Facebook monitoring stirs debate

by Beacon Staff • February 2, 2006

The contract, which is meant to work in accordance with federal laws, is specifically supposed to prohibit students from posting confidential information they may find in the course of their job.,College officials recently announced that students working in Emerson's Office of Admissions would be subject to a new contract that places them on alert: inappropriate material on social networking Web sites like the Facebook will not be tolerated.

The contract, which is meant to work in accordance with federal laws, is specifically supposed to prohibit students from posting confidential information they may find in the course of their job. However it also contains a problematic clause which restricts students from posting negative information about fellow employees.

Sara Brookshire, an Emerson alumna who is now assistant director of admission for the college, told The Beacon this week that the new policy is meant to keep private student information off the Web.

This leaves us asking: Why would a student working in the office even bother?

They are already required to sign a confidentiality contract. That covers the need for privacy just fine.

The situation has become convoluted, however, because of the clause restricting what student workers can and cannot say

online.

While posting negative information about a fellow student or employee online is incredibly immature, the school has no right to tell us what to do on the internet.

Emerson does not own the Facebook, MySpace or LiveJournal, and therefore should have no concern with what is posted there. Off-campus students aren't even using Emerson's Internet service to access these sites.

College officials such as Dean of Students Ronald Ludman have said Emerson does not actively patrol sites like the Facebook looking to get students in trouble. Brookshire said the same thing, but both said that if inappropriate content is found, students could face punishment.

We at The Beacon find even the possibility of monitoring personal information online by college officials to be a violation of the First Amendment.

Personal attacks online directed toward fellow students are never acceptable.

However, in situations like this, it is always better to err on the side of personal freedom.

Students should not be forced to watch what they say or do online because of restrictive college policies. A school that prides itself on being a communications education leader should recognize that placing such restrictions helps no one.