I think it is safe to say that Facebook is one of the most monumental things ever to happen to collegiate life. Even though we at Colgate, as usual, were a few decades ahead of the curve with our Incunabulum, we’ll give Mark Zuckerberg some credit where it is due. His site is a breakthrough social-networking platform that has come to define many aspects of the college experience, as most students can’t stay away on any given day. Its tools are often useful and always fun, such as sharing pictures with friends, joining a virtual group with your neighbors in West Hall or even user profiles themselves.
As Facebook has developed, however, there has been concern nationwide about universities using it to spy on their students and sometimes using gathered information to take disciplinary action. There is the infamous case at George Washington University where underage students posted details about a party on Facebook, calling it a ‘Cake Party’, and invited a large number of underage students. During the party, campus police showed up unannounced, thinking they were cleverly busting an underage drinking gala, when instead they found students innocently packed into a dorm room eating birthday cake. The students had set the entire thing up to prove that their communications on Facebook were indeed being intercepted for disciplinary purposes.
Many students assume it will not happen to them, brazenly posting pictures of themselves shot-gunning a beer or engaging in “compromising positions”, without any regard for privacy settings. As you may know, there are many staff members at Colgate who have profiles on Facebook, many being for legitimate reasons like community involvement. I still wouldn’t want many of my professors to see me at my Wednesday night best. Additionally, there are some faculty members whose presence on Facebook seems somewhat more suspicious: Gary Bean, Director of Campus Safety, and Dan Furner, a Campus Safety officer.
I am not accusing these individuals of anything improper, or of spying on students deliberately or with malicious intent. However, when you take into account the facts, it is merely logical to be suspicious. They are two members of Campus Safety, with blank profiles on Facebook, no friends, and their profiles are invisible to students! Also, they have changed their privacy settings so no students can see that they exist on Facebook. Remember, I am offering no answer to the question of why they are on Facebook; I’m merely sharing the facts that I know.
It does not end there. There are countless other staff members with blank Facebook profiles and no friends. These include Athletic Communications Interns, Administrative Assistants to the Deans, Residential Life staff, one assistant varsity coach, and countless members of the IT Department.
I write this article not make accusations, but to make the student body aware of everyone at Colgate who might have access to Facebook profiles. It is well known that some former staff members had spied on Greek Organizations through a Facebook account. Actions of that nature are damaging to otherwise strong relationships between Greeks and the University, and should serve as an example of the negative consequences of covert ‘oversight’ of students. Unless campus safety aims to use Facebook as a means to better connect with the campus community, there is no reason that officers should be on it.
If you look at national news this week, Hewlett-Packard is in hot water for allegations that they spied on their own Board of Directors. While this may not have occurred through Facebook, it’s still a warning. When the police obtain a warrant to wiretap and/or monitor someone, they must show just cause for such actions. In our case, it seems like being a Colgate student, or a member of a Greek society was enough cause for some. An incident at a fraternity in Nevada or among freshmen in Texas is not reason enough to suspect that Colgate students are up to no good. There must be a basic level of trust in our community for it to be successful. I fear it may not exist.