FAQs regarding Social Media, Student Press and Student Events on Campus

The purpose of these FAQs is to provide information and guidance to the College community (students, faculty, and staff) who may host or participate in events on campus, which may be covered by student journalists, or who may be active on social media.  These FAQs were developed collaboratively between students, faculty, and staff on the Student Affairs Committee (SAC).  Please contact the SAC if you have any comments or questions about these FAQs.

Guiding Statement

Pomona respects and supports the rights of journalists to a free press, including the crucial role that student journalists play on our campus.

The College also recognizes that individual students, faculty, and staff may want to protect their words and images, to the extent the law allows. Individuals should recognize, however, that the law usually allows for only limited protection.

Pomona expects that journalists engaging with students should abide by journalistic codes of ethics, in particular as those guidelines apply to treating individuals with respect, providing appropriate context for any quotation or story, and discouraging “undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information.” But individuals should be aware that journalistic codes of ethics are just that: guidance and not legal, actionable requirements.

The guiding principle that members of the community should bear in mind is that in public spaces or at public events, people do not enjoy the expectation of privacy, and they may be photographed, recorded, or quoted. To that end, it should be noted:

  • While Pomona College is privately-owned, the campus has many public spaces, e.g., Marston Quad. As such, even though the College grounds are considered private property, some areas are open and accessible to the public. Accordingly, events that are held in these public areas will be considered public events; events held in those locations cannot be considered private.
  • Public events may also take place in private spaces. For example, even though Edmunds Ballroom can be a closed, private space, an event at Edmunds Ballroom that is open to the public, 7C community, or Pomona community should be treated as a public event. In addition, events that are advertised to the 7C community, or even those that are only open or advertised to the Pomona community should also be treated as public events.
  • As it affects users, social media is often regarded as public space. You should know that anything posted on social media is likely not entitled to any presumption of privacy. You should assume that your posting may become public at some point, even when privacy settings are in place or when postings are intended for a limited audience. That said, the company owning the social media platform may not have to treat it as a public space; e.g., Facebook might be free to take down your post if they deem it violates the terms of service agreement.
  • In California, while it is a crime to record, eavesdrop, or use hidden video cameras in any confidential communication without the consent of all parties to the conversation, a person in a public area like a park or semi-public area like a lounge, dining hall, or quad area may not have an objectively reasonable expectation that any conversation he or she is having is private or confidential.


Do Claremont College student news reporters have to identify themselves when they are in a public event? Can they quote participants if they do not identify themselves?

No, reporters are not legally required to identify themselves. Participants attending a public event do not enjoy the presumption of privacy. Reporters may also quote a participant at a public event without first identifying themselves as reporters.

Accordingly, the College encourages hosts of events to highlight this for attendees, or make appropriate arrangements if they wish to host a closed event (events need to meet certain criteria to be a closed/private event). For more information about closed/private events, see the chart below or please contact: Student Affairs/Smith Campus Center:

Guidelines for Events Reserved on Campus

Reserving Entity? Closed/Open? Nature of Invitation? Limit attendees? Bar media/press?

Individual/Private Group

Closed Event

Not publicized; Invitation Only[1]

Yes; as a closed private (invitation-only) event

May bar press/media

Individual/Private Group

Closed or Open

Publicized event

Publicized through campus postings or public social media

Depends; may encourage supportive attendees, but if publicized, may not exclude attendees on protected category basis[2]

May bar press/media


College[3] entity


Publicized Event

Publicized through campus postings or public social media

Attendance must be limited in some way. May limit attendance to members, board, or staff only, but may not exclude attendees on protected category basis, except in the case of a support group meeting (e.g., organized for clinical or therapeutic purposes).

May bar press/media


College entity


Publicized Event

Publicized through campus postings or public social media

Open to all

May not bar press/media

When does a Claremont College student news reporter have to identify themselves?

Student reporters should always identify themselves; that is a critical part of journalistic best practices and is included in most journalistic organizations’ codes of ethics.

Hosts of events might want to remind student journalists of these ethical obligations and request that student journalists identify themselves. However, there is no legal obligation for student journalists to identify themselves.

Can student news reporters take photos without permission of participants?

In a public event or a public space, yes. In a private event, no, not without permission. A photographer could be liable in a civil action or a violation of the College’s Student Code if the photographer takes a photograph of a person and in doing so violates that person’s right of privacy. At a public event, it is difficult, if not virtually impossible, for the subject of a photograph to claim privacy.

Can student news reporters record without permission? Can anyone record without first asking permission of others?

At Pomona, all students are prohibited from recording in the classroom without explicit permission from the faculty instructor pursuant to the Policy On Video Or Audio Recordings Of Classroom Discussions And Lectures (see Faculty Handbook).

As noted above, California is a “two-party consent” state, which makes it illegal to record or eavesdrop on private conversations without the consent of all parties involved. There does have to be a “reasonable expectation of privacy”—so a private conversation in the dining hall may not be protected.

Can you post a policy restricting student news media or all social media coverage at an open/publicized public event?

Registered student organizations may not bar student news media coverage at a public event that other students may attend, but organizations may place postings or make announcements that state “no photo/video/recordings” are allowed at limited public events. See the table above.

How does this work in practice? What happens if reporters do so anyway?

It can be difficult to enforce restrictions on student media in practice. In general, news reporters have no greater (or lesser) right of access to property than that enjoyed by the public. If an individual, whether a news reporter or otherwise, ignores a prohibition on photo/video/recording, they can be advised that they must cease the behavior or leave. If they refuse to stop, they can be told that they are trespassing and a request may be made by event organizers that the individuals should then be removed by Campus Safety. To ensure that the directive is enforceable, the event host should meet with a representative of the College (e.g. on-call dean or relevant staff member), as the “owner” of the property, to notify the individual concerning their act of trespass, and only Campus Safety personnel should be involved in any actual removal. Inconsistency of enforcement, however, can create additional issues, such as not allowing student reporters to photograph or record, while the prohibition is not enforced as to others in attendance.

Are there situations where reporters are legally obligated to ask for permission to record or quote?

In California, reporters must always provide notice that they wish to record someone if the communication is confidential, and if the person declines, may not record. Under California law, the term “confidential communication” means any communication carried on in circumstances that reasonably indicate that any party desires that the communication be confidential to the parties to the communication, but expressly excludes a communication made in a public gathering. Reporters also are not legally obligated to ask permission to quote someone.

Does it make a difference who (student, faculty, college official) posts the notice?

It could make a difference as to initial perception. There may be a belief that a college is an open, public place, but a private college can set its own rules. As noted above, the College would have to become involved if a student group, for example, attempts to post some notice, which is later ignored. Individual student organizations may not ban student media from an event identified as public (i.e., open to the Pomona community, or 7C community, or public beyond the College).

What about a closed Facebook group and information or quotations “leaked” from a closed group?

It is difficult to follow up in these cases. Even in these cases where it seems clear which individuals posted the information/quotations, it is often difficult to prove the means by which the information is leaked and who exactly leaked it. So, while you may want to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such a group, you cannot assume your postings will remain private.

To what extent can student news reporters or others take quotations from public or private Facebook pages without consent? Does the privacy setting of the group/page (i.e. secret, closed, or open) have any bearing on what is allowed?

Legally, a reporter would not be in a position of liability for reproducing the quote of someone else, with possible exception around a reporter adopting, commenting on, or otherwise adding to or modifying another’s statement such that it becomes the reporter’s own statement (and liability).

Public pages are just that, public. Taking quotes from private pages could present a greater challenge, depending on how access is obtained (e.g., by deception/hacking), and could be a violation of California law and/or the College’s Student Code. If someone gets access to a private page from someone else who has access, however, there is little recourse against the reporter. In most situations, it would be difficult to impossible to establish that the access was unlawfully obtained.

What relevant federal and state laws may apply in Pomona’s environment with respect to social media and student media?

  1. Leonard Law and how it affects Pomona
    California’s “Leonard Law” prohibits private colleges and universities from subjecting any student to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that is protected by a student’s First Amendment and other free speech rights. The Leonard Law does not prohibit the imposition of discipline for harassment, threats, or intimidation, unless constitutionally protected, and does not prohibit the College from adopting and enforcing its policies on hate violence.
  2. Effects of the new anti-bullying laws, cyber-bullying and how would it be relevant
    There are both federal and California statutes that potentially address some aspects of cyber-bullying that have been incorporated into the College’s Student Code. If you believe you are being subjected to cyber-bullying, please speak to a dean in the Office of Student Affairs.
  3. Effects of anti-discrimination laws or hate crimes laws
    Federal and California laws prohibit discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes. These prohibitions have been incorporated into the College’s Student Code. If you believe you are being subjected to discrimination, harassment, or a hate crime, please contact Campus Safety for immediate assistance. You can also ask to speak with the on-call dean for information on the reporting process for discrimination and harassment claims. You can also submit an online form to document a bias related incident, and follow up of bias related incidents are conducted by the Bias Incident Response Team, chaired by Dean Townes, Diversity Officer for Student Affairs.

Are there relevant college policies that could be violated if students or student reporters or others do not respect the privacy settings of in these kinds of situations?

What should a student do if they think college policy or state or federal law has been violated?

Yes, depending on the circumstances, the College’s Student Code and California law can be potentially violated if students, student reporters, or others do not respect/circumvent privacy settings put in place by an individual. However, even if certain actions could constitute potential Student Code violations or civil actions for defamation or invasion of privacy, such allegations would need to be investigated and/or would require specific proof that may be difficult to obtain in a social media context (e.g., proof that an individual hacked an account), and thus may be challenging to prove (whether in Student Conduct hearings or in civil court).

A comment about a student published in a student newspaper or on a social media site is unlikely ever to violate state or federal law unless it is defamatory or constitutes invasion of privacy/publication of private facts or, possibly, criminal use of private information (identity theft and the like).Defamation is generally defined under California law as a publication of a statement of fact that is false, unprivileged, has a natural tendency to injure or which causes "special damage," and the defendant's conduct in publishing the statement amounted to at least negligence. The requisite publication can be oral (slander) or written (libel). California Civil Code section 1708.8 defines physical invasion of privacy in terms of trespassing in order to capture an image, sound recording or other impression in certain circumstances; it also defines constructive invasion of privacy as attempting to capture such an impression under circumstances in which the plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of privacy. If you believe your privacy has been violated, please speak to a dean in the Office of Student Affairs.

What is the role of the College in supporting students whose information or quotations have been put on internal or external media sites, regardless of whether a policy has been violated or not?

The College is committed to supporting students in these situations. As soon as a situation arises, students can contact the on-call dean. Support can range from support by the Dean of Students office, Communications, or Campus Safety officescounseling resources, and other offices and resources depending on the situation.

What can students do proactively to help protect their social media presence from internal outside media extracting information?

How can students protect their reputation if there is misinformation, “mean”/harassing things said or defamatory statements on social media sites?

Students may follow a social media site’s protocol for requesting removal of offensive/defamatory posting. In more aggressive or damaging situations, students have additional options including bringing student conduct charges/hearings, reputation protection services, and law enforcement/civil legal action, if factually supported.

How can students respond if their private information is put on a public media site?

Follow a social media site’s protocol(s) for requesting removal of offensive/defamatory posting. In more aggressive or damaging situations, student conduct hearings, reputation protection services, and law enforcement are additional alternatives, as is civil legal action, if factually supported.

What are the policies governing Walker Wall?

The College leadership recognizes Walker Wall (the “Wall”) as a unique and valuable public free speech space in the community. Administrators allow members of the community to paint on the Wall and thereby determine which postings remain and which are covered, replaced, or obliterated. In response to a small number of exceptional cases, the College has gradually developed a set of norms for the wall that resemble the standard constitutional norms toward free speech.Specifically, the College may decide, in consultation with a student representative, to paint over postings on the Wall that are:

  • Obscene by community standard.
  • Specific threats or attacks on an individual.
  • Specific incitements to violence

[1] “Invitation-only” on this context means that specific, identifiable direct invitations have been sent from event organizers to a potential, discrete list of invitees; this definition precludes events that have been broadly advertised to the public, whether on campus postings or public social media.

[2] Protected category bases include sex, gender identity and expression, pregnancy, religion, creed, color, race, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, medical condition, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, veteran status, family care leave status, genetic characteristics, lawful change of name, Social Security number, federal employment authorization document, receipt of Medi-Cal coverage, having a California driver’s license with a “federal limits apply” notation; immigration status, primary language or citizenship.

[3] “College entity” is defined as an office, department or division of Pomona College. RSO is a registered student organization.