It seemed to spring up overnight and is now known worldwide. It steals away hours of your life before you know they’re gone. For some, it is addicting. It is Facebook.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding Facebook, but there is one issue that applies to college students in a more direct way than many others. That is the issue of professor-student friendships. There are some who believe that such friendships are, at the least, unprofessional. Others see it as a convenient way to contact each other.
No matter which side you stand on, the truth is that Facebook began as an idea for a school-based website to bring professors and students together. There is a lot of controversy around the history of Facebook, and who should really be credited with its creation, but the newest evidence says that the idea was originally born in 2002.
Divya Narendra, a Harvard senior, wanted to create a social networking site for current students of Harvard and its alumni. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, also Harvard seniors, joined Narendra in the planning process. Mark Zuckerberg was added to the project later and is accused of stealing the idea and turning it into the global phenomenon that is now Facebook.
Whether you believe Zuckerberg stole the idea or not, the truth remains that it was originally meant to be for professors and students to communicate. If that is the case, then friendships between teachers and pupils should not surprise or offend, but they do.
“It feels like that would be crossing the line,” said Jevyn Voss, athletic training freshman. “Being friends on Facebook is fine, but I don’t think it’s right until after you graduate.”
Joe Wood, physical education and health instructor, said, “I think it’s in the gray area. As a college professor, your students are 18-24 years old, so they’re all adults and most professors can manage a Facebook relationship without blurring the line. But it does open up the possibility for the line to be crossed.” Later he said, “As a professor, if you’re trying to reach out to your students, the easiest way is through Facebook.”
Wood is also the head women’s soccer coach, and uses a Facebook fan page to get information to his players and to keep others up-to-date on team statistics and game highlights. He also encourages his players to become friends with new recruits.
As easy as Facebook is to use, it is still debatable as to whether it is the best form of communication between professors and students, especially since some are uncomfortable with the idea or flat-out against it.
“I do have a lot of friends in higher education who won’t friend their students,” said Michelle Boucher, associate professor of English. Her own policy is slightly different. Boucher does not usually request friendships with her students, but will add them as a friend if they ask.
However, Boucher does not recommend Facebook as the best form of communication. “Most of the time, it’s better to do it by e-mail or actually come in and talk with a professor,” she said.
Erin Morris is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.