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Oxford Administrators Using Facebook to Monitor Students

by Associated Press

LONDON
For students at the University
of Oxford, Facebook is a great way
to keep posted on gossip and parties. For university authorities, it’s a way to
find and fine troublemakers.

After exams,
students at the historic English university traditionally drop their serious
ways and indulge in a spasm of “trashings” — rowdy revels that include getting
covered in foam, eggs and flour by their classmates.

In recent years,
students have taken to posting photos of the mess on the social networking site
Facebook.com.

Martin
McCluskey, president of the Oxford University Student Union, told The
Associated Press
today that disciplinary officers at the 800-year-old
university began e-mailing and fining students whose Facebook profiles
contained pictures of trashings. The fines range from approximately $80 to
$200.

McCluskey sent
e-mails to all members warning them that they are being spied upon.

“It’s fairly
disgraceful and underhand,” he says. “Disciplinary procedures are supposed to
be transparent.”

A university
spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, confirmed the practice
and said it had started after receiving complaints of unruly student behavior.

“The University
Proctors have told the students that they are welcome to meet their friends
after their exams but that students who create a mess in the street with food
or alcohol, or who indulge in anti-social behavior contrary to university
regulations, will be disciplined.”

The student
union advised students with Facebook accounts to alter privacy settings “to
prohibit members of staff and faculty from viewing your profile and
photographs.”

The Web site,
which has an estimated 30 million users around the world, has seen its surge in
popularity coincide with an increase in the number of individuals getting into
trouble because of the content of their personal pages.

Miss New Jersey,
Amy Polumbo, reported being blackmailed by a group threatening to reveal racy
photos of her if she didn’t relinquish her crown. The photos had been posted on
Polumbo’s Facebook site. The beauty queen released the photos herself instead,
and will keep her crown.

In April, five
students at a Toronto school were
banned from an end-of-the-year trip after disparaging remarks about a teacher
were found on Facebook.

Alex Hill, a
philosophy and mathematics student at Oxford,
told The Associated Press that she received a disciplinary e-mail.

Hill said the e-mail stated that three of her photos
provided evidence she had engaged in “disorderly” conduct.

“They gave me links
to three photos on Facebook where I’ve got shaving foam all over me as examples
of my disorderly conduct. I think it’s an appalling thing to do” she said.

The university
first introduced fines for misdemeanors in 2004.

– Associated Press

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