Professors and Facebook: Crossing the professional line?

Teresa Darcey

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It is becoming increasingly common for students and teachers to friend each other on Facebook. And while creating a closer relationship between the student and teacher isn’t inherently a bad thing both parties have to be careful not to overstep any boundaries and keep their interactions respectful and appropriate.

According to a blog for teachers, www.educatinginnovatively.com, there are some teachers who want to make Facebook a means of communication between the student and teacher because they believe it will make them more accessible and “create a no excuses environment.”

However, some states, like Missouri, are strongly opposed to this idea. Last year, Missouri made it illegal for teachers to socialize with students on Facebook, as stated in an MSNBC article, “Missouri Makes Teach-Student Facebook ‘Friending’ Illegal.” The concern is that these social media sites give the students and teachers an ideal platform for inappropriate interactions and conversations.

Many Southeastern students are friends with their professors on Facebook and think that it is perfectly acceptable, at least in college, because we are all grownups and should theoretically know what is and isn’t appropriate.

Other students, like sophomore mathematics major Paula McCahill, could imagine possible complications. For example, teachers might post something that’s too personal, making it difficult for students to keep their opinions of the teacher separate from their in-class experiences; it could become distracting.

Communication sciences and disorders major Tracey Smith also believes that teachers and students should not interact on Facebook. Smith is concerned about whether or not professors can keep their school and social life separate.

“We can talk and interact, but when the grading comes, the teacher has to give them the grade they deserve, whether the friend likes it or not,” said Smith.

I am Facebook friends with teachers both from high school and college, and, although I am happy to be able to keep in touch with them, there have been a few drawbacks.

A teacher I knew from high school once posted a status update containing an unsupported, inflammatory political remark about global warming. He said that the particularly cold weather was proof that global warming doesn’t exist. Since he is partly responsible for educating high school kids, some students found it disconcerting that he would protest something that had so much supportive evidence. Some of his remarks were so ignorant that I no longer respect this teacher, and I now question his judgment. Situations like this are a good example of how these Facebook relationships can become tricky.

I think the best thing to do is to use your judgment. If you don’t know whether or not it’s a good idea, wait until the semester is over to avoid any possible awkward or inappropriate situations.

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Professors and Facebook: Crossing the professional line?