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Colleges and Facebook: Friend a Professor or Let Your Account Be Monitored

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Chances are, you’ve heard the warnings about keeping your online image “clean.” Drunken party photos or suggestive status updates on your Facebook timeline could hinder your chances of being admitted to your dream college.

Think it won’t happen to you? Think again. Eighty-five percent of Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 Survey of College Admissions Officers participants said that their school uses Facebook to help recruit students. Nearly one-quarter of the respondents admitted to visiting an applicant’s Facebook page to learn more about them.

Just How Private is “Private”?

You never know who will see or read something you’ve posted online. Even making your profile visible to “friends only” may not keep you in the clear. Facebook does have privacy policies that allow users to share photos and other content with certain friends while blocking it from others, but the policies can change at any time with little or no notice. In short, you never know who will find a picture of you on the Internet or what they’ll do with it.

Bob Sullivan of MSBNC’s The Red Tape Chronicles caused a stir with his recent blog post on the topic.

Colleges Demand Student Athletes “Friend” a Coach

At many colleges and universities across the United States, student athletes are now required to “friend” a coach or compliance officer to ensure that a school official has access to all of the student’s Facebook posts and photos. The practice isn’t voluntary—if the student wants to play for the team, they must do as they are told.

Social Network Monitoring

Other schools use “social network monitoring” services like UDiligence, which scrutinizes student athletes’ Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube accounts for risqué or obscene posts or photo comments, supposedly to help prevent a public relations catastrophe should such information be leaked to the press. Kevin Long, the UDiligence CEO, told SB Nation that his company is essentially performing what has become “the new credit check, background check, or drug test when going in for a job.”

The Missourian explains that college athletics departments using UDilligance receive emails when any words found on the UDiligence “no-no list,” for lack of a better term, are found in registered students’ online profiles. The words are categorized by alcohol, drugs, sex, violence or general/racial, which includes profane words. The list is updated regularly.

Some of the words that are “clean” enough to include in this blog post include alcohol, cocaine, doobie, gun, condoms and weed. The list even includes misspellings and abbreviations to help catch students who intentionally try to outsmart the system and keep their accounts from being flagged.

Against the Constitution?

Miami’s NBC affiliate reports that along with other opponents of the practice, Washington, DC-based lawyer Bradley Shear feels that schools have no right to monitor students’ social media accounts and are violating the First Amendment in the process. Maryland legislators have already proposed bills that would ban social media access by schools and potential employers. Shear believes a federal law should also be in place.

What do you think?


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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