By Rick Rojas|Los Angeles Times|March 27, 2011|10:07 a.m.
The Web never stops and it never forgets.
On a recent Friday night, a UCLA student posted a video onYouTube. The young woman made the video, in which she complained about and mocked Asian students at UCLA, the day after the Japan earthquake. She took down the clip within hours of posting it. She was too late. By then it was being reposted and remixed, taking on a life of its own.
By that Sunday, it had come full circle. UCLA officials watching the situation unfold noticed considerable surges in traffic on the university's Facebook and YouTube profiles, said Phil Hampton, a UCLA spokesman. People inside and outside the campus community were urging the university to do something.
The incident this month — and the way the university responded — illustrates the challenge that universities face now that the kinds of comments once scrawled on bathroom walls or passed around in class can be blasted out online, instantaneously, for the world to see.
Larry D. Roper, vice provost for student affairs at Oregon State University, said the long reach of social media has turned issues that university officials would once have handled face to face into something broader and more difficult to manage.
"It's not something we can control," Roper said. "It's a world unto itself."
As a result, he said, "the reaction is no longer a local one. You act locally and influence globally."
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media outlets have been embraced by higher education partly because they help create a feeling of connection across a far-flung university community. But the ability to connect so easily also indulges impulsiveness.
Since the advent of social media — and email before that — there have been numerous cases of questionable videos or inappropriate posts causing a stir at colleges, said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that advocates for freedom of expression on college campuses.
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