Librarian at Large
Lions and Tigers and Professors on Facebook – Oh My!
Though I still hear stories of people learning about social networks for the first time (yes, even in late 2007), I hope I can say that networks such as Facebook or MySpace need no introduction. So rather than talking broadly about the impact of social networks or about their future, I will focus on social networks in academia—specifically student perceptions of professors on Facebook.
On Dec. 4 of last year, Ashley Hopkins published an article on James Madison University professors joining Facebook in The Breeze, JMU’s student newspaper. She quotes several JMU professors and students who enjoyed making a student-professor connection on Facebook. But, writing at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog, Brock Read counters that “it’s a safe bet that there are other students out there who aren’t so keen on the idea of adults invading their turf.” This leads him to ask what response professors have received from students regarding their having a page on a social network. And in March of this year, Steven Bell, a librarian at Temple University, posed essentially the same question on the Academic and College Research Libraries blog.
Comments on these blog posts include professors, grad students, and librarians. Some report using Facebook to connect with their own friends instead of their students. Some report positive interactions with students through Facebook. Others agree that university faculty on Facebook could be perceived as invading students’ lives. While none of the comments suggest that such a view should prevent faculty from joining a network, they did stress the turf invasion issue. I have also read articles in the New York Times and the Seattle PI, respectively, about Millennials taking issue with their parents joining a social network. It’s not implausible to suggest they will react the same way to a professor.
In an interesting converse, Bill Sledzik of Kent State University did not himself feel comfortable with the proximity to his students that Facebook afforded him. Ironically, when Sledzik posted to his own blog about leaving Facebook, several of his students left comments saying they were accepting of his presence on the network—his status as a professor was not a reason to send him into exile. But Sledzik himself was not comfortable there.
It will be interesting to watch this issue unfold as social networks continue to integrate themselves into universities in America. No conclusions to be had yet, but I imagine this open question will generate a lot more discussion in the near future.
—Aaron Bowen, Meriam Library communications librarian
Bell, S. (2007, March 19). What students think of authority figures in Facebook. ACRLog. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2007, from http://acrlblog.org/2007/03/19/what-students-think-of-authority-figures-in-facebook
Hopkins, A. (2006, December 4). Professors joining Facebook: Faculty sign up to better connect with students. The Breeze. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2007, from http://www.thebreeze.org/2006/12-04/top4.html
Read, B. (2006, December 5). On Facebook, professorial profiles proliferate. Wired Campus. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2007, from http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/1756/on-facebook-professorial-profiles-proliferate
Sledzik, B. (2006, November 22). Farewell to Facebook—It’s time for me to go. Tough Sledding. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2007, from http://toughsledding.wordpress.com/2006/11/22/farewell-to-facebook-its-time-for-me-to-go/