The Facebook has rapidly become an integral part of the college experience. We all know that the Facebook allows students to access information about other students that would normally only be available through an engaging conversation. For some, this may seem like the decline of human social skill, but for others, especially for new students, it is another beneficial way to join the close community we have at Amherst.
With the advent and popularization of the Facebook, students are capable of being connected earlier and at an unprecedented level before they ever set foot on campus. This new technology has the potential to make the transition from high school to college a much smoother and more engaging process for freshmen. The time has come for the administration of Amherst College (and of other progressive institutes of higher education) to embrace the Facebook just as much as students have.
The orientation program can also be vastly improved via online networks like the Facebook. By requiring students to join it or recommending that they do so, the College administration will create a more enriching orientation environment: communicating with other students online before speaking in person can give new students a way to bypass that initial awkward stage. Students will have a common ground before they arrive on campus.
Such a level of connectivity within the Facebook also allows freshmen to gain access to the wealth of information possessed by Amherst upperclassmen. Knowledge about restaurants, surrounding colleges and other towns can be exchanged early on. This exchange will give incoming freshmen important information about the town of Amherst and the college they will be attending. To facilitate the process, the Dean of Students Office could assign certain upperclassmen several new freshmen to contact via Facebook to discuss happenings on campus or address any concerns. With such a powerful tool at the fingertips of the College administration, it’s a shame to not use it.
Many of the concerns that new students have revolve around the quality of professors and classes. Discussions with upperclassmen are much more valuable help than are Web site ratings that don’t answer specific questions and leave too much room for discrepancies. Once again, the College can easily facilitate this flow of discussion by providing freshmen with similarly-interested contacts. This will save valuable time during the add/drop period when students miss out on course material and assignments simply because they don’t know which classes they actually want to take.
The Facebook can also open the opportunity for direct discourse with professors-the College can require each professor to create a profile and join groups representing their specific departments. As the Facebook evolves and becomes an online community, it only makes sense for the future to involve the faculty of our college.
Such integration of the Facebook into Amherst College academic life will create a far more dynamic understanding of the College curriculum than the course catalogs could ever provide.
Dykens can be reached at