Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Facebook and campus culture

This article in the Birmingham News is about the 3 men who were charged with a string of church burnings in Alabama last week.

The interesting aspect is the discussion of all the information that they posted on facebook.com. The article points out that the site glorifies drinking and partying, making it a defining feature of a college experience.

I got interested, so I registered for facebook as a faculty member (you just need a uwosh ID) and I can see that UWO is no different. As you page through the list of students, you can see photos of their drinking. It also contains all sorts of chatter about when the next party is going to be, what sorts of tv shows they like to watch, and their hobbies.

There is a space for majors and classes that they are in, but clearly that is not the point of the site.

Unfortunately, it looks like another way that college culture is defeating the purpose of our institution. Surveys tell us that students do hardly any homework these days, and facebook reinforces that impression.

Along with the problem of C's, how do we address the larger cultural problems of general disregard for the purpose of a university education?

Cyberspace postings highlight students' false sense of security

9 comments:

Lammers said...

>>how do we address the larger cultural problems of general disregard for the purpose of a university education?<<

By making sure that actions have consequences. By structuring our courses so that those who do the work earn good grades and those who don't do the work soon find themselves doing Some Heavy Lifting and asking "You want fries with that?" As long as we resist turning a bachelor's degree into a Participation Trophy, as long as it still MEANS something, the problem is self correcting.

Remember: for ever drunken party-maniac on Facebook, there are a couple dozen or more unseen students too busy to fool with such nonsense. Some students are Ants and some are Grasshoppers and we the faculty are WINTER.

Janine said...

Very, very well put.

Anonymous said...

Professors need to raise their standards. Too often they are busy with research and their own other activities to really challenge students. College students are shocked when they are finally faced with a course that is demanding a little bit more from them. It's not just college; I hear parents of high schoolers wondering why their kids never have any homework to do.

But the earlier poster is correct, in that you're only seeing/looking for the alcohol/bad apples here. Facebook, sure, can be an easier way to spread the word of the next big party, but it is also a very efficient way to network and meet people in your school you might never otherwise talk to. One recent article pointed out that some employers have begun looking at facebook profiles of applicants. It will be grappled with the same way pagers, cell phones, text messages, and IMs have all been incorporated into the modern world of academics. It is just another thing that people will have to learn to use responsibly, and if those teaching this generation are smart, they will accept that facebook is here to stay and try to teach that responsibility instead of simply admonishing website.

--A student.

Lake Winneblogo said...

I wish that it were true that dozens of good students lurked beyond the grip of facebook, but I think that this website is just another representation of a trend that has been well documented throughout the country.

It is willful ignorance to argue that the students there are a drunken minority. Facebook demonstrates that there is no shame for students in emphasizing their partying and lack of intellectual engagement. It is not as though posters are anonymous--they proudly label themselves as slackers and drinkers.

If we really are winter, we are the most mild of winters (global warming, I suppose). Thousands of students pass through without a bit of frostbite, even though they study less than ever.

Janine said...

"If we really are winter, we are the most mild of winters (global warming, I suppose). Thousands of students pass through without a bit of frostbite, even though they study less than ever."

And who would be the brunt of the problem in this paragraph? The students or the teachers who are allowing them to pass?

It seems to me that the above poster has his priorities in order --- either study for his or her class or fail. That would take care of the "Thousands of students pass through without a bit of frostbite, even though they study less than ever."

As with anyone -- if there are no consequences to behavior there will be no change in behavior.

Lake Winneblogo said...

Thanks for your comments, Janine. We are clearly partially responsible, but there is also an incredible amount of pressure to retain and graduate numbers of students. If we don't keep our enrollment numbers up, we lose funding.

As college has made its transition from an elite opportunity to a necessity for modern life, we have different kinds of students and different kinds of demands placed upon us

If we started failing out larger percentages than already fail out, there would be hell to pay. . . And I don't have tenure!!

Anonymous said...

This pressure must not be having much effect. We graduate less than 15% of our freshmen after 4 years and only 46% after 6. 25% of these students drop out after the first year alone.

It isn't that we are failing many students out either. With the GPA on campus at nearly a B average (2.95), few students actually fail. Grade matter most to students who need a specific GPA for admission to a professional progeam (business, journalism, CJ, ed, etc).

The sad fact is that many of our classes aren't very engaging, our requirements are often bizantine, campus climate is unappealing, advising is frequently poor and student contact with instructors outside the classroom negligible. Much of the day the halls at UWO are dead with faculty pursuing their own external interests and professional development

Lammers said...

>>>This pressure must not be having much effect. We graduate less than 15% of our freshmen after 4 years and only 46% after 6. 25% of these students drop out after the first year alone. It isn't that we are failing many students out either. With the GPA on campus at nearly a B average (2.95), few students actually fail.<<<

My impression is that a major reason students leave UWO before graduation is because they don't know why they are here.

For many people, going to college is the academic equivalent of Eating Broccoli: they do it because they've heard It's Good For You, NOT because they like it. They have heard that Life Will Suck if you don't go to college; they've been told that you'll earn a bazillion dollars more if you have a college degree than if you don't. But these are seldom adequate motivation to really do well in college.

Anyone who lacks internalized motivation simply is going to have a difficult time staying the course anmd seeing it through to conclusion.

Once a student has figured out in his or her own mind WHY he or she is going to college -- a GOOD reason why -- the student does just fine, more often than not.

Anonymous said...

We need to take more responsiblity for student failure. No one expects UWO to match Madison's graduation rate of 76% after 6 years but we should be able to do at least as well as our comprehensive peers: Eau Claire 57%, Stevens Point 58%,La Crosse 62%, Whitewater 53%. If we were a college sports team, the NCAA would place us on probation and take away atheletic scholarships for such poor student performance.