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College Student Defense

What to do when Social Media Threatens Your College Career

By June 29, 2020April 6th, 2022No Comments

Imagine waking up one morning to find that you have become the object of a social media campaign to get you kicked off your sports team, expelled from school or demanding that your admission offer to college be revoked before you even get to campus.  In the age of social media shaming, an offense real or imagined can grow into a threat to your academic future and career in only hours.

Most students and their families cannot imagine this happening to them and usually think that an isolated offensive remark or a posting taken out-of-context can’t pose a threat.  But today colleges, universities and employers increasingly do social media checks of applicants and what goes on the internet is uncontrollable for the most part. But the effects of social media on your college career can be controlled with wise guidance.

What should you do if you're confronted by such a situation?

Here are three tips to keep in mind:

  1. DON’T try to defend yourself on social media.  You might think that telling your side of the story will help you but that will be a mistake.  The majority of people reacting to an on-line story are doing just that – reacting.  And your jumping into the online debate will only give them more to react to – usually to your detriment.  So shut down your social media activity at the first sign of trouble, and;
  2. DO contact a student defense attorney right away who can advise you on whether you are in real jeopardy with your school and also advise you on how to get the resources to manage the damage being done to you.  Don’t rely just on friendly advice or your school’s advice.  Even if you hire a professional PR specialist you need to have them working with a lawyer because only then does the PR advice stay protected under the attorney-client privileges.  There is no PR privilege.
  3. DO take the long view.  This problem can be managed but it is not going away.  If the problem turns into a formal discipline or conduct charge by your school, then you will always have to answer “yes” to future questions in graduate school and employment about whether you have ever been accused of a violation.  And you’ll need to be ready to explain it.  Even if you are not formally accused the matter will live on the internet and, again, you need to be ready to explain it and put your prospective school or employer’s mind at ease.

Experienced college student defense lawyers know all of the above and also have the resources to bring to your aid, including PR consultants, internet specialists and admissions consultants all under the confidentiality of the attorney-client privilege.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you only need a lawyer for a court case.  Good lawyers guide their clients in a way to avoid court whenever possible.  The goal of quality college student defense is to keep your college and future career uninterrupted.

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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