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A Twist on Student-Athlete Twitter Privileges

University of North Carolina administrators may not have banned the use of Twitter and Facebook by student-athletes - as some of their peers at other schools have - but a new social-networking policy indicates they are serious about maintaining a low profile in the wake of recent highly publicized incidents.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that UNC has updated its 2010-11 student-athlete handbook to stipulate that "each team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitor the content of team members' social-networking sites and postings." The athletics department also reserves the right to have other staff members monitor student-athletes' posts, and if any online content violates the law or NCAA, university or athletics department policies, punishment could range from removal of the post to dismissal from the team.

Although associate athletic director Steve Kirschner said the updated social-networking policy "is not in response to any one thing," news of this major policy tweak comes shortly after UNC announced a probe into academic improprieties by the school's football team, and several basketball players were told to tone down their tweets.

No reaction from players yet, but writer Rhiannon Bowman had plenty to say about the university's crackdown Tuesday in a blog posting for the local weekly newspaper Charlotte Creative Loafing. "Is this healthy?" Bowman asked. "I mean, in a country that values free speech so much that we made that right part of the very first amendment to our constitution, is paying university staff (i.e. state employees) to police the social media ramblings of our youth a healthy and wise thing to do?"

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