The Incriminator

    Instead of competing in the women’s ultimate Frisbee
    tournament she organized last month, Revelle
    College
    senior Angela
    Wells and her teammates found themselves
    cheering from the sidelines. Slammed with five conduct violations
    stemming from pictures posted on a member’s Facebook profile, the team joins a
    growing list of students facing disciplinary action for personal information
    listed on the popular social networking Web site. After a Nov. 16 team ceremony
    in which the players gave new members their official nicknames — a longstanding
    club tradition — they hosted a party to celebrate the start of a successful
    season. Before long, one team member took out her camera and began snapping
    pictures, later uploading them to a Facebook album titled “Psycho Initiation.”

    The next morning, however, the girls woke up to more than
    just hangovers — an anonymous person had reported the Facebook album to UCSD
    Sports Clubs Program administrators, and teammembers were told they would have
    to forfeit the tournament pending an investigation into the charges.

    Ultimately, the team was charged with five violations,
    including alcohol consumption at a sports club event and “rookie initiation” —
    a claim of hazing based in part on the title of the Facebook album. After an
    unsuccessful appeal to the office’s administration, the team was suspended from
    competing for the rest of the year.

    “No one was pressured to drink,” Wells said. “There was no
    hazing. It sucks that a girl can want to put up pictures of her friends at a
    social event, and it ruins our season.”

    The use of Facebook pictures as evidence of student
    misconduct is relatively rare, and is usually only pursued if reported directly
    to administrators, Director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Tony
    Valladolid said.

    “I’m not going to go out of my way to search for conduct
    code violations on Facebook,” he said. “That’s the same approach that all
    administrators responsible for student conduct take. If you bring it to our
    attention, we use it. [Facebook evidence] is just that; it’s evidence.”

    However, Valladolid said that like other photographic or
    video evidence, any content posted on Facebook is barred from usage for
    disciplinary purposes until it is authenticated.

    “There are all kinds of evidentiary issues with a photo or a
    video, for example,” he said. “How do you know a bong contains marijuana? How
    do you know a red cup contains alcohol? If someone is taking pictures or having
    their picture taken while violating the conduct code, it is subject to these
    evidentiary issues.”

    Eleanor Roosevelt College junior and Sixth College resident
    adviser Justin Lowenthal agreed with Valladolid, saying that while he doesn’t
    specifically look to enforce policy on Facebook, it does enhance his awareness
    of potential problems.

    “I don’t think [discipline based on Facebook] is fair,” he
    said. “It’s a caution factor that I should look at and keep in mind, but if I
    see it, I have not been told to do anything about it.”

    A number of other groups in addition to residence life
    monitor the site for incriminating activity as well, including a UCSD
    Panhellenic Council panel that fines sorority members identified in
    compromising situations.

    “They’ve always kept a really close check on Facebook,” said
    Revelle sophomore Maggie Milstein, president of Alpha Epsilon Phi. “We can’t
    have red cups, or be dressed scandalously. I even got contacted for some
    pictures I had up. It happens all the time.”

    Another problem common to Facebook users is the hiring
    process in the professional world, where employers and graduate schools tend to
    check applicants’ Facebook profiles. Valladolid confirmed that the trend is a
    ballooning obstacle for students who don’t closely monitor the content on their
    pages.

    “Employers are looking at Facebook, and so are people that
    license,” he said. “I won’t go so far as to say the American Bar Association is
    doing it, but they could.”

    The prospect of being judged by the content of a Facebook
    profile is very troubling, and provides extra incentive for users to be
    careful, said Earl Warren College senior Hunter Knight.

    “I think a really frightening thing about this is that you
    might think there is nothing wrong with your profile, but any potential boss
    might find something they don’t like, which as a result could cost you the job,
    and you would never know the real reason why,” he said.

    In response to growing concerns about these issues, UCSD’s
    Express to Success Program commissioned a student-led workshop about how to
    effectively navigate Facebook on Nov. 29. The seminar included tips on how to
    avoid fraud, security breaches and situations that could result in disciplinary
    action.

    Though these lessons came too late for the Frisbee team,
    Eleanor Roosevelt College senior and team captain Laura Wishingrad said that
    her teammates have learned from their mistakes.

    “We told our teams after that, ‘Be careful what you put on
    Facebook,’” she said. “I’d be overly cautious.”

    Valladolid echoed Wishingrad’s sentiment, saying that while
    the advantages of the site are numerous, so are its pitfalls.

    “I think Facebook is a wonderful medium, and [this]
    generation will use it to great advantage,” he said. “But, they need to be
    very, very attuned to adverse consequences if they put information on there
    that paints them in a bad light.”

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