Alcohol consumption is part of a college student’s experience, whether they choose to drink or know others who do. Students who use alcohol on a dry campus and are caught usually face a monetary sanction and/or an educational course about alcohol. This even includes students who are of age to legally drink alcohol, if it’s on a campus that discourages use of alcohol in any dormitory, apartment, or townhouse owned by the college.
Living in a technological age can lead to problems, such as if Facebook photos exposing students of their drinking habits on campus are discovered. What happens when a college or university discovers these incriminating photos, and what action is taken?
The tri-college community within Fargo-Moorhead strives for an educational outlook with students who break college policy. Although North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University – Moorhead and Concordia may differ in how they handle students who face drinking charges, their goal is the same: focus on a student’s needs to provide further education about alcohol and their experiences, and how the student is impacting their campus community.
Most often, Residence Life staffs first communicate with students if they are facing an alcohol violation, or are suspected drinking on campus, and Facebook photos are discovered.
According to Mikal Kenfield, associate director of Residence Life at Concordia, she and her student staff don’t routinely check the Facebook profiles of residents.
“There’s no official written policy about Facebook,” Kenfield said, “but we’ve chosen, as a department, how to address and view Facebook.”
Kenfield said that if a Facebook photo in which a student is consuming alcohol on campus is brought to the attention of the residence life staff, it can’t be used as the sole source of evidence. According to Kenfield, it is used to start an educational conversation with a student, such as how their habits are impacting themselves and their community.
A Facebook photo also gives a Residence Life staff member reasonable cause to stop by a student’s room, not to enter the room without the student’s permission, but to check out the situation to see if anything is amiss, according to Kenfield.
Casey Peterson, associate director of staffing in the department of Residence Life at NDSU, said that NDSU’s policies were similar to Concordia.
“There isn’t an official policy written down [about Facebook], and there won’t be one anytime soon,” Peterson said. “It isn’t really an issue.”
Peterson said that the only time he has actively searched the Facebook profiles of students was before hiring the summer Residence Life staff. He said he wanted to make sure that the students he was hiring would set a good example for the campus. Other than that, he and the Residence Life staff don’t actively search profiles of students.
Heather Phillips, director of Residence Life at MSUM, also confirmed that there wasn’t a written policy about Facebook at MSUM.
Phillips said she and her staff don’t go out and search for photos of students. Much like Concordia and NDSU, these photos will be used as a conversation starter for students.
Alcohol-related Facebook photos aren’t a large problem at any of the three campuses in town, but Kenfield said that students should be wary about what they are posting online. In Peterson’s case, although students didn’t get into trouble with their photos, they could’ve potentially been overlooked for a summer job.