Imagine your university’s administration finding a picture of you dressed in drag on Facebook and expelling you for said drag. For college student Michael Guinn, being expelled from his university because of Facebook is exactly what happened.
Administrators at John Brown University, a Christian college in Siloam Springs Arkansas found “his virtual paper trail of musings about boyfriends and visits to clubs a clear sign [to administrators] that, despite repeated warnings, Guinn’s activities were in violation of campus conduct codes stating that behavior must affirm and honor scripture (USA TODAY).” Other examples include two Louisiana State swimmers being kicked off the team for criticizing their coach on Facebook, while a University of Colorado offensive tackle was suspended from a bowl game for sending a racially threatening message through Facebook to a Colorado cross-country runner (USA TODAY). With the popularity and the growth of social networks increasing by the hundreds of thousands everyday, it is no surprise that it has become more than a social past time. So is it fair to reprimand students for the things posted on Facebook or Myspace?
As citizens of the modern era of social networks, students have become more and more dependent on technology; with every minute that passes by, one will almost involuntarily look at their cell phone to involuntarily check text messages or creep on Facebook. So it is no surprise when one walks into a university lecture hall to find most of the students typing away on their computer laptops, the majority chatting with their friends on MSN or shopping on eBay. With technology so integrated into modern society, it becomes unjustified not to conform to your peers; it also becomes a necessity when homework and notes are posted on the Internet by the professor. As a result not only are students adjusting to a new system of education, they are having to balance out the social stigmas that come from growing up like managing time, finances, and life.
In 2008 a first year student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, named Chris Avenir joined a Facebook group called “Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions” after the popular Ryerson basement study room engineering students dub “The Dungeon” (The Star), which acted like a study session for him and 146 other students. The study group was used to exchange ideas and tips on homework questions for his chemistry class, but Ryerson’s academic misconduct policy defines it as "any deliberate activity to gain academic advantage, including actions that have a negative effect on the integrity of the learning environment” (The Star). According to Avenir the Facebook group acted just like a physical study hall, "So we each would be given chemistry questions and if we were having trouble, we'd post the question and say: `Does anyone get how to do this one? I didn't get it right and I don't know what I'm doing wrong.' Exactly what we would say to each other if we were sitting in the Dungeon […]" (The Star). He also argues, "But if this kind of help is cheating, then so is tutoring and all the mentoring programs the university runs and the discussions we do in tutorials" (The Star). If Avenir is expelled for a study group on Facebook, colleges become hypocritical of how much technology is allowed in schools. When professors are posting notes and homework on the Internet, should students not do it because there is no physical copy?
Obviously, having an online study group on Facebook differs greatly from finding posts or pictures that put students in a negative light. So the question begs, how much freedom should students have on social networks when the student themselves openly elicit attention on the Internet? Like most technological innovations, Facebook started out as a small niche that catered to a specific crowd or in Facebook’s case, bored college students. In an essay titled “The Fakebook Generation” by Alice Mathias (a Dartmouth College graduate), she illustrates the beginning of Facebook as an “online community theater” in which every Facebook act was “a soliloquy to our anonymous audience”. Mathias states “Facebook did not become popular because it was a functional tool -after all, most college students live in close quarter with the majority of their Facebook friends and have no need for social networking. Instead, we log into the Web site because it is entertaining to watch a constantly evolving narrative starring the other people in the library” (Mathias 438). “It’s all comedy: making one another laugh matters more than providing useful updates about ourselves, which is why entirely phony profiles were all the rage before the grown-ups signed in” (Mathias 438), while Mathias describes Facebook as a social past time, more and more now, social networks are being used as a connection to a student’s academics.
In an article by Dana L. Fleming (a Boston area attorney specializing in higher education law) titled “Youthful Indiscretions: Should Colleges Protect Social Network Users from Themselves and Others”, she describes the negative aspects of partaking in a social network. In one instance a University of Chicago student “ruined his chances at a summer internship when an executive from the company viewed his Facebook profile, only to discover that his interests included ‘smoking blunts’ (cigars stuffed with marijuana), shooting people, and obsessive sex” (Fleming 441). While “A chemical engineering major sabotaged his career in a similar manner by confessing in his online bio that he liked to ‘blow things up’” (Fleming 441), most people probably think that social networks are just another passing trend with the likes of Youtube and Twitter. But with almost 100,000 new users everyday (Cain) Facebook and Myspace are quickly being embedded into mainstream culture just as the cell phone and computer had only a decade ago.
With all the issues about privacy and security arising with social networks, one would wonder if technology had replaced common sense. Would anyone personally decorate their campus with pictures of themselves doing exactly what the school conduct forbid? Would anyone tell off their coaches and expect not to be reprimanded? Would anyone make racial threats at an educational institution? The Internet has far evolved from a simple form of entertainment; it has been integrated into our society as an acceptable mode of utilizing resources and information. But there seems to be this belief that Facebook is the shy secretary in which one divulges their secrets to, when in reality, Facebook is the un-inhibited whore that the Internet gave birth to. So why would you tell that lying whore anything?
1. Brown, Louise. "Student Faces Facebook Consequences - Thestar.com." News, Toronto, GTA, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Canada, World, Breaking - Thestar.com. 06 Mar. 2008. Web. 28 June 2010. <http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/309855>.
2. Cain, Jeff. "Online Social Networking Issues Within Academia." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education (2008): 1-7. Web.
3. Fleming, Dana L."Youthful Inddiscretions:: Should Colleges Protect Social Network Users from Themselves and Other?" Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. Writing Arguments: a Rhetoric with Readings. New York: Pearson Longman, 2010. 440-42. Print.
4. Kornblum, Janet, and Mary Beth Marklein. "USATODAY.com - What You Say Online Could Haunt You." News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World - USATODAY.com. 08 Mar. 2006. Web. 28 June 2010. <http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/internetprivacy/2006-03-08-facebook-myspace_x.htm>.
5. Mathias, Alice."The Fakebook Generation" Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. Writing Arguments: a Rhetoric with Readings. New York: Pearson Longman, 2010. 438-39. Print