While teaching Marketing 101 last fall, Wharton professors Keith Niedermeier and Peter Fader made a bet: They challenged each other to create Facebook profiles and see who would have more friends by the end of the semester.
But there was one rule: neither professor could make any friend requests.
These days, over a dozen Penn faculty members have created Facebook profiles for reasons as varied as seeing what students look like to getting in touch with them.
Statistically, it makes sense: The fastest growing demographic of Facebook users are those over 24 years olds, including university professors, according to the site's research.
Students benefit too, getting more intimate glimpses of their instructors.
For example, Psychology professor Sharon Thompson-Schill has six photos tagged of her skydiving, while College Dean Dennis DeTurck's Facebook wall boasts a number of birthday wishes.
Geoffrey Aguirre updated his status on Tuesday, saying he "is consulting, neurologically speaking." He lists his job description as "braaaaiiinnnssss.."
Most professors-turned-Facebook users realize that students may find their participation in a once student-only network a little bit odd.
"I've heard students say it's a little creepy or stalkerish that a professor would be on Facbook, and that's not the way I want to come off," Niedermeier said.
"It's a nice way to interact with professors, . but it might be a little uncomfortable" for some students, said College sophomore Jessica Wolfe, who is Facebook friends with Thompson-Schill, her professor last spring.
To avoid that, Aguirre's policy is to not initiate friend requests.
"There's a lot of stuff people have on their Facebook pages that you wouldn't want your boss or mom to know about, and I don't want to put [students] in an uncomfortable situation," Aguirre said. "So now I don't add friends, . but if they invite me then I'll add them."
"But even if they're not friending you," Niedermeier said, "more and more professors are creating Facebook profiles and are using the network to stay in touch with alumni and current students."
DeTurck, who signed up because he was curious what all the hype was about, said, "Occasionally, if I'm trying to reach a student and for some reason his e-mail address isn't working and he isn't in class, I'll try [to contact] him through Facebook."
Since his bet to join the network, Niedermeier said Facebook is a "powerful networking tool that can be used to keep up with students who fall off the face of the earth when they graduate."
When the bet was over at the end of the semester, Niedermeier took first place with four more friends than Fader.
To date, Niedermeier has 102 Penn friends, and Fader has 78.Comments powered by Disqus
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