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Ohio State RAs facilitate social media expectations between roommates

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

Students living in residence halls have to fill out a roommate agreement when they move in at the start of the semester, but different from previous years, some might have noticed their resident advisers address social media expectations.
Many students now must answer the question, “What are your expectations around tweeting/Facebook posts about the other(s)?” as part of the University Residences and Dining Services’ “Roommate/Suitemate Agreement Guide.”
Barb Kefalas, associate director in the Office of Student Life, said in an email that the decision to include this topic in the agreements was due to the increased popularity of social networking sites among students.
“We’ve continued to see a rise in usage in both Facebook and Twitter, and so including a conversation about these topics seemed to make sense,” Kefalas said. “With each passing year, students continue to be more technologically savvy and as staff who work with students on a daily basis, it’s important to us to be in touch with these trends.”
Kefalas said that as problems with social media arise this year, RAs and residence hall directors will deal with any issues. The university does not currently have a policy regarding social media between roommates, and the guidebook only provides a starting point for discussions among roommates.
“The conversation between roommates regarding social media is simply facilitated and encouraged by RAs,” Kefalas said. “It’s good practice to openly discuss and be proactive about issues that may come up in daily living.”
While many say social media use might be a good thing for RAs to discuss with residents, OSU law professor David Goldberger said guidelines like this tend to be too vague to enforce.
“It seems to me what the university is trying to do is trying to handle it by persuasion and by articulating standards rather than initiating disciplinary proceedings,” Goldberger said. “I think that’s probably the sounder way to go. The courts have often found the rules that prohibit the kind of activity (social media use) to be unconstitutional because they’re too vague, or they’re too broad, and they’re very troublesome when they are enforced.”
Katie Rudibaugh, a second-year in exploration, said she thinks its good that this issue is being discussed.
“I think it’s good that it’s at least talked about because people can sometimes put rude things as their (Facebook) statuses or talk about people on there,” Rudibaugh said. “I don’t know about a policy to punish people. I think you should just not do it.”
Chelsea Gordon, a second-year in middle childhood education, said she sees how social media conflicts could create problems among roommates.
“I think it should definitely be addressed and there should definitely be a policy regarding it because it’s a huge part of people’s everyday lives and can do a lot of damage,” Gordon said. “(People) act differently behind the screen than they would face-to-face with someone, so I think that for sure it should be addressed.”

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