Update: I see that Simon’s posted about this! Slightly more mature perspective, too…
Dr Richard Barnes, a Cambridge University admissions tutor, seems like a reasonable bloke to me. I have no idea how old he is (this isn’t him in the picture…) but I’m going to guess at 52. Being a man whose job involves dealing with lots and lots of school-leavers Dr Dickie, as I like to call him, thinks he should be down with the kids. So this year he joined Facebook…as did I (and half the bleedin’ population).
He admitted as such to Emmanuel College’s magazine (“Inside Emmanuel: Ducks and Punts”…probably), where he’s a senior tutor. Nothing wrong in that, of course. But then our Dickie also admitted that he sometimes checked out the Facebook profiles of college applicants.
Nothing wrong in that, either (for me). But a bunch of people are up in arms. The Guardian’s article on the matter states that “Cambridge, like Oxford, insists it only offers places based on a candidate’s interview performance, academic record and personal statement, outlining their interests and reasons for studying a particular course.”
I realise it might be absolutely folly to suggest that the dusty world of academia takes a step into the real world, but COME ON academia, take a step into the real world, if only for the sake of your students.
While a socially dysfunctional nerd might be able to get himself a place at Cambridge through a hatful of A-levels, a personal statement written by his mum and a drug-enhanced interview, when he steps out of the safety blanket of university life, do you think prospective employers are going to take such a blinkered approach to recruitment? Course not. They’ll be straight into Google, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, MyMurderousDesires.com and the rest.
“But it needs to be a level playing field for all,” they’ll cry. “What happens when the hot girl from Hampshire gets accepted because she listed “crusty old men” as an interest on her Facebook profile, when the spotty fella from Cumbria with Stephen Hawkings’ brain gets turned away because he likes paintballing?”
Don’t care. She’s going to go further anyway, so it might as well start now.
Anyway, Dr Dickie would only have been able to see the Facebook profiles of those people stupid enough to have them visible to all and sundry and not just their mates. In which case, perhaps their applications should be tossed straight in the bin immediately because they’re clearly idiots?