With an increasing number of College professors creating open Facebook profiles, students can now find out that their history professor’s favorite show is Weeds, and that their German professor enjoys snorkeling, Indian food and good conversation.
p. Professors who are part of the popular social networking site list its many benefits — including being able to reconnect with College alumni and colleagues and network with groups and organizations in their respective fields — as the reason they joined.
p. Elizabeth Wiley, a theatre, speech and dance professor, has had a Facebook profile for a couple years. She initially joined because she wanted to put a face with the name of one of her students.
“Once on board, I realized what a major mode of communication it is for students, not just socially, but also disseminating information on interest groups and so on. I felt it was important for me to understand how students network and share information,” she said. Wiley added that it is also a useful avenue in announcing things like auditions, performances and meetings.
History professor Scott Nelson has over 85 friends on Facebook in the College network.
“It has allowed me to keep track of those students years ago who I’ve wanted to know about,” he said. “I have Facebook friends who were undergrads back in 1994. This way I can keep tabs on my favorite students without e-mailing or calling. The big problem with being a college professor is that it’s hard to know what happened to your former students unless you call them or call the alumni office. This is much easier.”
While it is true that some professors have embraced the social networking trend, others have more reserved feelings about it.
Psychology professor John Nezlek believes that social networking sites like Facebook are not necessary for his professional life.
“I am not certain how more openness on the part of faculty, regardless of the medium through which the openness occurs, affects student-faculty relationships.” he said. “On the one hand, it may enhance the personal nature of student-faculty relationships; on the other hand, it might somehow interfere with the task-focus aspect of the relationship.”
Student reaction to professors having Facebook profiles ranges from general acceptance to surprised disbelief.
“Student response has covered the range from ‘They let professors on here?’ to ‘Hey, Liz — cool!’ Mostly the response from students has been positive,” Wiley said.
Alden McCray ’11 said that Facebook was a great way to communicate more easily with professors.
“It’s an interesting way to keep in touch with them and learn more about them. It’s also another way you get to see professors outside the classroom; it adds a dimension of reality to them,” McCray said.
Students may learn some interesting facts about their professors which would not ordinarily be shared in a classroom setting.
“I’ve actually added some things that I don’t regularly tell students – that I had a lot of different jobs, and that I was a hacker back in the 1980s,” Nelson said.
Wiley repeated many professors’ feelings about social networking sites like Facebook.
“[They are] highly useful, potentially, and yet at the same time we are becoming more and more a computer society with fewer and fewer real life interactions,” she said.