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Colleges, Students and Social Media Networks

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The use of social media networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter has become extremely common among all age groups so it’s not surprising that students can find their teachers on the internet and vice versa. A few of my high school and college friends are teachers and even though I didn’t stay in touch with them over the years, I learned their occupation courtesy of Facebook. To be honest I was pretty shocked to see that more than one of them had “friended” some of their students.

Students Sending Friend Requests to Colleges

A survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions in 2009 found that students are also using their social media accounts for business purposes, in a sense. Jeff Olson, executive director of research for Kaplan, explained that 2009 was the first year that his company asked officials about friend requests. Over 70% of college admissions officials surveyed reported that they or others in their office received Facebook or MySpace friend requests from college applicants.

Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that 86% of college students had a Facebook account in 2008 but only 13% of the 401 admissions officials surveyed by Kaplan said that their school has a policy about interacting with students on social networking sites.

College admissions officials do seem to be getting savvier with the use of social media. Joyce Smith of the non-profit group National Association for College Admission Counseling says that social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs are a key to communicating with the current generation of students.

The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth found that the number of colleges using social networking sites and /or putting video on their blogs more than doubled from 2007 to 2008, and 41% of colleges said they used blogs in admissions.

Business or Pleasure?

Business use of Facebook and Twitter is growing in popularity, which can blur the line between using Facebook for business or pleasure.

Some people tackle the problem by creating separate accounts—one to use for work and another to use with friends and family. For example, USA Today reported that Jeannine Lalonde, senior assistant dean of admission at the University of Virginia, accepts friend requests from students since her university blog and Twitter accounts are linked to her Facebook posts. However, all three are professional pages that focus on the university.

It’s apparent that applicants are expecting to use Facebook as a means of communication with schools, but the possible conflicts that can arise from the interaction of educators and administrators— the actual people themselves as opposed to generic, professional “College” accounts maintained by the school itself— and students is a somewhat controversial topic.

Student / Faculty Ethics

I found a Facebook group named Faculty Ethics on Facebook that serves as a discussion forum for Facebook participants to suggest activity guidelines for faculty, and Jenn DeLuca, a graduate student at Bridgewater State University studying Higher Education and Student Affairs Counseling also posted her thoughts on the topic in a USA Today blog.

“I know I personally would be a bit uncomfortable if my professor started commenting on my photos from a friend’s birthday night out or on some of the inside jokes posted on my wall,” and “Professors are people, too, but I really think there is a distinct professional line that should be drawn between students and professors. When I’m in class, I do not want to be thinking about what I saw as their weekend status – I want to focus on the course!” were two of her remarks that stood out in my mind.


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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