Professors on Facebook II
I neither accept nor proffer friend requests from current students.
I do this because, well, I’m not their friend — and letting them think otherwise is deeply problematic. I’m their teacher, their sometimes advisor, and their occasionally harsh taskmaster. Friendship comes only after the grading portion of the relationship is over — and only then if I’m in a good mood.
My teaching days predated the Facebook era, so this wasn’t a problem I faced. But I’d have no sooner “friended” a student than have had them to call me by my first name. Creating the false illusion of equality in a hierarchical relationship is a bad idea all around.
West Point cadets are required to memorize this passage from Brevet Major William Jenkins Worth’s Battalion Orders:
[A]n officer on duty knows no one — to be partial is to dishonor both himself and the object of his ill-advised favor. What will be thought of him who exacts of his friends that which disgraces him? Look at him who winks at and overlooks offences in one, which he causes to be punished in another, and contrast him with the inflexible soldier who does his duty faithfully, notwithstanding it occasionally wars with his private feelings. The conduct of one will be venerated and emulated, the other detested as a satire upon soldiership and honor.
With some minor editing, that serves as good advice to anyone in a position of authority.