College students learning lessons the hard way with

Red plastic cups, cloudy puffs of smoke and a spectrum of colored glass bottles beside a pyramid of aluminum beer cans are a few things found in the profile images of thousands of college students on the popular websites of Facebook and Myspace.

With rumors of Facebook searches on the rise coupled with the recent dismissal of a University of Texas football player for an offensive message on his Facebook profile, college students’ questions abound. Many students wonder, is Sam Houston State University one of the many colleges across the nation taking a peek through cyber windows and into the lives of partying students?

Stop the rumors.

The university is not searching Facebook and Myspace images solely to catch students involved in underage drinking and illegal activities.

“None of us would have the time to actually go randomly through Myspace looking for students violating code of student conduct,” Dean of Students John Yarabeck said. “I can assure you we don’t do that in this office.”

Yarabeck says the university will not be aggressively seeking violations through Facebook and Myspace, or holding the sites as the sole determinant of an allegation.

However, Yarabek said there are some rare occasions where the university does take a peek at what students are hiding on these popular social networking sites.

“If we get a police report alleging a student has been in violation of the student code of conduct, there are times when we do access his or her Facebook to see what we might find on them (such as weapon allegations, or serious drug violations),” Yarabeck said.

According to Yarabeck, other universities have looked into using the websites to seek violations.

“If it was legal, it would find its way into police work, but I don’t see it happening for years to come at Sam Houston,” Yarabeck said. “Our university police force is short handed now, and they just don’t have the time. I don’t see that happening at sam houston in the near future.”

The dean of students advises students to be precautious.

“We do warn students that more and more employers as well as others are getting access to Facebook and Myspace,” he said. “If someone is hoping for a career in say criminal justice, and they are on their Facebook site smoking a bong, they probably are not going to get the job. They need to be smart about that.”

Graduate school applications and career opportunities are also to be taken into consideration.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if grad school admissions officers click on to Facebook just like employers have already started doing,” Yarabeck said. “Sometimes people don’t get into those schools because of what’s found there.”

Yarabeck also said illegal activities or questionable activities, including alcohol consumption if it is clear the student is under 21, reflect negatively on applications, and he encouraged students to remove images harmful to their reputations.

“I’m hopeful through this students can learn the big picture of Facebook,” Yarabeck said. “It isn’t just fun and games, it can be harmful. Students need to be proactive and they need to think long term about that pictures they are putting up, and if ten years from now, if it’s going to mean something.”

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