Should students and professors be Facebook friends?

We’re still in the frontier of social media, and a lot of people are unsure what etiquette governs its usage. I’ve posted how students should e-mail professors. And I’ve mentioned an  warning against friending college admissions officers on Facebook.

But what happens when it’s professors who want to connect with students?

Bridgewater State University grad student Jenn DeLuca turns it around in USA Today, explaining why she doesn’t friend professors on Facebook:

Think about it – how do your professors view you as a student? Would that change if they saw your pictures from that crazy party you went to over the weekend?  … Now reverse it. Do you really want to know what your professor is doing all the time? … Professors are people, too, but I really think there is a distinct professional line that should be drawn between students and professors.  When I’m in class, I do not want to be thinking about what I saw as their weekend status. …

Lock Haven University associate professor Rey Junco responds with a different view. He stresses how faculty-student interaction on Facebook can deepen understanding and teach students valuable social skills in dealing with older adults:

I believe that we must meet students “where they are” along a developmental continuum whether that be in the real world or through social media.

He says he doesn’t make friend requests, but does accept them. He keeps a “sanitized” Facebook page but doesn’t mention in class that he has one.

By modeling acceptable Facebook behavior, I seek not only to engage with students, but also to set an example of how to create a Facebook profile that will help, rather than hinder their career prospects. On a more personal level, connecting with students on Facebook allows faculty to demystify the professorate. Putting more distance between us and our students does a disservice to our goals as educators — to support student curiosity not only about ideas but about people as well.

But he does warn:

“Friending” students just to friend them is the digital equivalent of showing up at a house party and doing keg stands with students from class.