Last semester at Villanova University, student-athletes were required to friend request a particular profile on Facebook so the university's athletic department could watch the behavior of its collegians more closely. The entity is an account on behalf of "VarsityMonitor," which helps institutions police the use of social media in their sports programs – a company Villanova partnered with at the beginning of 2012.
Not surprisingly, kids aren't happy.
But while it doesn't incite much mutual trust, the program does speak to how individuals should relate to their affiliation – something authorities don't argue as often as they should. Post-grads on the job market, specifically, might find a reason to embrace an online lifestyle of similar self-moderation.
"VarsityMonitor was created to alleviate the burden of managing your athletes' social media activities while helping everyone in the athletics industry develop and enforce fair and effective social media policies," the company states on its website.
A fragment of its mission statement reveals one of the biggest reasons students are annoyed by the Pennsylvania-based school's initiative. "Enforcing fair and effective social media policies," based on how the university is actually using it, seems antithetical to what sites like Twitter and Facebook imply in their own policies, which prohibit the invasion of privacy.
Employers who look up applicants on the social network – or even ask for their passwords – don't have the best reputation because they do exactly that, blurring the line between staff's work lives and social lives.
Other athletes at Villanova might say it's simply a matter of keeping the responsibility on the field – that as long as you show up when it counts, your social life is irrelevant, and any remaining gap in potential is only cheating the individual. Who's to say employee performance shouldn't be treated the same way?
The Real Reason
"The move [to VarsityMonitor] is about protecting the university’s and the student’s images and reputations," a university spokesperson told NBC Philadelphia.
This concept tends to go unsaid in the continuous debate on social media's place in professional settings, and it's very important. Everyone is allowed to post a record of their lives however they want. But when contracted athletes do the same, their names simultaneously brand what they elected to represent. Suddenly an innocent picture or post becomes the product of an organization that doesn't care nearly as much about how much beer someone drank last night as they do about what it says for the integrity of the university.
(The prospective employee can see where this is going.)
TMC's Jamie Epstein discusses this very idea in a recent episode of "The Social Scene." See the full video below.
Of course, there's one immovable pillar: the terms and conditions of firms like Facebook, as well as the ethical standards of millions, are what they are. Personal privacy is a priceless component of our community, no matter what's at stake.
For employers and athletic directors, then, the pursuit of personal responsibility is twofold: Flaunt the importance of the company, not the individual. And perhaps most importantly, realize that blanket programs like VarsityMonitor only produce spite, alienate upper management, open the door to a number of legal issues and come nowhere close to treating the problem – as easy and inexpensive as it may be. It's a matter of rendering standards of acceptable content one occurrence at a time.
For recent graduates, act according to these ideals, and see how you feel about your Facebook page next time you apply for a job....
Edited by Brooke Neuman