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Facebook: A campus fad becomes a campus fact

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Students running for campus office campaign on Facebook, as do actual politicians. Any candidate paying attention to youth was on Facebook for the November elections. Their staffs target students based on the political preferences they list.

Facebook also hosts the bad: sexual and racial harassment, hazing, extortion, and threats. School officials, even campus police, use the site to investigate.

"Any [campus] behavior that you could experience face to face, you'll see on Facebook," says Pablo Malavenda, associate dean of students at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Mr. Malavenda created his profile in January 2005 and now has more than 700 friends. His early knowledge of the phenomenon made his school less reactive. As Facebook picked up steam, Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, banned its athletes from using it. The University of New Mexico banned it outright for months. Malavenda says the schools overreacted because they were confused – after all, he adds, social networking is the biggest campus phenomenon since phones were allowed in residence halls.

Malavenda knows dozens of Facebook stories: relationships that ended when one partner read the other's "wall" and realized that he or she was seeing others; the student who didn't get a job because their Facebook profile presented them as the next big thing in binge drinking.

There's his own story, too. Last fall, Malavenda caught a group of students selling cocaine and kicked them off campus. In response, they started a Facebook group called "We hate Pablo," complete with directions to his house and instructions to hurt and eliminate him.

"I signed up for this job with everything that comes with it," Malavenda says. "But my kids haven't. My wife hasn't."

Malavenda got the police involved. The students were put on academic suspension for five years. But he doesn't blame Facebook. "The behavior is what you deal with, not where it occurred," he says. It also doesn't hurt that a "We Love Pablo" group formed in response – something Malavenda says is "quite enjoyable."

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