Using Facebook to stalk former professors

Have any of you faculty-types received hate mail from former students via your Facebook account?  Here’s a little something that landed in the Facebook “message” account of a friend of mine.  (She has since moved on to another professional calling.)  
Hello, i had you as a professor for Greek Philosophy at the University of D*****.  I mean no disrespect here but you actually kicked me out of a class for calling some girl a name (that i never called her and would ever call her or anyone) simply because she told you i did. To this day me and my best friend Jay are still bothered by the fact you did that. You made my college experience way more difficult than it had to be. You are one of the most difficult people i have ever dealt with and am so glad to see you are a “former” philosophy professor mainly because no other student will have to deal with your bullshit again. Didn’t surprise me you would take a woman’s word over mine. You pushed your hardcore feminist BS on everyone. The thing was i tried so hard to be accepted by you in college i guess it took years of realization that you are in fact a horrible professor and probably not that much better of a person.

Well, then:  I’m glad he meant “no disrespect!”  (And who after the age of 22 still uses “i” instead of “I?”  Somehow, I don’t get the impression that this guy is an e.e. cummings enthusiast.)

What’s your diagnosis?  Is this the Facebook message equivalent of “drunk dialing?”  (My friend the professor has no memory of this student, who signed his full name, nor does she recall kicking anyone out of class.)  Was he checking his Facebook page and wondering, “gee, I wonder what ever happened to that awful feminist philosopher I took a class with ten years ago?”  Personally, I read this as a cry for help.

The writer rather winds himself up into a state, with each sentence he writes making him progressively angrier, from “I mean no disrespect” to “bullshit” to “harcore feminist BS” to “you are in fact a horrible professor and probably not that much better of a person.”  I wonder why being told to leave one class once made his “college experience way more difficult than it had to be?”  How fortunate for him that this was the worst experience of his college years!

Isn’t it fantastic to know that we’re so memorable, all these years later?

25 thoughts on “Using Facebook to stalk former professors

  1. My 5th grade elementary teacher is on Facebook. I looked him up to see if he was dead because you know how when you are young you don’t really know how old people are. My first impulse was “to think” about sending him a message telling him he was a sexist ass when I was in his 5th grade class. Instead, I just rolled my eyes at his happy-ass pictures, —standing in front of some European landmark like he never behaved like a sexist to a little 5th grade girl back in 19whenever…………

    Oh, and I wasn’t drunk.


  2. It is possible to make your facebook page rather private, if you wish, so that you need never be bothered with messages from strangers. In my case, I have “lists” so that certain people on my friends list cannot see all parts of my facebook activity; I also have made my profile completely non-accessible for anyone who is not already my friend; and non-searchable under my name. I also cannot be “friended” by someone unless we already have a common friend.

    But yeah, that ex-student is a little out of touch with reality. Really? Being kicked out of a class traumatized you that much? Grow up, dude. Just grow up.


  3. I never heard of anybody’s *actual* best friend being “bothered”–or anything less than totally cracked up–by the spectacle of knowing somebody who was kicked out of a class. This would have gotten anybody I ever knew in college razzed at every opportunity for the rest of their life. In fact, I only ever saw anybody kicked out of a class once in college, for the undeniable act of falling asleep in class (although he did try to deny it, while admitting that he was “almost asleep.”).

    The nuanced distinction between “horrible professor” and “probably not that much better of a person” does suggest, though, that he may have learned a tiny amount of philosophy, however inadvertently and reluctantly.

    I still don’t really know exactly what you “do” with a facebook page, much less why you would want to do it, so I guess I’m only vulnerable on RateMyProfs. I have gotten a recent invitation to “become part of [somebody’s] professional network at LinkedIn,” so I guess I’ll have to see about this.


  4. Wow. Perhaps “Academically Adrift” is correct – students do not seem to be learning critical thinking at university – or even how to be adult, if he really is still traumatised from being kicked out of a class.

    @Indyanna – occasionally, students nod off in my class. I don’t take it personally. Most of them work, some of them two or three jobs, and I’m glad they are in class at all. If they make a habit of it, I take them aside and try to learn more about their situation. On every occasion (3 students over 10 years), they have been juggling classes with demanding work schedules, and in one case a baby too.

    By the way, hello, and I’m glad to have found this blog!


  5. I’ve never received anything hateful from a former student via Facebook, nor do I know of anybody else who’s gotten that sort of missive. From what I know, students at my institution like to hate on professors in student evaluations or in complaints to the chair or the dean of students or whatever. Very few of them even use Rate My Professor. Are they just old-fashioned? Maybe they haven’t gotten the memo that they are part of “the Facebook generation”?


  6. So does this picture mean you have come down on the “accepting ‘douchebag’ as an appropriate insult” side of the debate we had a few months earlier on this blog?

    I remember you put it to the question whether it was at base misogynist or not.

    (PS I like these pics better than the skeevy cowgirl ones)


  7. Sis–I have been hanging out with “young people” (people in their 30s and even mid-20s) lately, and douchebag seems to be the insult of choice for jerks x 1000 these days. People my age would say “d!ck,” but I think that actually grants the offender too much power.

    I saw someone on “Brothers & Sisters” say “douchebag” on network TV Sunday night. So I have to go with the flow…(and yeah, the image above was just so right.)


  8. I think the more relaxed medium may make it seem more acceptable to some people to do this. In this case, though, my sense is that the student is pretty disturbed. I mean, what’s the purpose of stomping on a former professor like this, even if you really dislike them? Just beyond the pale.


  9. I have been told (more than once)on end-of-the semester evaluations that I hate both men and America. Although usually not in the same comment, come to think of it. I have never had any student try to send a comment via Facebook–although I do have the privacy settings up pretty high.


  10. As a K-12 teacher I have a lot of former students as friends on FB. Even some kids I never taught. They all friended me (often within minutes of graduation. it’s turned into something of a ritual for them to whip out phones to friend a teacher immediately after receiving their diplomas). So far nothing horrible there. Although my rate my teachers have some pretty ghastly things on there. I like FB, the college kids send me syllabi and readings that they find interesting and it helps me keep up with current stuff that I might use in Senior electives. And it helps keep these kids connected to the school so hopefully they will open their checkbooks (or mom and dad’s checkbook) down the line.

    What are the odds this guy is confused and got his philosophy profs mixed up?


  11. Good question, Western Dave. In that department–zero. She’s got a pretty distinctive name, and one of the reasons she’s remembered for her “hardcore feminist BS” is that she was the voice of one crying in the wilderness.


  12. The thing was i tried so hard to be accepted by you in college i guess it took years of realization…

    It sounds almost as if this kid had a crush on her of some kind. I can’t account for the trauma and emotiveness and years of discussion with Jay, continuing on to this very day, otherwise.


  13. It’s hard not think that if this student was made uncomfortable by a “hardcore feminist” philosophy class, then the professor was doing her job. After all, isn’t one of the purposes of a university education to push people beyond their comfortable ways of thinking?

    If this guy carries grudges for decades for minor incidents, he has a long, long, long angry life ahead of him.

    And the appeal of facebook still puzzles me.


  14. But, he wasn’t taking her femininst phil course–he was in Greek philosophy! I have to say that at that uni, young women professors were regularly “read” as feminist provocations no matter what they were actually professing. I thought that I offered a completely bland and inoffensive survey course, full of John Winthrop, the Federalist Papers, and the Gettysburg Address, and I was also lectured by students to keep my feminazi ideas to myself and teach “American history,” instead of talking about “blacks, women, and Indians” all the time.

    This happens less frequently now, but that may be a function of my age (early 40s, not late 20s/early 30s) rather than a substantively different student population.

    Squadrato–I too wondered about the possibility that his anger (even now) is the result of a partial thwarted crush on her.


  15. I can describe some of the appeal of Facebook: I do not write an academic blog, and I have few colleagues interested in (any of) my work at my current institution. Facebook allows certain kinds of professional contact and communication (including an exchange with a colleague yesterday about the significance of her digital pictures (travel photos, really, in some ways) of an eighth-century stone cross) that I would not otherwise have. These pictures would not have been emailed to me, but they were posted on Facebook, which thus enabled a (brief) discussion on a topic of interest. Facebook can be a way of communicating with a group of friends or colleagues without the directness (or one-on-one limitations) of a personal email. There is a place for it, perhaps especially for those of us who wish not to write academic blogs? This Facebook exchange offered an opportunity for casual comment from a group of interested parties that otherwise could never have occurred except at a professional conference: and yet such casual exchanges can be very valuable, and if Facebook makes room for more of them, I’m in favor.

    That said, I would not enjoy a bolt like this one from the blue from an angry old student. But I do enjoy the occasional appreciative, or even just friendly, communique from a long lost student!


  16. How bizarre is that? I hate to sound like an old fogey, but thats not even stalking, its bad manners. I think we need to go back to teaching manners and deportment in grade school, high school and probably even college.

    I propose a core class: Humanities 101 – “How not to be a boorish idiot in the modern world.”

    I’ll start the syllabus:

    lesson number one – “not everyone cares what you think”
    lesson number two – “why twenty-year-olds don’t know anything about pretty much anything aka – why you are here in college getting an education”


  17. @Tom, I use FB that way but to communicate in town with people I know but not don’t know well.

    – who can take care of whose pet
    – where is so and so’s pet
    – is the hurricane really coming and if so, to what level does everyone think we should prepare
    – who knows a good painter
    – there are no nails left at hardware store X, go to store Y
    – I’m ill and can’t walk, is anyone available to pick up a prescription?
    – I am going to place X to observe the meteor shower and would prefer company, meet at trailhead A 5PM?
    – Band Z is playing at Club X, I am stuck on my chapter and need fresh air, will be heading out at 10, anybody else interested in study break?

    Most of the people who say these things, or to whom I say them, are people I do not know well enough to feel comfortable calling. So I get housesitters and info and things like that which I otherwise would not get, at least not so easily.

    This having been said I do not like Mark Zuckerberg and I look forward to the open source Facebook like thing which will exist one day.


  18. To me this students’ FB message read completely differently. I heard his message as “I am unspeakably irritated that you, a mere *woman*, would dare to presume to order me out of class.” The way he refers to her as someone he had “dealt with” in university-using language that implies that he was the one in the position of power in their interaction, to me reads like (yet another) irritating iteration of wounded male privilege. Likely I see it this way because of past events in my life, but I wonder if anyone else sees this also? (or if I’m imposing my experiences on the text…big oopsie in that case!)


  19. Nope, no droppings (yet) from angry former students on my Facebook page. Only a matter of time: my privacy fences are low and I give offense now and then.

    But for now I’m scratching my head over the accusation. “Kicked out of” what? One class meeting, I think, not the entire class/course. Based on the unfounded accusation of some “girl.” So, what happened? In the middle of Greek Philosophy a girl said, “Johnny just called me a —!” (because the ejection was based “simply” on the girl’s word; no witness heard the name-calling), to which your correspondent said, “That’s it, Johnny! Out of the room!” In college rather than eighth grade? I don’t think so. What am I missing?

    My best diagnosis, agreeing with others’, is an old semi-smoldered crush. And Johnny was never kicked out of any class meeting; he feels kicked out, and wrote accordingly. Flattering in its way … but my heart would have sunk if I received that message.


  20. With no mix-up, this is the equivalent of drunk dialing. (And actually even if it had been a mix-up it would just be that much more drunk dialing). I’m going with the crowd and saying this kid had a major crush.

    And Historiann, I think your right that age has something to do with it, but also things that were considered “feminist” 10 years ago, aren’t now. I know that as a white man in a girls’ school where most teachers are women, I am far more free to teach an anti-racist, feminist agenda because I am allegedly objective, plus since most of our stuff is activities and a minimum of lecturing, the kids end up finding it for themselves rather then me telling it to them.


  21. This former student was wrongfully accused of slandering another student in front of the entire class without even being questioned whether or not he did it. He was humiliated in front of the entire class and knew he had to continue the rest of the semester with this professor that embarrassed him and the rest of the students probably gossiped/avoided him. Rumors do spread like wildfire and his reputation may have been damaged for the rest of his college career. Some professors grade students based on how they feel about them, and she could have gave him an undeserving grade based on this. Of course he is not going to forget and hold a grudge. In college, students are no longer children and that professor had no right to kick him out without getting the full story. Seems like the former professor has control issues and favors female students.


  22. my husband is a college professor and has a sudent from 20 years ago that will not stop stalking. It’s my husband’s fault because one night a few years ago he was very drunk and emailed a positive response back to her. In the light of day, he regretted what he wrote but it gave the stalker something to hope for. so a lot of it is his fault. it isn’t constant, but every few months he gets a text or facebook post just to remind him that she is around. pathetic!


  23. And Historiann, if they are I think your right that age has something to do with it, but also things that were considered “feminist” a cursed word 10 years ago, aren’t now. I know that as a white man in a girls’ school where most teachers are women, I am far more free to teach an anti-racist a good thing, feminist agenda because I am allegedly objective, plus since most of our stuff is activities full of anti and a minimum of lecturing, the kids end up finding it for themselves rather then me telling it to them or to all.


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