GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- It began with pictures of a dog. They were taken in a sorority house at Brenau University's campus in Gainesville, then posted on Facebook.
But dogs aren't allowed in sorority houses. Campus authorities took notice by looking at Facebook- thus launching a small contretemps over how much a university should be monitoring the activities of students on social media.
"People find it troubling that the administration is following the personal lives of students and their friends so closely," said Jessie des Jardines, who attended Brenau through 2010. She says the evidence appeared rapidly on social media in the form of a screen grab, apparently from a Brenau administrator.
"The administrator had tabs open to the Facebook [and Twitter] pages of other students and friends of students and alumni," Des Jardines said. It seemed excessive, she said.
Brenau is best known for the women's college housed on its historic Gainesville campus. With fewer than 500 students living here, the college encourages personal relationships between students and faculty -- including social media.
A Brenau spokesman says the college does not routinely use social media to monitor the activities of students. But VP for Communications David Morrison says faculty and staff are encouraged to use social media to communicate with students from the moment they begin thinking about attending college here.
"We use Facebook a lot in communicating with prospective students. It's a great recruitment tool," Morrison said. He added that there are no rules specifically restricting social media -- except the rules of common sense.
A spokesman for the University of Georgia says UGA has social media guidelines, but no rules specifically governing social media communication between faculty and students.
"Faculty has a responsibility, just as they have in the classroom, to behave properly and set an example," Morrison said.
Des Jardines says the university's approach to social media blur personal and professional lines between faculty and students. She hopes students may be less eager to "friend" their college professors.
"People can see the internet. Surprise!" she said.