Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Your students on Facebook

I just got a friend request from a student. He's not failing or anything--though the last time a student friended me, he was totally flunking--but I didn't recognize the kid's profile picture, or the kid's name right away (I do have 200 students, okay?), and had to check my class roster in order to confirm the "student" hypothesis.

The first time this happened, I drafted a long email explaining why I thought maintaining a certain professional distance was important and stuff, but then I ended up not sending it and just ignoring the request. Since then, "operation ignore" has been my basic strategy for handing students on Facebook. What do other people do?

--Mr. Zero

34 comments:

KHG said...

I haven't had a student friend request on facebook, but when I had a myspace account (I know, I know) I accepted friend requests from students with no noticeable consequences other than a slight increase in self-monitoring.

Anonymous said...

I've received several such requests already. It was shocking to me that students would do this. One did it way early in the term, as if this was just the student's normal procedure for the beginning of the term: look up professors, add 'em on FB.

I think I've employed operation ignore, but in at least one case I did send a message when I denied the request. The student was totally understanding about it. I've thought about having something in the syllabus, but it hasn't been that much of a problem to do that, I think. I'd recommend just sending them a quick note with the denial.

Example:
Thanks for the add. But I'd rather keep my work and private life separate.
XOXO <3 K.I.T. BFF4ever
- Professor Not-A-Friend-Whore

chrono said...

Accept! Limited profile, of course.

Anonymous said...

Some of my friends have a completely open policy, and admit everyone to their FB page. As for me--well, I don't like that idea so much (though from what I understand, some schools are pressuring faculty TO DO these sorts of things in order to increase communication with students [also a bad idea, I think]). My thinking is: I will "friend" a student after s/he graduates (and only if I want to). Of course this doesn't mean that I'll be FRIEND friends with them, but then FB is okay.

For now, though, I send a short note to the student, something like, "Yup; I'm on FB--you caught me. Thanks for the Friend request, but for now, I'm not "friending" students. If ever I do, though, you'll be at the top of my list."

And you know what? If I do change my policy, which I don't see myself doing, I will follow through with this idea. For now, though, I don't want to FB my grading woes to my students.

(I'm not, however, confident in my stance, so please share your thoughts as well.)

Anonymous said...

I'm not on facebook and hope to not get on it, so I don't have the problem.

Anonymous said...

The trick is to click on the "Friends" tab. When there, create a list. Call the list 'Students' or something like that.

Next, go to Privacy Settings and click on Profile. For each individual feature of your profile (like Wall, Work Status, Status Update, Friends, Personal Information, Pictures tagged of you, etc) you can make it so that every person added to list you just created--e.g. your students--cannot see that feature. (You do this by looking for 'Customize...' on the scroll-down tab, and after clicking on that option, adding the name of the list to the 'Except these People' option.)

The result is that about all anyone added to that list can see is your profile picture(s) and what networks you belong to (I let students see my Work Status). It's less information than is on my University Faculty Profile.

That's one solution.

By the way, when someone "friends" you, you get the option of adding them to an existing list. So you can put them on that list at the same time as accepting their friend request.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I do the same -- ignoring is perfect, because they don't know that you've rejected them.

I don't accept any current students, and only former students whom I really enjoyed.

skeptinautika said...

Two words: privacy settings. I'm in my institution's network, but only other grads (no faculty, no undergrads) can even find me, let alone friend me. It's worked excellently so far.

Anonymous said...

I usually do nothing for a few weeks, click ignore, and hope by then they've forgotten that they tried to friend me. Sometimes it works. Sometimes they try to friend you again.

Anonymous said...

I don't friend students until the graduate. I typically deny the request, and then send them an e-mail saying I don't friend any students until the graduate. Then they are alumni and I will be more than happy to be their Facebook Friend.

I now add "don't friend me on Facebook" on the syllabus, but ask them to become a fan of our philosophy department.

Platowe said...

In my view you may accept friend requests from students--but I'd advise against ever placing friend requests at least to current students. Potential conflict of interest there. FWIW

Josh said...

Meh, I was friends with several of my professors on Facebook. I hardly use it, and I doubt I'd have seen it buddying-up our relationship in any significant sort of way. In fact, I usually feel better about faculty who tend to be friendlier, even if we aren't technically friends. What's wrong with rapport?

Skef said...

I think a short statement encapsulating your "facebook friendship philosophy" and how the request falls outside of that goes a long way, even if the statement might be an oversimplification.

RMG said...

I'm an undergrad (currently applying to Ph.D programs) and I've got a professor or two as friends on Facebook. I understand your concern about professional distance, and it was something I considered before I clicked the button to submit a friend request. But I still decided to request a professor as a Facebook friend, and he accepted. Maybe it's just a reflection of the nature of my program; the philosophy department here is very amiable in that way.

But I wanted to assure you that not all students who request you as a friend on Facebook are likely to have any malicious or manipulative intent behind it. Actually, Facebook has led me to some interesting conversations with some of my professors that would not have occurred without the News Feed, and I feel good about this. I feel more in touch with the faculty, which I regard as a great addition to my education.

Although I would have understood a denial, I think it shows a great deal of investment and general awesomeness that my professor accepts students as Facebook friends.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Facebook-friending Grad Students seems okay to me. Undergrads, however, are a different story. I suppose it would be okay only if a) you most likely will never teach them (they are not a major or minor) or b) you taught them but likely won't again (graduating seniors). I think its also a nice hard and fast rule simply to ignore any friend requests from undergrads younger than 21.

Of course, if you have already slept with them, then you must accept their friend request and then wait at least three weeks before secretly de-friending them.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I follow. If you don't befriend them on Facebook, then how can you stalk them?

David Minne said...

I created a second profile on FB, dedicated to the students' requests. Privacy settings are fine, but don't prevent students willing to chat with you. The second profile seemed the best policy for me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with skeptinautika. I just recently got on FB (about 3 months ago). I set up my privacy settings in such a way that students simply could not find me. I have yet to get a request from a student because as far as they can tell, I am not on FB.

Anonymous said...

After a few moderately interesting months socializing with sad cubicle workers from college, looking at pictures of their spawn in their happier moments, stalking past sex partners and accumulating hundreds of facefriend colleagues it became clear that it's a total fucking waste of time. You don't need it and it's actually not that entertaining. I would advise all you fresh young philosophers to close your accounts.

Anonymous said...

Search for the "faculty ethics" group/page on Facebook. They outline a code of conduct, which essentially recommends you either accept all students or no students at all. If the latter is already your policy, then just point the student to those guidelines as reasons why you're discouraged from adding students.

Anonymous said...

Privacy settings are always a great idea, but I've had more than one student come up to me and pointblank ask if I'm on Facebook. I don't particularly like to lie, especially in a professional setting, so it can also be good to have a little spiel prepared of the kind others have offered here. (E.g., I don't friend until after graduation, I try to keep my personal and professional lives separate, whatever.)

KateNorlock said...

Wow, so I'm the only one who accepts them all, so far, ay? I think the difference is that I only enrolled for facebook *because* of work. It's highly uninteresting to me as anything but a work-related phonebook. I have come to use it whenever my students hit the limit on their email accounts and can't get an email about a class-related event.
I can't imagine changing the privacy settings to make me unfindable, since this would seem to defeat the purpose of being listed in the first place (for me, that is, like I said).

BunnyHugger said...

I do as others have suggested: I friend any student who requests it, but have a special privacy setting for students that lets them see almost nothing. This way I don't feel bad for rejecting them but also don't let them see my less flattering status updates. I hardly use Facebook anyway, though; I just don't quite get social networking sites. I think this is no longer my era.

zombie said...

I object to the use of "friend" as a verb. Needless to say, I'm not on FB and don't have this problem of which you speak.

Anonymous said...

New JFP is up...the disaster continues.

Anonymous said...

I accept all requests from students... and occasionally will friend an alum or student who I'm in contact with on a regular basis. Students at my SLAC seem to check their facebook accounts more frequently than email accounts at my school.

I see my facebook account as part of my job and I only post things that I don't mind the world (and my provost) seeing.

I've found it very useful as a way to get out information that I'm sick and class is cancelled. And it can help with managing clubs and activities. I ignore most postings/ status updates etc that my students make... but do comment on ones that share particularly good academic news (acceptance to graduate school, completion of law school, etc).
I also occasionally post status updates related to my philosophical interests or to the material I'm prepping for lecture ... perhaps that I'm heading to the paint store looking for the missing shade of blue.

Anonymous said...

I second the objection to "friending" and "friend" as a verb. As an earlier anonymous demonstrated, we have the perfectly good verb "befriend" but I suppose post-FB, this seems quaint.

cogitated said...

"I object to the use of "friend" as a verb."

I completely agree. I've sent a letter of complaint to FB asking them to change it to 'befriend'. That should take care of it.

I've also sent a similar letter to the person in charge of the internets and asked him/her to disallow any further uses of 'email' as a verb. From now on just say something like the following: "I electronically mailed him yesterday."

Anonymous said...

While we're at it, shouldn't there be an email/eletter distinction? Why do people say "I sent him an email" when they would never say "I sent him a mail"? Surely people should knock that off and substitute "I sent him an eletter" (or an enote or an emessage, or whathaveyou).

zombie said...

We DO say, "I sent him mail." And "mail" is a verb and a noun. Which is not at all the same as "friend," which is a noun, and "befriend" which is a verb. So, sarcasm aside, I don't really see how saying "I sent him an email" is grammatically incorrect. It is the e-equivalent of saying "I sent him mail." One could also correctly say "I sent him email."

But if you must object to my objecting to the use of "friend" as a verb, I can live with that, and quite happily, thank you very much. My objection stands. And I reckon I've been emailing people since you were in kneepants.

Anonymous said...

I accept former students, not current ones. The most obvious reason is that these students may want to get in touch with me in the future for some reason (e.g., letter of recommendation). Since it is likely that I will be leaving their institution before they graduate (the life of a VAP), they will at least have my new email address on Facebook. That's enough of a reason for me to befriend them.

Glaucon said...

Zombie et al.:

As a recovering prescriptivist I bring you the good news: You can verb any noun!

Anonymous said...

Of course we say "I sent him mail." But the whole point, Mr. Zombie, was that we never say "I sent him a mail" but we happily say "I sent him an email." That's why I insist everyone start saying "I sent him an eletter" immediately.

Anonymous said...

Hands down, the best noun-to-verb perversion is: "party"...as in "My girl likes to party all the time, party all the time, party all the tiiiiiime."

It's super fun!