Brad Ward, the Electronic Communication Coordinator at Butler University noticed something strange about Butler's Class of 2013 group on Facebook... the administrator for the group had not actually been accepted to Butler. Alerted to something fishy by a colleague at Winthrop, Brad began digging deeper and noticed that a few names were behind hundreds of Class of 2013 groups on Facebook.
Now the Common Application may make it easy to apply to a dozen schools, but three students appeared as the administrators for more than 40 Class of 2013 groups each. Ward eventually traced the Facebook users back to College Prowler, which had recruited students as unpaid interns to spearhead its "social marketing strategy."
Ward and many of his colleagues at universities across the country expressed concern that these groups could have been used to "spam" students and push affiliate links onto unsuspecting students.
This started a healthy debate about what roles colleges should be playing on Facebook. Should they be actively engaging students, starting "official" Facebook groups for incoming classes, or leveraging other Facebook opportunities? Or should they take a more hands-off role allowing students to drive interactions related to college admissions? This latest incident is likely to push many colleges and universities to be more pro-active. Ward already intends to set up the OFFICIAL Butler Class of 2013 group, not because he wants to moderate the discussion, but because he wants to make sure students have a safe place to discuss Butler without having to worry about being marketed to by for-profit companies.
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