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University Web Developers

Probably discussed here before, but we are just starting to draft some social media policies.

Does anyone have any thoughts about faculty/staff "friending" students on Facebook? My gut tells me this may not be the best idea. But perhaps I am being a little too cautious.


Have any institutions specifically prohibited it?

Thanks all.


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Speaking as staff I communicate to my group of students through facebook quite often. I run the Web office at my school and utilize a fairly large pool of student labor. Students have exceptionally busy schedules that change very often I have found it to be a valuable tool for communication and in fact we have learned a little more about each other (which definitely has its pluses and minuses). I understand where your question is coming from but I always tend to believe you can make a rule outlawing behavior but there is always an alternative way for someone determined to get in trouble to mess up.

The only advice I would give is to think about the positive benefits of some limited social interactivity versus banning such things. Most schools have policies that govern the interaction between employee's and students already. My best example would be the following.

Example: We have laws that make it illegal to drive erratically whatever the cause of that erratic driving. So if we add a law that specifically prohibits lets just say texting while driving. Didn't the original law state that you must be drive carefully regardless of activity did we need something to point out a particular activity and by pointing out texting is that the same as saying other activities like talking on a phone are now ok?

Ok maybe thats a bad example :) but my point is focus on a larger policy that restricts interactions and let people decide how they want to communicate within the bounds of that agreement.
Thanks Ryan. What you say make a great deal of sense.

Generally I am very bullish about using social media. It the specific befriending component of Facebook that gives me pause for reflection. I guess like you suggested that would fall under policies governing interactions between students and faculty.

Thanks for sharing your insights and observations.
For me, the biggest factor would be who is initiating the friend request. I think it makes a big difference if a student initiates the request vs. a staff/faculty member initiating the request.

If a student initiates it, it would seem less problematic. However, if a staff/faculty member makes a friend request, you would potentially be putting a student in a awkward position. Do they want the person to be able to view their personal profile? Are there any repercussions for saying "no" to the request? Could information viewed by the staff/faculty member be used for disciplinary purposes (e.g., they saw pictures of a student drinking at a party on campus)? What sorts of responsibility would they have to report inappropriate behaviour?

Facebook probably offers better options than becoming "friends" in many situations. A Facebook Group, Page, or Application may better serve both sides and avoid any uncomfortable situations.
Here is a link to a thread on inappropriate communications and SM Policies.

I sit on the fence in this discussion because I was within the past couple years on the student side, and now I am on the staff side. I feel there is an appropriate time to friend students and an inappropriate time. If the staff/faculty has a reason to friend besides just having them in class, such as a class project on Facebook or if there is a mutual friendship that has grown out of the relationship, then I would say it's ok. But if it's just because they are in your class then I would say no. I would encourage everyone to think first if anything negative could come out of friending that particular student before accepting or sending a friend request.

It's important to protect both the staff/faculty and the student in policies that are being written. Staff/faculty need to be educated on how to set their privacy settings and that anything that is put up online has the potential to be viewable to everyone. This is one of my favorite videos to illustrate this point

In my post on the other thread I share what it was like to be friended by a professor (not always good).

Best of luck!
I don't know if this sort of incident will affect your thinking, but figured I'd share:

A professor was placed on administrative leave because of Facebook postings... and it had to do with privacy settings, not even any direct friendships she had with students. Friends of friends on Facebook could see her posts. As a result, students were able to see her rants because they had befriended other professors at the school (who were, in turn, friends of the disciplined professor).
My opinion on this, and what I've told our admission and retention based offices, is not to friend on Facebook. If there is to be any further, personal interaction with prospects or current students asking for personal information, I'd say you're better off using your university email account for such.

I feel totally different about student workers and such - there, Facebook interactions may be more appropriate.



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