Profs Texting Students: Where Do We Draw the Line?

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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.

Comments

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Good points, but I have to say, forming a friendship and going out with your prof is probably not abnormal.

    We see it as abnormal because nowadays, there is a media hype that makes everything look bad. Professors having relations with students, nothing more than friends, should not be prohibited. Most likely, they will play favorites, but you never know. Most professors are professional and are authority figures no matter how much they “go out” or text students. They remain professional.

    Its when they cross the line, that is when there is problems. The line is fine where it is now, but if the professors would be dating or having a relationship with a student sexually or romantically, then there would be a problem I believe.

  2. I’d personally have no problem with a professor texting me. This seems like a non-issue to me. They are people. I am a person. We are communicating. nothing wrong with that in my book.

    I feel like we make too big of a deal with being professional or politically correct, and this is another example of that.

  3. I agree with Joe. Its perfectly normal to create a friendship with a professor or an advisor. So what if they have a title. Eventually you’ll have a title as well, would you want your friends or students or co workers to not communicate with you because you are a professor or dr. or mr. or mrs.? I dont think so. Its kind of cool to be friendly with my professors and advisors… it makes it easier to talk about grades or school stuff or even stuff not pertaining to school.

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