Students should wait before being Facebook friends with professors

Natalie Gray

The world is heavily engaged in social media. Whether for personal, school, networking or business, billions are plugged into a social media network.

With this growing trend of doing business and networking over the Internet, it’s hypocritical students cannot be friends with professors and school administrators on Facebook.

Student-teacher relationships are always hazy, particularly in college where students and professors are more personable with each other and have to connect outside of the classroom.

“Being connected to professors on a social network can be beneficial in some cases,” said senior graphic design major Zach McWilliams. “It can be a good networking outlet to connect with other professionals in your field.”

A general rule of becoming part of a teacher’s social network is students should wait until they have graduated or are no longer in the class. This is to avoid misconceptions about a student-professor relationship.

 “I’m a pretty casual person in general,” said philosophy professor David Denman. “But I do think the smarter option is to wait until the student is no longer in my class before becoming friends on Facebook.”

 “I think it depends on the relationship you maintain with that person in reality; if you are fairly open in class with a professor, I don’t see a problem with it,” McWilliams said.

There needs to be a certain distance between professors and students. Professors want their students to show respect. But if a student reads about his or her professor getting trashed the night before, a lot of respect for them as a professional won’t be shown.

At the same time, as adults in college preparing for the professional world students should be more careful of what they’re posting on Facebook and other websites. If a student is linked to a professor or employer on a social network, they too should expect to be scrutinized for inappropriate posts or photos.

“Students and professors are often in different places socially, so sometimes information is shared that wouldn’t otherwise be exchanged outside of a social network,” McWilliams said.

“I don’t think it’s really inappropriate, but it is your responsibility to remove anything from your page that you don’t want people to see.”

Educators are held to a higher standard and are supposed to be role models and mentors to students first. Being friends with a professor comes after a mutual line of respect is established for authority.

There is always room for it to be inappropriate,” said senior theatre and journalism major Melissa Warren. “As a professional, professors should have the restraint to not allow the situation to go into unwanted territory, both on their part and the students.”

Being linked to professors in your major opens doors to get connected with other professionals in the field. Social media is a great advantage to both students and professors separately, but as society becomes more dominated by online networking, it’s more accepted for students to connect with professors online.

“When in class there still has to be that distinction between student and authority,” Denman said. “But when our social circle is the people we’ve met in school and work, it would be silly for professors to completely isolate themselves from students.” 

Natalie Gray can be reached at [email protected]