Free to friend profs

Given the ubiquity of social media, it’s only a matter of time before students start to friend, follow or otherwise subscribe to their professors.

An Oct. 18 Maclean’s article outlines prescriptions for student-instructor relationships online. Though there aren’t official rules in place, social media users need to be conscious of online etiquette. Friending a professor on Facebook isn’t the same as following a Twitter feed. Facebook has a more intimate slant than Twitter and both differ from the professional networking site LinkedIn.

Before a student befriends an instructor online, it needs to be clear just what information is being shared. Privacy settings should be adjusted according to the expectations associated with a social networking site.

But, it’s exceedingly difficult to build personal relationships with instructors. With class sizes expanding every year, social media could prove effective in linking students with teachers.

Queen’s professors Sidney Eve Matrix and Jonathan Rose have Twitter accounts with thousands of followers and Principal Daniel Woolf tweets frequently about university issues to a following of over 2,700 people.

In these cases, social media is shown to be a useful tool for disseminating information and opinions. Sharing a link or article with an instructor can lead to an enlightening discussion for both student and teacher.

Placing restrictions on how students interact with faculty members places the relationship into an undue hierarchy.

Most students are legally adults and should be treated as such. Professors shouldn’t be treated as moral role models who need to shield their personal lives.

This is particularly true of teaching fellows who are often just a few years older than their students. Presuming they shouldn’t interact with students on a personal level is disrespectful.

Concerns that knowing details of a student’s personal life will affect an instructor’s grading have little grounding. Instructors should be trusted to withold opinions of someone’s personality when assessing essays or exams.

You have to opt into social media. If the prospect of interacting with someone is troublesome, just click decline.

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