Students clash with USG over FlashFest tweets



Anna Huntsman

Last week, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) received backlash for a controversial tweet about FlashFest.

USG’s President Samuel Graska issued an apology on Twitter the next day.

Controversy struck again yesterday when students took to Twitter to discuss their negative thoughts about FlashFest’s line-up.

Students clash with USG over controversial FlashFest line-up tweet from on Vimeo.

Graska had a different response this time around and said students who had negative feedback were just “lames” looking for retweets.

Almost immediately, students responded with even more backlash, including senior public relations major Brenna Parker. She quoted the tweet and said it was “disappointing” to see the president speaking like this.

Parker said today she was not offended by Graska’s words but thought the situation was dealt with unprofessionally.

“If you are involved in student government and represent thousands of students, you need to be open to listening to the feedback and criticism students have and not attack them online,” she said.

She said she wondered if Graska considered what student leaders at other Ohio universities would say in this sort of circumstance.

“You have to think before you tweet,” she added.

Public relations professor Tim Roberts said responding to negative feedback on social media is a tricky situation. He said the best response is to be rational and factual rather than put one’s emotions into the tweet.

“If you dismiss a group of people online, it’s going to come back to bite you,” he said.

While Roberts did not want to speak about the specific tweet, he did say name-calling would not be appropriate.

“You want to avoid [name-calling] because if you call someone a name…you’re going to get names called at you,” he said. “The chance for a reasonable, intelligent, informed conversation diminishes.”

TV2 reached out to Samuel Graska and USG’s faculty advisor Donna Carlton today, but neither returned requests for comment. Graska did respond to the negative tweets yesterday, citing less money in the programming budget as a reason students may think the line-up is weaker.

“So much of it depends on who is available and who actually wants to come to Kent State,” he added in a separate tweet.

Parker said she understands Graska was offering his opinion and responding to negative criticism, but that he should be held to a higher standard as president of USG.

“When you are speaking, you are speaking as a student leader on campus,” Parker said. “I am a student leader…and I would never insult students that feel the need to criticize me.”

Roberts said knowing how to respond to backlash on social media is crucial for anyone, regardless of position.

“It doesn’t matter what your organization is – you’re going to encounter some negativity from people on social media,” he said. “You have to be able to respond to that in a rational, somewhat empathetic way.”

Roberts said maintaining a personal social media presence as a prominent member of an organization is a balancing act.

“You have to remember that you’re aligned with your organization in many ways,” he added.

Parker said this is not the first time she was frustrated with USG’s social media presence. She also criticized USG for the ‘4/20’ tweet last week.

“I’m just glad this started a bigger conversation about holding student leaders accountable on Kent State’s campus,” she added.

As stated, President Graska could not be reached for comment.

Anna Huntsman is a reporter for TV2. Contact her at [email protected].