As Tara and I have been discussing, we have seen a stark increase the number of cases where students, both in high school and college, have gotten in trouble for what they are posting on sites like Facebook.com or MySpace.com. As best I can tell, college administrators are scared to death of these sites because they provide a huge new forum for students to talk to each other and they are discovering—gasp—that students can be disrespectful of authority, rude, and not particularly PC. Sometimes they even make fun of their teachers or their roommates and use bad words. I know that some administrators are quite mystified to see that students sometimes use the rudest words to address their best friends (while, of course, anyone who grew up in Philly or New York or even just watches the Sopranos understands that). I have even attended special seminars for college administrators frightened about how to deal with “issues” arising from sites like Facebook.
Such seminars should be no surprise. College administrations have been uneasy with truly free speech for decades now. To their credit, the presenters of these seminars did remind college administrators of free speech and that college deans should not be trolling around these sites look for offensive speech, but I am not sure many of those in attendance were really comfortable with letting all this offensive joking be. I predict we will see many more cases like the ones at UCF for a long time coming.