Posts searching for roommates, keys and PennCards abound on Penn’s admitted student Facebook group.
However, the group’s role in helping future classes look for lost jackets or connect with classmates is in jeopardy.
In a statement issued on Nov. 15, the that one of the perpetrators of the racist GroupMe messages that targeted black freshmen had been admitted to Penn and joined the private Class of 2020 Facebook group. The individual used his access to the group to gather the contact information of black freshmen and add them to the GroupMe.
The press release added that, “We are working to prevent this type of access in the future.”
More than three months after those revelations, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda has not yet made a final decision regarding possible changes to the Class of 2021 Facebook group, which already contains over 1,100 early decision admits.
One thing Furda is considering is deleting the Facebook group after a certain time frame.
“If this is an admitted student group, then we can decide at a certain point, let’s say the May 1 reply date, that that group no longer exists, that we take the group down,” Furda said. “The purpose has already been served.”
The Admissions Office revokes access to the Facebook group for individuals who were accepted but declined Penn’s offer of admission. However, Penn Admissions Marketing Director Kathryn Bezella said students can turn down Penn’s offer at any point leading up to the beginning of the fall semester.
“Someone can say ‘Yes’ and then on August 1, say ‘No,’” Bezella said. “That’s where the challenge comes because there isn’t one day in which everyone who’s going to give us that false ‘Yes’ decides to study somewhere else.”
Class of 2021 early decision admit Adya Aggarwal said while she would support some measures to control the security of the group, she wouldn’t advocate for its deletion.
“I’ve been able to connect with other peers in [my Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology program],” Aggarwal said. “The only way I’d know them is through this group, and that’s how we became a really tight-knit community.”
Aggarwal’s fellow class of 2021 early decision admit Anish Welde concurred that the group shouldn’t have an expiration date, noting that such a policy wouldn’t necessarily address the privacy concerns that led to the GroupMe incident. Welde said many admits have started their own student-regulated GroupMe chats, which allow students to contact each other independent of Facebook.
“If you want to protect students from these kinds of things, you might want to have a responsible adult be a part of the GroupMe itself,” Welde said. “That also has the added problem of the students wanting their privacy and them wanting to be able to converse with other students without worrying that the admissions officers are reading their messages.”
For Furda, the issue of admitted student Facebook groups ultimately boils down to the question: When do ‘admitted students’ become ‘Penn students?’
“By the time New Student Orientation starts, the purpose of this specific Facebook group — or any group — is no longer relevant because you’re not an admitted student, you’re now a student here,” Furda said. “That’s the type of decision that we need to make.”