Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Should I friend my professor?

Hi All,

Here is a question from a reader:

Is it appropriate for students and professors to friend each other on facebook? Why or why not?

In terms of whether it is appropriate for students to friend professors...The first thing to consider is whether you are totally comfortable with your prof seeing everything on your Facebook pages, the kinds of things your friends post, etc. If you are cool with that, then the next question is whether your prof is Facebook friends with students.

So I think the best strategy, if you want to friend your prof, is to email her or him and ask if it's ok to send a friend request, that way, if your prof doesn't accept friend requests from current students, she or he can just tell you without having to decline your request via Facebook with no explanation. The profs I have spoken with about this take various approaches -- some are Facebook friends with many of their students, others won't accept friend requests from current students, but will from alums, and others keep their Facebook life separate from their teaching and accept no friend invitations from students. There's no way for you to know, so I think the best approach is to email first (it also shows that you are respectful of boundaries)!

Most profs I know won't friend students because given that we are in a bit of a power position (because we give grades) it could put our students in an awkward or stressful spot (is there a consequence if I decline a friend request from my prof, will it change her or his opinion of me, and so on).

Does this help?

In addition, here is an op-ed piece I wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education, regarding Facebook:

Other readers -- what are your opinions?

be well,


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