Facebook for faculty, too


    “How cool are you? You’re on Facebook!” a TCU professor’s stepson told her after he found her profile on the popular Web site.Almost 7,500 TCU accounts are registered on Facebook, a Web site students check as often as their e-mail.

    But the Facebook is not reserved for students only.

    Fourteen faculty members are registered on Facebook; Nine joined this semester.

    Carol Thompson, an associate professor of sociology, is a TCU faculty member on Facebook and is seen as “cool” by her stepson at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Student office workers in the sociology department told Thompson she should join Facebook. After finding out another professor in the department, Michael Katovich, was a member, she said she decided it might be a good idea.

    “(Facebook) makes me feel like I’m wired in,” Thompson said. “It’s another tentacle in a social network.”

    Thompson uses Facebook as a tool to get ideas for her classes.

    In her social theory class, she showed clips from “Office Space” to demonstrate points in the lesson. It was because of Facebook that Thompson knew the movie was popular among her students.

    Darren Middleton, an associate professor of religion, also uses the Web site for class purposes, mostly for keeping track of students’ names.

    He used to take pictures of his students and have them fill out a survey about their interests, but he said Facebook has provided an alternative.

    “I went on and suddenly saw that the Facebook had actually brought people together in a strange kind of way,” Middleton said.

    Middleton said students might either “find it invasive, or sort of a compliment that a professor dug down a little deeper.”

    Katie Burchfield, a freshman neuroscience major in one of Middleton’s classes, knows he looks at students’ profiles to remember their names, but she said professors could pass false judgement on students while reading their profiles.

    Burchfield said students have the opportunity to learn more about their professors and that faculty members can do the same.

    Beata Jones, an associate professor of professional practice in e-business, said, “(Facebook) makes the faculty more of a human being to the student.”

    Jones said she thought it was “extraordinary” to see that a student and her had two of the same favorite books.

    When Jones is not keeping in touch with former students, she said, she uses Facebook groups to relay messages to her classes. She created groups for her classes at the beginning of the semester and asked them to join.

    Jones said Facebook has also served as an outreach tool to find students interested in e-business and let them know about EBA, the Electronic Business Association.

    Jones has a picture of her and her husband, but eight professors do not have their pictures included on their profiles.

    Seven of the professors have a question mark where the picture should be, which is displayed when someone has not uploaded a picture. But Thompson has neither a question mark nor a picture of herself.

    Her profile has a picture of a chimpanzee.

    Thompson said she had a picture of herself on her profile at first, but felt uncomfortable with her picture on the Internet.

    She said she decided to replace it with a picture that reflected her interests. The chimpanzee symbolizes her concern for animal rights.

    “(Your profile) is another extension of yourself in a contemporary world,” Thompson said.