Profs Texting Students: Where Do We Draw the Line?

Caution Bloomsburg University faculty:  Your “innocent” Facebook banter, text messages or e-mails with your students could be unwelcome.

When a student was asked if she thought Bloomsburg University professors were out of line with their students she replied, “I definitely think some professors are inappropriate with their students … I’ve had classmates tell me that they text or instant message our professor to find out if the other is going out that night. I think it’s great to form a friendship between professors and a student, but there needs to be a point where they remember that the professor is still the authority. I can say from experience that the students who are texting and instant messaging our professors are the ones who don’t take the class as seriously because they see the professor more as a friend than as an authority figure.”

The Bloomsburg faculty handbook doesn’t appear to restrict student/faculty relationships. Many students communicate with their professors via cell phone, e-mail, text messaging, Facebook and various other forms of technology on a daily basis. How can we judge what communication is professional, friendly or inappropriate?

Junior Courtney Waltimyer doesn’t feel BU has a problem with professionalism among faculty/student relationships. “Professors are sometimes not much older than some of their students so they can relate to personal stories that the students are going through and may be able to help them in ways that an older professor can’t. I think there is a rare exception to everything in life, but Bloom professors know what line they can and can’t cross.”

Another student, Senior Elise Fitzgerald says, “at times, yes, professors can be inappropriate with their students. There should be a level of professionalism kept between a professor and a student.”

When using these various forms of technology, professors should be aware of the consequences they might face.

This incident appeared on a Columbia University alumni site:

Columbia University professor Reiko Ohnuma found herself in a sticky situation after a student posted some sarcastic jibes Ohnuma wrote about her students and colleagues on the social network Facebook. Fortunately she was able to keep her job, but her students now look at her in a completely different light.

A Bloomsburg fresman who asked that her name not be used said one of her professors is crossing the line.

“One of my professors has Facebook and he is constantly messaging current students about things outside of school. I feel professors should be professional and stay out of a students’ business. My professor checks the class’ Facebook regularly and says he knows what we are up to. I don’t think he should be keeping tabs on us and vice versa.”

Professors and students alike might want to reconsider hitting that accept button when receiving a friend request, text message or e-mail from one another. Communication between students and their professors is a key element in success here at Bloomsburg; conversely, when the conversation goes beyond a school topic you may want to evaluate the nature of your relationship. It might be detrimental to your college career or your professors’ professional career.

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