Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, April 22, 2018

Profs sign onto Facebook

Professors and administrators are catching the "Facebook fever" - they are using Facebook to communicate with faculty friends and sometimes students.

Across the country, professors have gotten into trouble for using Facebook when students sometimes discover incriminating comments left by their professors. At AU, however, several teachers who have Facebook claim to use it only for networking purposes and to keep in touch with friends or grad students - not current undergraduates.

Dartmouth College professor Reiko Ohnuma wrote on her profile that she uses Wikipedia the night before a lecture to prepare for her class, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education's Chronicle Review. She thought only her Facebook "friends" would be able to see her profile, not realizing that her settings allowed her entire college network to view it. A screenshot was taken of her profile and posted on the university newspaper's blog. Professor Ohnuma was highly embarrassed, the Chronicle reported.

Four years ago, 8 percent of adults online had a profile on a social network, according to The Chronicle. Now, 35 percent of adults have one or more.

David Burkhart, a freshman in SIS, said he was in class last week when the professor discussed why he denied a students' Facebook friend request.

"It was during a cinema class when a student commented and said, 'Hey professor, why did you ignore my friend request on Facebook?'" he said.

The professor responded by saying that he is not friends with current students on the site, according to Burkhart.

Burkhart said students and professors need to make a choice about their Facebook friendships.

"It should be at the discretion of both the professor and the student to decide whether or not to be Facebook friends," said Burkhart. "It is not a problem that students and professors have Facebook profiles."

Amy Eisman, the School of Communication's director of Writing Programs and one of the school's professors, said she uses Facebook mainly for professional connections. She said in an e-mail that she often uses it to speak to professionals and exchange information to teach more effectively.

"I have a Facebook account; sometimes I use it, as I do Twitter, to query professionals or instructors elsewhere for ideas or tips," she said. "Sometimes folks post relevant news; just today Facebook folks were having a spirited discussion about the best way to teach new media in college."

Eisman said she finds it important to be up to date with new forms of communication, including Facebook.

"I don't use it for teaching, but I do use it for social networking, and the occasional Scrabble game!" she said in the e-mail. "I can't think of a time I have looked up a current student, unless they friended me first, which is rare. As a communication professor, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't sign up for, and play with, the evolving modes of communication out there."

Sarah Menke-Fish, an SOC professor, said she first started using Facebook last year to communicate with students in Mexico about a project. Professors would often all go online together, using Facebook as a place to share ideas and script pieces for a documentary together, she said.

It is a networking experience at another level after students have graduated, Menke-Fish said. Students use Facebook to ask for career advice and for jobs or employers she recommends.

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