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You Make the Call: Social Media Edition

When a student boasts on Twitter about fooling a professor.

September 24, 2015

Let's say that you're in an administrative role at a public college.

And let's say that a student at your college tweets to his adoring followers, bragging about how he lied to his professor about observing a religious holiday when, in fact, he was cutting class. He even goes so far as to include screen shots of text exchanges, including the professor's name. Someone forwards it to you, asking whether you want to contact the professor.

What do you do?

a. roll your eyes at the folly of youth, enjoy a good chuckle, and trust karma to do its work
b. tweet back to the student something like "FYI, Twitter is public.  Sincerely, Dr. so-and-so"
c. forward a link to the student's professor
d. all of the above

I go with A.  B seems needlessly provocative, and could easily degenerate into the sort of bitter Twitter battle best fought by noodle-eating poodles. (I don't often get to drop Fox in Socks references.) C casts the administration in the role of speech police, and while I'm no fan of idiotic braggadocio, I'm also no fan of speech police. A certain amount of idiotic braggadocio is the price of freedom. That explains a lot about our politics.

Students have always bragged to each other about things authorities wouldn't consider brag-worthy.  The difference is that now those brags can reach much wider audiences, and in very different contexts.  Some students either haven't figured that out, or somehow assume that it doesn't apply to them. 

There's a case to be made for B.  If I knew the student personally, I'd probably do that. But just as the initial tweet was public, so would be the public shaming. At least in the case of something relatively victimless, I'd prefer not to risk the public shaming escalating out of context. 

Wise and worldly readers, you make the call. What would you do?


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