Students On Facebook: What are they thinking?

I'm officially one of the world's worst bloggers, since I haven't posted since the summer. Yes, I suck.

But now I'm compelled to share what I see as a bit of an ethical dilemma. Maybe it's an ethical dilemma. I'm not sure. Maybe you can tell me.

I teach at a university. I don't friend students on FB, but if they friend me, I accept. This semester quite a few students friended me at the beginning of the year. Now, my university has a strict attendance policy which I adhere to. A certain number of absences and I can drop students for non-attendance--even if they were legitimately sick. There are no official excuses except for university-related events.

A few students exceeded their allotment (which is generous--six days for a MWF class) and I dropped them. They claimed a variety of illnesses, but because they friended me, I could see they were well enough to hang out, post pics, and go to dinner with friends.

I didn't mention to the students that I could see their activities, because, duh, they friended me. But I wanted to say something like: You were well enough to go to the park on Thursday and pose with the sun in your eyes and a fall flower in your hand, so why not class?

And this is where FB gets tricky. It's an intersection of their private lives and their role as students (or employees or daughters or spouses). I would feel like a jerk if I brought it up, as if I'd been stalking them or crossed a privacy line. But we all know FB isn't private and I don't have to stalk them to see their posts. They just show up on my wall. That's kinda the point.

Would I have been more inclined to cut them some slack if I hadn't seen their activities? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. Would you?

The best advice for students is quite simple: Don't friend your profs until after the class is over.
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4 Response to Students On Facebook: What are they thinking?

November 2, 2011 at 12:58 PM
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November 2, 2011 at 1:06 PM

I cut them the same slack others get. In other words, I make sure the cut off is consistent for everyone. If six is the cutoff, it should be for everyone, Facebook friend you or not. That said, it would be tempting to comment on the photo that class wasn't the same without them.

I once let my blog lie fallow for four months, then posted something to the effect of "How long can a blog lie dormant before it is declared dead." A friend replied that a blog doesn't die as long as its RSS feed lives.

I look forward to your next post, sometime next February. :D

November 2, 2011 at 2:05 PM

I have two Facebook profiles. Because I realize that not everyone I work with will understand my liberal libertarian objection to almost everything in this society. :D One my public Facebook I friended all the folks I work with, my bosses and their wives . . reps from companies we do business with. On the private one almost everyone on the public is blocked. Yes, blocked. So even if there were something that leaked out of the tightest security I can manage, they won't see it because they can't see my profile. :shrug: Teachers would be on the public one, just saying. ;)

December 6, 2011 at 6:34 AM

My vote is for consistency, too. And real life and virtual life intersecting is a lot like running into your professor at the grocery store or a night club when you're supposed to be sick. Same thing, but Facebook makes the world LOTS LOTS smaller.

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