Officials at the University of Oxford are usingFacebook to find — and fine — students they deem have gone too farin a spasm of "trashings," rowdy revels after exams end that include dousing classmates in foam, eggs and flour.
In recent years, students have taken to posting photos of the mess on Facebook, the popular online social networking site.
Disciplinary officials at Oxford have caught on and have begun e-mailing students fines equivalent to about $85 to $210 for breaking campus rules, said Martin McCluskey, president of the Oxford University Student Union.
McCluskey sent an e-mail to members of the union warning them that school officials are trolling through Facebook profiles containing photos of "trashings."
"It's fairly disgraceful and underhand," he said Tuesday. "Disciplinary procedures are supposed to be transparent."
Complaints led to Facebook searches
A university spokesman confirmed the practice, saying officials began searching Facebook after receiving complaints of unruly student behaviour. The 800-year-old university has been issuing fines for misdemeanours such as spraying fluids and hurling eggssince 2004.
"The university proctors have told the students that they are welcome to meet their friends after their exams, but that students who create a mess in the street with food or alcohol, or who indulge in antisocial behaviour contrary to university regulations, will be disciplined," the spokesman said on condition of anonymity, in line with university policy.
The student union advised students with Facebook accounts to change their privacy settings to prevent staff and faculty from viewing their profiles and photographs.
Alex Hill, 21, a philosophy and mathematics student at the university, said she received a disciplinary e-mail assertingthat three of her photos provided evidence she had engaged in "disorderly" conduct.
"They gave me links to three photos on Facebook where I've got shaving foam all over me as examples of my disorderly conduct," she said. "I think it's an appalling thing to do."
Facebook populardespite problems
Facebook has an estimated 30 million users around the world and has seen a surge in popularity coincide with an increase in the number of users busted by Facebook photos and comments.
Last week, Miss New Jersey Amy Polumbo was made to sweat over whether she would be stripped of her crown. Organizers had been sent photos from Polumbo's Facebook page showing her acting "not in a ladylike manner."
In April, students at a Toronto school were banned from an end-of-the-year trip after disparaging remarks about a teacher were found on Facebook.