Candidates don’t deserve disqualifications for Facebook groups

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    At my first TCU Homecoming, I didn’t even realize we had a Mr. and Ms. TCU. After years of high school homecomings, this was a relief. Instead of selecting a queen and king, which implies royalty as well as popularity, we have Mr. and Ms. TCU – students who represent the ideal college student through contributions and involvement in the university and community. But the best part was that I didn’t even know there was a competition. No glittery posters lining the walls, telling you why Nominee A is so cool, no flyers with pictures explaining why Nominee B deserves it the most and no lollipops with slogans attached describing all the wonderful things Nominee C has done for the school (though I wouldn’t say no to the candy; that’s usually who I ended up voting for). Instead, students see the candidates when they go to vote on my.tcu.edu and decide without any outside influence. While I support this regulation of no soliciting for votes, the recent disqualification of nominees due to solicitation on Facebook groups is taking it too far.

    As explained in Thursday’s issue of the Skiff, three Ms. TCU candidates did not appear on the ballot after homecoming coordinators discovered they each had Facebook groups promoting their selection. All three of these candidates, who signed a form stating they would not solicit votes, said these groups were created by friends.

    These friends, however, didn’t sign anything. In no way did they agree not to support candidates, and it’s impossible to make sure that no one out there promotes a candidate in some way. However, candidates aware of these groups still don’t have the power to remove them. The most they can do is personally ask the group administrator, who may or may not be aware that the group is a violation of policy, to delete it. This is simply a case of punishing candidates for something they had no control over.

    If friends knew the rule banning solicitation, it’s unlikely that they would think it applied to a social-networking site. Most students like to think sites such as MySpace and Facebook are secure, so the only people viewing students’ information is who they allow to do so, which in most cases is limited to other students. As such, students don’t have to see these groups if they don’t want to. Unless a student already knew the candidate or searched specifically for these groups, they probably wouldn’t know they existed. Furthermore, students choose to have a Facebook account – there are plenty of students out there, believe it or not, who choose not to have one, or at least choose not to spend a lot of time searching it. These groups are easily avoidable if students don’t want to see them.

    I was a little surprised in the first place that university officials would even check Facebook for Mr./Ms. TCU solicitation. I can completely understand limiting signs or other means of promotion on campus, but sites like Facebook are not university-sponsored in the first place, so the university shouldn’t expect to have control over them.

    But the main problem with this concept arises in enforcing it. Now that students know they can get a nominee disqualified from the comfort and security of their own computer, what will keep them from making groups specifically for that reason? If there’s someone you would rather not see take the title, all you have to do is make a Facebook group supporting them and they could be disqualified. If anything, these disqualifications just opened up all sorts of new ways to cause trouble within the system. There’s no way the university can expect to monitor and maintain everything that occurs on Facebook.

    While the no-solicitation rule is in place for a reason, and for a reason I support, it’s unfair to eliminate these candidates for reasons they did not realize existed and they couldn’t control. Instead of disqualifying the candidates, it makes more sense to simply delete the groups, warn candidates to make sure no new groups are created and go on with voting as planned. These students were nominated for all the good they’ve done. The fact that they have support of friends unaware of the rules doesn’t negate this in any way.

    Valerie Cooper is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Azle. Her column appears every Wednesday.