The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Monitor media, but don’t stalk

For the longest time, college students were told to set their privacy settings so they could be themselves on Facebook and Twitter and not have it come back to bite them later. Now, however, privacy settings may not prevent colleges (and employers) from holding posts against students.

Some college applications are asking for deeper access to prospective students’ social media pages. Initially, they would require login information on the application, but after the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in, interviewers toned it down by merely looking over their subject’s shoulder as they “voluntarily” log on and go through private posts and photos to see if there’s anything that might be embarrassing. Also, it’s becoming commonplace for student-athletes to be required to add a coach on their Facebook page to monitor friends-only posts.

It should be noted that Facebook friends and posts can be categorized such that the coach can’t see anything despite being an athlete’s friend. Also, giving out account information violates Facebook’s terms and conditions, which prohibits both solicitation and dissemination of login information.

The first thing to bear in mind is that some students really do need monitoring. In 2007, for instance, Michigan’s Marques Slocum filled out one of those stupid quizzes with almost pure profanity, and it leaked and spread, much to the college’s embarrassment. North Carolina’s Marvin Austin made witless tweets that led to him and 12 teammates being suspended for receiving improper benefits in 2010. Whether or not they’re being overtly monitored, athletes and students in general need to watch what they say publicly.

However, it is not OK for colleges to stalk — and that’s what this is, stalking — their students.

If a private social media account has well-maintained privacy settings and no one who isn’t authorized can see posts without extreme effort, what’s the problem with the account holder letting his or her hair down a little? If the account is public, why does a college need to “friend” a student or go through posts from over the student’s shoulder? It seems the only thing colleges and employers have to gain from these policies is information that didn’t have the potential to become a scandal in the first place.

Facebook has become the default place for young people to express themselves. If they create a mess by being stupid on the Internet, they deserve what they get. But for a school to be so invasive in an attempt to protect its own interests just isn’t OK. And in this case, if they have to be that invasive to find something that could be problematic, it probably won’t be.

By all means, Google prospective students and see what pops up. If their real names are attached to anything bad, it’s their own fault, and they should be held accountable for it. But if they’ve kept their private views private, what difference does it make if they would be embarrassing in public?

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