Friend Request Declined

Facebook allows many Ferris State University professors to expand interactions with students, but some instructors are reluctant to fraternize with students

Most students have heard that some employers use facebook to screen job applicants.

As more university professors create Facebook profiles and send friend request or “friend” their students, leading some to beleive it may negatively impact their class standing.

The Facebook information page estimates that there are nearly 250 million United States users, and of those users, nearly 50 Ferris instructors are members.

The student-professor relationship has expanded since Facebook went from a strictly college social network to a public site in 2006, allowing anyone with a valid e-mail address to join. Contrary to rumors of blackmail and academic espionage, some FSU professors prefer to maintain professional relationships with students or don’t use Facebook at all.

Dr. Randy Groves, humanities instructor, has a Facebook but does not invite current students as friends.

“It is unwise for professors to have current students as friends unless their profiles are strictly academic,” said Groves. “FerrisConnect is a much safer line of communication for both parties,”

Groves also teaches a course on Facebook and its impact on the social networking world. Although Groves thinks the phenomenon is fascinating, he still believes that Facebook has too high a potential to cross boundaries.

“Facebook is a mine field of problems and it’s not an appropriate place for students and faculty.”

Likewise, Sandy Alspach, Ph.D. communications professor and internship director, prefers to maintain the traditional student-professor relationship via Facebook. Alspach, who started a profile February 2009, has 100 alumni and current students as friends and thinks it is a great way to get in touch with people.

“I disclose information about my personal life moderately,” said Alspach. “For example, if I make a status update about my plans with my husband or my family, I’ve learned to just accept it when one of my friends posts.  Alspach said she would not recommend inviting students as friends unless professors are prepared to accept the consequences.

Unlike Groves and Alspach, John Jablonski, professor of English, refuses to create a profile.

“I want to maintain my privacy, so I don’t have one,” said Jablonski.

Jablonski believes that although sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace make communicating easier, these sites also reduce people’s capacity to focus.

“It’s just one more thing for me to check, and I would rather keep my relationships as focused as possible because there’s less chance for misinterpretation.”

Although professors remain leery about Facebook friendships, most students believe it is a great way to communicate with instructors and makes them more approachable.

“I’m on my Facebook more than anything else, so it’s nice to see instructors on there,” said Robert Getz, technical and professional communication major. “If I have a question I can just Facebook them.”

Getz thinks that getting to know a professor personally can affect a student’s grade dramatically. “An instructor might not be as hard on me if they like me as opposed to not liking me,” said Getz.

Mikinzie Stuart, technical and professional communication major, agrees that creating relationships with professors makes a students’ learning experience more enjoyable.

“I’m friends and facebook friends with a lot of Ferris professors,” said Stuart. “There is no reason why students shouldn’t be able to be Facebook friends with professor.”

“Students should clean up their Facebooks anyways before you leave the campus bubble,” said Stuart. “If students aren’t careful with posts, your professors are probably going to know why you missed class on Friday morning.”

Although some students fear instructors could use profile content against them, some students feel this issue is a revolving door.
“It works both ways because if I caught my teacher in a lie, I will certainly not keep quite.”
Said Getz.