Should Students and Profs Be Facebook Friends?

The wonderful Meredith Cochie at the University of Florida sent me an interesting piece from today’s Austin American-Statesman whose headline says it all: “Professors Navigate the Tricky World of ‘Friending’ Students Online.”




OK, so they are not exactly college media- media produced by college students (although Facebook was started by a Harvard undergrad!)- but social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Friendster, MySpace, and hi5 are certainly at the center of many students’ undergraduate experience.


The ethics of their use in journalism recently came under scrutiny with NYU’s Twitter-gate. This piece posits a new ethical question: What should the new (media) rules be for professor-student social (networking) interaction?


According to the Statesman, professors have a social networking presence but are not quite sure how best to use it:


Unlike middle or high school teachers, many of whom avoid online social networks altogether to avoid even the appearance of unwanted contact with their students . . . [m]any professors use networking sites to post personal and professional details about themselves and to maintain contact with colleagues, friends and ex-students. But the phenomenon is so new that many college campuses . . . have not caught up with formal rules about how students and their instructors should communicate online. Instead, some teachers say they’re making it up as they go along, determining along the way what’s educational, what’s appropriate and what might just be awkward and weird.

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