Twitter and the Facebook page Overheard at GW exploded late last month after a professor tweeted out a mistake that a student had left in a final paper that read “blah blah, whatever I decide to write about for the rest of this godforsaken paper.”
In the tweet, Steven Livingston, a professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs, judged the unnamed student for their mistake and insinuated that democracy was “doomed” because of it. While Livingston’s tweet was humorous to many, including myself who have taken multiple classes with him, it is indicative of a larger problem in higher education. We are all too quick to throw professionalism out the window on social media.
Students are quick to complain on Twitter and Facebook just as professors find no problem with posting something they find funny from their time grading papers or teaching. There is no place for this on social media, especially when student and professor contact is so limited and consigned to virtual communication during the pandemic. Students and faculty should not use social media to mock one another or complain – these are private situations that should be dealt with in the classroom or over email.
Both students and professors are adults who have chosen to embark on a journey into higher education, and it is time for us to stop acting like children throwing temper tantrums online and enter the real world. I’ve seen it countless times on Twitter, where someone will post an out-of-context email from a professor and get the Internet riled up. There’s no end game in these circumstances – the post often lacks detail, and the situation should be told to the school or professor, not random users. They bring no justice to the complainer and instead come across as childish and immature.
When you choose to go to or work at a University, you are choosing to learn, be critiqued and behave like the adult you are. We should not resort to mudslinging over social media to complain about varied intelligences or learning and teaching styles. Social media has the incredible and dangerous ability to spread information, some that is true and informative and some that is not. It is entirely possible for platforms to be abused and lead people to get the wrong ideas about a class, professor or subject. Trying people in the court of public opinion without all the facts or all the context can lead to disastrous results.
There are some instances when taking to a vengeful site like Twitter makes sense, like when a professor or student makes inappropriate comments or remarks and their university does nothing about it. But the majority of the time, these personal matters do not need to be published. Like everything in life, there are people using social media for better or for worse.
Rather than complaining to Facebook and Twitter followers, students could file a complaint with their school or take their upsets to external and anonymous sites like Rate My Professors. GW even conducts surveys of each class at the end of each semester for students to anonymously critique their class and professor. While it can seem daunting to email a professor a grievance or go to an office hour to discuss it, sometimes the better option is simply to have a conversation with the professor. Or, if you are a professor, have a conversation with the student who is causing an issue.
There have been several times during my time here at GW that I have had an issue with a professor or issues with a class’ teaching style in general. In these instances, I did what any mature person would do: I just went to my professor’s office hours and talked about it. In all situations, I left the conversation feeling heard, more confident and more comfortable in the class. We need to respect each other and not act like children when the other does something we disagree with or do not understand.
We are all adults here, and it’s time we started acting like it.
Hannah Thacker, a senior majoring in political communication, is the opinions editor.