how polite to be to someone, just based on a position they have or power they have.”

Gimm clearly doesn’t care about peoples’ perceptions of her social media accounts. She was furthermore unconcerned about how this might affect her political reputation.

Political figures do to some extent represent the institution but what I post on my personal social media, regardless of my privacy settings, has nothing to do with how I operate as somebody who is fiscally responsible, somebody who supports students and somebody who wants to enact great change on this campus,” Gimm said.

Fellow slate member and ASUO president-elect Amy Schenk didn’t endorse Gimm’s behavior, but didn’t seem to want to get involved, either.

“It is a concern,” Schenk said. “But again, it’s her words, not mine.”

Schenk said she would talk to Gimm if Schenk perceives it as an issue.

“If something made me uncomfortable, I’ll bring it to her attention and we’ll talk about it.”

But at the moment, Schenk said, she doesn’t see it as much of a problem.

Although Gimm is unconcerned about her social media presence, the way she presents herself could have significant consequences. Gimm has an influence on how ASUO is viewed by not only current students but administration, prospective students, parents and other institutions. She could compromise how administration perceives and chooses to interact with ASUO. And what happens if this goes beyond social media? If her behavior extends beyond the confines of Facebook and her unprofessional manner becomes something that those who work with her have to deal with in person?

Ultimately it is up to Gimm to decide how to present herself on social media. But as someone who has gained visibility in the public eye and is therefore more subject to critique, she has to learn how to take it gracefully. Otherwise, her unprofessional presence may do more harm than good.

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Jadyn Marks

Jadyn Marks

Jadyn graduated from the University of Oregon in 2018 with a B.S. in political science and a minor in legal studies. She formerly worked as the opinion desk's associate editor. Prior to that, she had worked as a copy editor, news reporter, outreach director, and opinion writer.