Student Affairs to host Facebook info sessions

Dana Owen

Since Facebook’s inception two short years ago, Quinnipiac students have been experimenting with posting photos, messages, Web sites, and joining various types of groups in an effort to connect with their fellow students and college community.

The social networking site, has also caused its share of problems at the university, prompting Student Affairs and the Information Technology department to start taking action.

Cheryl Barnard, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, and Brian Kelly, the new Information Security Officer, are preparing to present lectures on the effects of Facebook to Quinnipiac freshmen within the next two weeks.

“It was an area of research for me,” Barnard said. “How is technology affecting this generation of college students and what are the positive and negative effects of this constant communication through technology?”

Barnard decided to hold lectures for students after finding similar success with their parents during summer orientation.

“We did a Facebook session for the June orientation parents,” she said. “They thought it was something that their sons and daughters needed to hear.”

Barnard also did a brief presentation for new professionals in the field of student affairs.

“The idea to do these came to me after having dinner with my husband who works in the corporate world,” Barnard said. “We had a conversation about how his colleagues use it to scan entry-level applicants to the company. That’s what did it for me personally.”

Barnard said that students are totally unaware of the scope of people who use Facebook.

“[Students] forget about alumni who are connected and the number of people in the working world who may just be taking one course or going for their MBA,” she said.

Prior to the lectures, Barnard and company will be launching a poster campaign about Facebook on campus.

“The poster was designed by my former intern, Conor O’Brien,” she said. “It says ‘Who’s Looking at You?”

The poster depicts a random student’s Facebook profile with an unflattering photo and lots of personal information.

She hopes that the posters and lectures will have an impact on Quinnipiac students, especially a group negatively targeted earlier this year: athletes. She made reference to the “hazing” incident involving the baseball team.

“I went to a few similar presentations in Worcester and Nichols (Mass.) which were held primarily for athletes,” Barnard said. “With athletes, you never know who is at a party with a camera phone, you never know who’s posting what, and you never know what website might be ‘trolling’ the web for pictures of that sort.”

Some universities, Barnard said, are banning athletes from using the site altogether but adds that Quinnipiac has no current plans to follow suit.

“At Kenn State the athletics department and coaches banned all athletes from using Facebook,” she said. “I think QU is currently taking the route of trying to educate.”

According to Barnard, the optional lectures will be interactive and will focus on the primary question of “how does this [Facebook] portray me as a person?” It will also serve as an opportunity for members of Student Affairs to receive feedback from students. There will be three lectures total held in each of the freshmen dorms: Commons, Ledges, and Irma/Dana.

Barnard believes that students have forgotten what she calls the “photo album metaphor.”

“When I was younger, we used to have two photo albums,” she said, “one to show our parents and the other to show our friends. Now there is no discretion between the two.”

Barnard assures that her concern is not limited to her students. Her 16-year old stepson is also getting the brunt of her recent interest in the program.

“He dared his father $20 to see if he could get on Facebook,” she said. “I poke him and leave him messages all the time. He usually doesn’t respond.”

She believes that just knowing she has access will be effective enough.

“It’s good for a 16-year old to know that we go on it once in a while,” she said.

When asked what the worst piece of information a student could post online, Barnard was hesitant to pick just one.”There’s no one answer. It’s all relative,” she said. “But definitely college ‘antic’ pictures and personal information like posting a message saying where you are going to be or your class schedule, safety-wise, are the worst.”