When I opened up my April 25 issue of the Hatchet to read “SJS targets APES, Sigma Alpha Epsilon with Facebook” (p. 1), I found something particularly shocking. No, it was not that the University is using a public Web site to investigate alleged rules violations by off-campus, unaffiliated groups with a history of breaking the rules. Rather, I found it extremely surprising that students expect any semblance of privacy for information they place on a public Web site that includes hundreds of thousands of individuals affiliated with more than 400 universities all over the country. Any one of the thousands of members of the campus community, from a Thurston Hall freshmen to a worker in Facilities Management with a GWU email address, can read every detail you decide to post online, from your group affiliations to your phone number and of course, to find out if you are looking for that special someone that will give you “random play.”
The virtue of the Internet is that it allows you the freedom to post whatever information you want, true or false, as we read about in last week’s Hatchet story about blogging. Its speed, ease of use, millions of Web sites, unlimited capacity and ability to allow you inexpensive communication with people around the globe are among many of its great qualities. These same qualities, however, enable officials working for Student Judicial Services to read about your favorite movies or find out your AOL Instant Messenger screenname – that is, of course, if you decide to post it. This warning also applies to those students who feel the need to share every detail about their life in their AIM profiles, blogging pages, online photo galleries, or decide to take pictures at Greek-letter events for GreekYearbook.com. Students are continually complaining about the University treating them like children, but what is more indicative of immaturity than expecting privacy on the one invention that has made everything around the globe public domain?
I also hope The Hatchet does a better job in the future of representing student opinion and informing the student body of the facts, rather than quoting two freshmen, one of whom informed all of us that – wait for it – “Facebook is evil.” I find it hard to believe that a walk through Kogan Plaza would not have turned up a more mature, informed student representing the other side of this debate.
Next time you are sitting in Thurston (I know that because Facebook tells me where you are logged in), and you are a member of an organization that was kicked off campus for breaking rules and continues to allegedly break University regulations (come on guys, we don’t have to be clairvoyant to know everything is still not kosher for Passover over there), you might not want to advertise your affiliation on a Web site. The folks in SJS have the ability to do more than “poke” you.
-The writer, a graduate student in the Elliott School of International Affairs, is a Presidential Administrative Fellow
This article appeared in the April 28, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.