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Popular Twitter Page Leaves ResLife Concerned

By Alex Schlee

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The Internet has spawned all manner of strange and popular viral movements, ranging from planking to school confessions to the Harlem Shake. It seems the latest viral spree to sweep over the college crowd has been “passout pages” on Twitter. Tallying up at 239 followers, Bemidji’s own Twitter passout page, @bemidjipassouts, has been gathering popularity since early October, making it the latest addition to the popular craze.

The BSU Passout page on Twitter.
The BSU Passout page on Twitter.

This page, much like similar pages from the Montana State and the University of North Dakota, centers itself around photographs of unconscious students after long nights of drinking and jesting taunts towards them. Pages like this have been gaining popularity amongst many colleges. Incidents featured don’t appear to necessarily involve alcohol 100 percent of the time, however; students caught napping in the commons or snoozing in the library can also find themselves ridiculed too, though this seems to be more common on other schools’ pages.

The explosive popularity of BSU Passouts has members of the Office of Residential Life more than a little concerned. It is well-known that BSU touts itself as a dry campus, free of alcohol on its grounds. While none of the photos found on the page actually feature alcohol visible on-campus, Randy Ludeman, ResLife’s University Conduct Officer, has still voiced concern regarding how Bemidji students have been representing themselves.

“Officially, we have no response,” he said, clarifying that since there is nothing necessarily against school policy portrayed in the content of the page, ResLife has no responsibility for the actions of the administrators of the account. “But is this really what you’d want representing you?”

Currently, plans are in the works to host a talk on student civility and online conduct to address such issues. Bemidji State’s Center for Professional Development recently held such a dialogue on October 31st to address student behavior. Faculty members involved did not expect much of a turnout, but were pleasantly surprised at the attendance of roughly 38 people. Due to the success of this first meeting, more are possible to be scheduled to more specifically look at online conduct, according to Ludeman.

Whether or not this is actually an issue is sort of up in the air. There are actually a low amount of alcohol-related incidents on-campus, though this can be a hard statistic to track due to many instances going unreported. According to Jay Passa, the Health Education Coordinator for the Student Health Center, BSU has a high-profile minority of students who drink at a high-risk level. In layman’s terms, there is a minority of problem drinkers attending BSU, but they are very obvious in their presence.

“We’ll figure out if there really are problems here, and what the solutions could be,” said Ludeman.

Clearly, pages like BSU Passouts are popular amongst certain students, with the page in question well into a triple digit count of followers after just one month of publication and 64 actual tweets. When asked on the streets, however, several students responded to the page’s existence with a cocked eyebrow or an eye roll. Love it or hate it though, BSU Passouts certainly has momentum, but who else views the page outside of the student body?

According to Career Services Director Margie Giauque, roughly half of the nation’s job recruiters use social media for their recruitment efforts. While Facebook is their main tool, Twitter has been gaining relevance. Much like information from Facebook, public Tweets are searchable by search engines and are available for recruiters performing background checks. Twitter’s terms of service state that certain privacy settings can be tweaked to make personal information more private, but much like when shouting in public, what you say publicly on Twitter is just that: public. Employers like to look at social media sites because they are more candid.

“[Job recruiters] are looking for the worst of people, not the best,” said Giauque, stating that whatever picture your social media paints of you will affect a hirer’s decision about you.

BSU’s own faculty also have their eye on the Twitter page. Apart from Ludeman and the ResLife office, the Office of Communications and Marketing has the account on its radar. Like Ludeman, Associate Director Andy Bartlett isn’t doing much about the situation, though he wishes to avoid any situations that may reflect badly on the university. The last big thing to hit campus, the BSU Confessions website, began to be seen as a problem, Bartlett attempted to contact its administrators to have particularly offensive content removed. He hopes he won’t have to do that in this case.

“Mostly we’re just watching,” said Bartlett.