Associate Engineering Prof. Joanna Millunchick stopped looking at students’ Facebook.com profiles after she saw a picture of a former student passed out in his underwear on his dorm room floor.
Millunchick also accepted a friend request from a student whose profile picture was of the student bonging a beer.
“Oh my God, I’m your professor,” Millunchick said about the photos. “Is this what you want me to see, want me to know about you?”
Millunchick joined Facebook about a year ago after attending a computer science lecture on social networking. Millunchick said she does not visit the site that often, but finds it useful for keeping in touch with former students.
Millunchick has made contact with alumni, relatives in college and students from classes she taught in China.
Millunchick said she enjoys the site’s networking aspect but has concerns about some of the content.
When a colleague of Millunchick’s interviewed students to work in his lab, one of the students requested the colleague as a friend on Facebook. When Millunchick’s colleague visited the student’s profile, he found pictures of weapons that caused him to question whether that student was stable enough to work in a science lab.
“I feel like a parent at a frat party,” Millunchick said. “I’m trying not to impose myself too much on what students are doing on Facebook, but on the other hand I’m worried that this information could be used against them later.”
Gerard Doherty, a professor in the Department of Surgery at the University Medical School, joined Facebook on Saturday to monitor the activity of his 13- and 15-year-old children who use the site.
Doherty has only been a member of the site for four days and has not had any students add him as a friend yet.
Doherty said he hasn’t had much time to browse the site, but was impressed by its possibilities.
“I’ve been a little bit intrigued by the possibility of using it to link together the surgery training program alumni,” he said.
The group would allow the alumni to stay in touch after completing the program, he said.
Joseluis Fernandez-Garcia, a Spanish lecturer, joined Facebook after a student made a group in his honor. The “Joseluis Fernandez Garcia Fan Club” group has 42 members, including Fernandez-Garcia.
Fernandez-Garcia said that the majority of his friends on the site are previous students. He said that although he feels a little uncomfortable about being friends with them, he does not refuse requests.
“I don’t refuse, because if a student wants to friend me on the Facebook, I don’t have any grounds to call the student my friend,” he said. “And I don’t have grounds to see the student as an enemy.”
Fernandez-Garcia said he does not look at pictures of his current students, but he might look at profiles after the student has completed his course.
He said that after New Year’s Eve this year, a couple of his previous students had a big party and posted photos.
“I saw the pictures,” Fernandez-Garcia said. “I see that they’re having a great time.”
Priti Shah, an associate professor of psychology, said in an e-mail interview that she joined Facebook to learn more about her students’ interests and lives outside of the classroom.
Shah said she doesn’t spend much time on the site and students don’t seem to pay her much attention.
But LSA sophomore Danny Freeman said that after Shah mentioned she was a member of Facebook during a freshman psychology seminar, he and a few other students in the class added her as a friend.
Freeman said he didn’t really mind seeing his professor on Facebook.
“It was kind of weird,” he said. “But it’s not that big of a deal.”
Shah said that by joining Facebook, she wanted to give students the opportunity to learn more about her.
“I’m hoping being on facebook makes me seem younger,” Shah said in an e-mail interview. “But I doubt it.”