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Students to discuss Facebook with BOT

Kathleen McDonnell | Thursday, October 5, 2006

As checking Facebook.com has evolved into a daily ritual for college students everywhere, Notre Dame’s student government leaders will discuss the growth of technology and virtual interaction at today’s University Board of Trustees meetings.

The group’s presentation, “Technology and Social Networking,” will focus mainly on Facebook.com – the popular social networking site that the Board has expressed interest in better understanding, student body president Lizzi Shappell said.

Students traditionally present to the Student Affairs committee during each of the Board of Trustees’ three annual meetings. The fall presentation, Shappell said, is designed to involve more of the student body than just the top three leaders – herself, student body vice president Bill Andrichik and chief executive officer Liz Brown.

To complete the meeting’s student panel, freshman Kate McClelland, sophomore Glenn Water and senior Sheldon Dutes will sit alongside Shappell, Andrichik and Brown to serve as additional voices of the student body.

While last year, Shappell and then-student body president Dave Baron presented their fall Board of Trustees presentation as a report – the topic being the relationship between the Notre Dame and South Bend communities – this year’s presentation takes the form of a 10-minute introduction by Kathy Brannack, assistant director of the Office of Residence Life and Housing, followed by a question and answer session within the student panel.

The Board committee chair and the vice president for Student Affairs choose the topic and dictate the format for the fall meeting, Shappell said.

“Bill and I discussed options with [Vice President for Student Affairs] Father [Mark] Poorman to make sure aspects each group wanted to discuss were included,” Shappell said.

“I think [the Board’s] interest is because social networking has taken off,” Shappell said. “Between MySpace and Facebook, social networking is a new way people are connecting, including many Notre Dame students and alums.”

Some aspects to be covered include a general education on the site’s format and capabilities, a discussion about increasing student usage of the sites and whether or not Facebook is just a fad or a staple of modern socialization, Shappell said.

The Board is interested in both the positive social benefits of the site – such as the increased visibility for clubs on campus and the potential for alumni to stay in touch – and the potentially harmful drawbacks, such as future employers’ investigation of an applicant’s Facebook profile, Shappell said.

Additional topics to be discussed include the average student usage and the response to the newly introduced “mini feed” feature, Shappell said.

This development – added to the site on Sept. 5 – detects a user’s profile changes and “feeds” it to all of a user’s friends. Along with the expansion of Facebook into high schools and the general public, the new feature has brought the social networking site to an even greater level of connectedness.

“Now a student can create a group and a new person can join every few seconds. Within a day thousands of people have joined,” Shappell said.

The vast possibilities these features have created will be an integral part of today’s discussion, she said.

“It should be an interesting conversation, to see the different reaction from young Board members who may use Facebook themselves compared to older alumni who may have never seen it,” Shappell said.

As for her administration, Shappell looks to gain perspective through discussion of important issues with Notre Dame’s major decision makers.

“I think any time we talk with the Board it’s a productive one because we have a conversation about the state of student life at Notre Dame and get reflections from them on the topics we are discussing,” Shappell said. “It’s interesting to hear their perspectives both as some of the major decision makers of our University and also as alumni who reflect on their time here versus our times.”