It’s a no-brainer that your students don’t want to see you when they saunter into Valhalla on a Friday night.
But more and more faculty members are pulling up a stool at the online “Cheers” that is Facebook. The question is, is that a good thing?
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “For Professors, ‘Friending’ Can Be Fraught,” reported that registered Facebook users are doubling every six months and adults are the fastest growing group among them.
While no one knows how many of those adults are college faculty, a student at State University of New York at Oneonta was moved to create the user group “Gee, I don’t think I want my professors on Facebook anymore.”
A Facebook search for “WSU faculty” turned up nearly 41 people or groups, very few of which were actually WSU faculty or staff. But some were, including Chuck Pezeshki, professor of mechanical engineering and past chair of the Faculty Senate.
“I use it to keep in touch with my former students,” Pezeshki said. He said he doesn’t advertise that he has a Facebook page, but if a student brings it up, he volunteers that he too has a page.
For one thing, he said, it allows those students who are interested to gain a more complete picture of who he is and what his interests are.
“It helps them understand where I’m coming from,” he said.
And it is one more way for his former students to contact him, something they do regularly, with information about student internships, employment for new graduates and ideas for student projects.
While Pezeshki values those connections with former students, he waits for them to find him.
“You should respect what Facebook is for them,” he said, “which is a way for them to network with friends.”
Lorena O’English, social sciences reference and instruction librarian with WSU Libraries, said she originally created a page to make it easier for students to communicate with her. The idea was to be as accessible as possible for students who might need help with research or other services provided by the libraries.
But, she said, that didn’t happen.
“I don’t think students want to communicate with me in that way,” she said. So now she uses Facebook mostly to talk with other librarians. “I use Facebook right now exactly the same way students do — to keep up with my friends,” she said. “And I love it.”