As someone who has listened to “Watch what you put on Facebook” lectures since the social network was introduced to us in high school, it’s about time the tables have finally turned.
Nadirah Farah Foley, a former admissions officer for the University of Pennsylvania, lost her job after sharing excerpts from applicants’ essays on her personal Facebook page. Not only was she sharing these essays, she was mocking them. The posts were made available through a collection of Facebook screenshots sent anonymously to Dean of Admissions Eric Furda and The Daily Pennsylvanian.
In the Facebook posts, Foley revealed intimate details about several applicants. One student wrote about his fear of going to the bathroom outdoors, which she sarcastically described as “another gem.” Foley also commented, "[S]top the madness" in response to one essay in which an applicant claimed to have a connection with Penn because he was circumcised there. The post attracted 19 Likes and more than a dozen comments at the time of the screenshot.
Many of these posts were also shared anonymously on College Confidential, an online forum about the college admission process that is popular among high school students. Foley also linked to a Tumblr site called “Admissions Problems,” which is a site designed in a similar fashion of popular blog What Should We Call Me as an outlet for daily admissions encounters and complaints.
Getting fired because you publicly made fun of applicants’ essays....#admissionsproblems
We get it, sometimes you just need to vent. If it has to be through social media, that’s fine. But as Linda Sharps from The Stir puts it, “There's a pretty big difference between posting something vague like ‘Having a rough day -- can't wait for happy hour!’ and posting an actual student essay in order to ridicule the topic.”
As of now, Penn’s admissions officers do not have specific guidelines on how or if they can use social media. The university is currently reviewing policy changes that cover the privacy of applicant data and essay information. Colin Gruenwald, the director of college admissions programs for Kaplan’s test preparation division, said the lack of formal guidelines is the current norm among institutions. Kaplan’s surveys of admissions offices show only 15 percent of institutions have mandated social media rules for admissions officers. Contradictory to what many teachers, parents, advisors and employers have warned today’s future college students, among those that have implemented rules, more than two-thirds enforce an outright ban on using social media networks to gather information on applicants.
Facebook has been around for almost nine years now. Social media is the norm today, and the rules of these networks go back to the golden rule, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Hey, you could lose your job.