FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2008
Contact: K.E. Schwab
College of Education cautions students about social network use
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's College of Education does not monitor the popular Internet social network MySpace or similar online sites, but "We give fair warning to our students that any inappropriate photographs or writing on such sites could lead to serious problems," said Jay Hertzog, dean of SRU's College of Education.
Hertozg's comments followed a recent federal court ruling upholding Millersville University's decision to grant a graduating senior a degree in English rather than and education degree. The student's lawyer had argued that an unflattering photo posted on MySpace showing the 28-year-old student wearing a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup with a caption reading "drunken pirate" had played a part in the university's decision regarding the awarding of her degree. The photo of Stacy Snyder was taken at a 2005 Halloween party. The suit was filed in 2007 alleging violation of her First Amendment rights and asked the court to order Millersville to grant her an education degree.
"This was never about a photograph. To the contrary, it was about performance standards," Francine G. McNairy, Millersville University president, told The Associated Press. News stories about the lawsuit have pointed out Snyder was unable to complete her student teaching after her cooperating school became aware of the photo and voiced objections to Millersville officials.
The case's dismissal was issued earlier this month by U.S. District Judge Paul E. Diamond.
"As students enter SRU's College of Education, we make it very clear that we do not monitor such sites, but we repeatedly point out that students should remove anything from such Internet sites they would not want to see on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette," Hertzog said. "We know of school districts that monitor such sites, and we know that if the school doesn't, its students often do and those students will quickly bring items to the attention of their school administrators."
"A school district made aware of objectionable Internet postings could refuse to allow a student to undertake their required student teaching, or could remove a student once the student teaching had begun," Hertzog said. "Of course, without completing the student teaching requirement, the student could not obtain a Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate - and would thus be unable to teach in the commonwealth. We try to stress how important close monitoring of such Internet sites is to those wanting to enter the teaching profession. We continually urge them to use the 'Post-Gazette test.'"
Hertzog said while he is not personally registered on any of the social network pages, he understands their importance to today's generation. "My own children participate and often send me links to such pages to review. I know students use these networks, but we want to make sure they understand the ramifications if they don't use discretion in what they post."
A recent NBC "Today Show" segment about such sites urged users and others to always be aware when they are having their photo taken at parties and similar social gatherings, since the photos could be posted on the Web, coming back later to haunt the subject if employers or potential employers find the photos objectionable. The segment also pointed out that once posted on the Internet there is no way to permanently remove the photos. Last year, 15 members of the SRU men's and women's outdoor track teams, along with two student trainers, were suspended for one meet after a student athlete posted Facebook photos taken at a drinking party.
Lynne Motyl, assistant vice president for human resources, said the University does not monitor the social network pages in which University employees may elect to participate unless it somehow becomes an issue. "However, since 2006, the University has conducted criminal background checks on all new employees as part of the standard hiring process."
SRU also conducts degree(s) verifications and Social Security number verifications for all new employees as a way to prevent identity theft. Where appropriate to the position, driver license and financial background checks are also conducted. SRU has a background check contract with an outside vendor to handle the actual process," Motyl said.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.