Jan 242006
Authors: Elena Ulyanova

Across the nation, a vast amount of college students are connecting electronically on a popular Web site known as thefacebook.com.

More students continue to join facebook, and new students this semester are logging on as well.

Students log on using their university e-mail address, which allows them to create a profile about themselves, add photos and join various groups.

Although facebook has beneficial aspects such as creating an online community that can bring together old and new friends, many users may not consider the fact that the Web site is a public forum, which could potentially lead to problems with school administrators or prospective employers.

Because of the minimal log on requirements, anyone with a university e-mail address can access facebook, including faculty.

"We don't do random checks on students through facebook; it depends on what the violation is," said Craig Chesson, assistant director of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct Services (CRSCS). "If someone is being harassed, someone is in danger, if there is a serious threat, we will follow through."

Ron Hicks, assistant director of CRSCS, said because facebook is so new, there is no specific university policy for its use.

"Facebook is a questionable thing that institutions around the country are trying to figure out how to handle," Hicks said. "If a situation is referred to us, then we will respond to it – especially if it is related to drugs or alcohol, but it is not something we are going to go searching for."

Many students post personal information such as their phone number, address and even incriminating photos showing alcohol and/or drug use.

Chesson said that online, students put themselves at risk by supplying personal information.

"It's a cultural thing because students right now communicate electronically, but they don't see the warning signs," Chesson said.

Marques Lopez, a junior marketing major, said he does not use facebook because he would rather socialize at parties than over a computer. He also is concerned with the idea that anyone can see his personal information.

"There's always a chance that people can get the information you don't want them to have," Lopez said. "If I'm close to somebody, then they already have my information. They shouldn't have to get it from a Web site."

Hicks and Chesson both warn that perspective employees and interns should be aware that potential employers may have access to facebook and can see the information and photos students put on their profile.

"For those who are about to graduate, potential employers do check and it doesn't leave a good impression for employers," Chesson said.

Facebook does provide options that allow a user to set their own privacy preferences.

Although facebook can present another social outlet, Hicks warns students to be cautious.

"In order to protect yourself you should just watch out for personal information or incriminating information because it can put you in a negative perspective in a later time," he said.


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