OP-EDS

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May 25, 2007

Administrators should exercise caution online

“Fuck the creationists.”

Are you offended? It is safe to assume that many members of the University community would be—especially given that the word “creationists” could be replaced with any other label, with equal or greater effect.

It’s surprising, then, that a University administrator would endorse such a slogan in a public forum. In what appears to be an isolated lapse of judgment, outgoing Assistant Director of Admissions for the College Austin Bean is a member of a Facebook group with that title.

The larger point here is to express concern about the message such speech sends to prospective students who may stumble across administrators’ Facebook profiles and to implore representatives of the University to exercise more caution in their use of social networking tools.

While administrators have as much a right as anyone to express their opinions and create public personae on the Internet, their position as standard-bearers of the University requires that they make a concerted effort to exercise this right responsibly.

Social-networking technology is still very young, and there are as yet few universally accepted standards about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate use of such technology. But it is safe to assume that we should not leave common sense behind when we sit at the keyboard.

Facebook, like the Internet in general, is constantly becoming more public and less anonymous; accordingly, users should think about whether the personae they express on Facebook are ones they are comfortable presenting to Googling employers, mothers, and professors.

An especially gray area of social-networking standards is that surrounding the transition period during which people are job-hunting, graduating, becoming employed, or otherwise assuming new public roles. Whenever students go through such transitions, they must re-evaluate and tweak the personae they project online; a student’s Facebook group affiliations as a fall-quarter first year may not be appropriate when he becomes an R.A., starts hunting for jobs, or is appointed Assistant Director of Admissions for the College.