Friday, August 27, 2010

The Ethics of the Internet

The internet. It's kind of scary. Putting thoughts and opinions on the internet? Only scary when you're the first to do it. It seems that rejecting and subsequently making fun of someone's opinion on the internet is very easy to do.

But what are the ethics of this? It's easy when you're some 13-year-old nobody with nothing better to do, but when you're a 20-year-old who has yet to break in to the professional world, holding two jobs of some stature...all of a sudden it starts to get tricky.

This is a personal blog, and I say a lot of personal things. I've said things that I didn't think were controversial, but a lot of people proved me wrong. As a full-time RA, and a Supervisor at RenX, I represent RPI in lots of different ways. Do the opinions I put here reflect on them? I don't think they should, and I would never assume that of someone else. But as I said, what I think is obviously not necessarily what other people think.

I took a break from blogging because I thought this was important to reflect on. A lot of habits I have had to be put in check. If I put opinions on here, I'm reflecting RPI. If I put pictures on here, I am reflecting RPI. I don't really know what RPI's stance is on some of the issues I like to write about, so it's not really fair for me to put words in their mouth, is it?

I don't drink, for lots of reasons, but a major point being that I am not of legal age to. It doesn't bother me that my friends drink, I don't really have a moral objection to it, it's simply a personal choice for my life and who I am.

However, as an RA, I have to take issue with my residents drinking. It's my responsibility to enforce the rules and, obviously, the law. So does that stop with JUST my residents? Does that stop with JUST students? I represent RPI, remember. RPI does not take kindly to underage drinkers.

I have enjoyed the freedom of only representing myself in the past. But now, if I go to a party where there are residents who I know are under-age and they are drinking, I've put myself in an uncomfortable position. Normally I would go to friends' parties, not drink and enjoy the social scene, but I don't think my job affords that luxury any longer.

This is hard for me, because I've enjoyed being an open person here, in fact I've talked about how much I've enjoyed it, but I don't know if I can continue to blog, at least so publicly. I don't see some things the way others do, and I tend to be less conservative in my opinions on things like sex and relationships, so while censoring is an option I don't know that I trust my ability to do so. Something that seems innocuous to me may in fact be offensive and out of line to others.

The internet makes things tricky now, as we really don't have official stances on anything. Some employers let their employees send email all day while others limit personal conversations. NSFW is common all over websites, but sometimes you can't trust others' judgment. Honestly, other people's thoughts would be greatly appreciated here, because I really don't know what to think about this. Whether you leave a comment or stop to talk when you see me, please give me your two cents to help me start figuring this all out...


  1. I assume RenX is the telefund kinda thing? Correct me if I'm wrong.

    I can't say I see what you're doing here as representing RPI. You attend RPI, that's for sure, you're an RA for RPI as well, but your opinions here are not reflective of RPI as an entity for the very fact that you are not blogging on RPI's behalf. If you were blogging "as an RA of RPI", you may have a case here but you are not and so far I haven't noticed any conflicting issued with your RA position.

    This is clearly, and indicated as, a personal blog. That said it is still important to protect your online identity, as employers are increasingly googling names and aliases to asses your online presence, but I don't think that issue pertains to your view that you speak for RPI as an institution. It is possible to keep a personal blog while still remaining a professional individual.

    As for the RA thing, it stops where you feel comfortable with it stopping. Your job as an RA, in essence, is to make sure your residents are safe and that they have a resource to turn to if they have an issue. You're not the fun police, nor are you their babysitter. If they keep it out of your purview it's not your problem, as far as I would be concerned. You are not the police, you don't have to condemn underage drinking. Your job is to enforce the rules of the dormitory IN the dormitory. That said if it makes you uncomfortable you have every right to remove yourself from the situation.

  2. I have wrestled with the same situation as it relates to my job. I've chosen to limit the things that I blog about because I like blogging. I know that approximately 12 people read it, so I don't get too worked up about it. I do it mostly for myself. But, I understand your quandary, and I'm guessing that you'll find some way to work things out. The party situation sounds frustrating...but, certainly one that won't last forever. You're a sharp cookie who solves problems quite creatively, so I'm sure that you're going to figure out a way to make it all work.

    In the meantime, Jersey Shore always makes me feel like my life is fabulously un-effed-up ;)

  3. I think Steve summed it up pretty well and for the most part I'll save myself the time of copypasting his post here.

    The only item I may disagree on is your role at a party. I do agree with him in that it is not your job to stop your residents from drinking in other locations (unless your job explicitly states so), but I get the impression that you ARE required to write up people who are drunk within the dorm even if that's not where the alcohol was consumed.

    If I'm correct, it basically means you're obligated to bust him or her as soon as the both of you set foot back in the dorm, which would certainly make things weird.

  4. Part of this may be due to my biased standpoint (since I enjoy reading your blog), but I don't think that either of your jobs should have an impact on the blog.

    The issue of what to do at a party is definitely difficult - if it comes up, it seems to me like your best bet is explaining (ideally before you actually saw anything incriminating) exactly where you stand. Similarly, I feel like you're already just fine with regards to this blog: you've made it clear that you don't express RPI's opinions in any way. It's not your fault if someone misinterprets things when you've made them perfectly clear, and I don't think things should change because of that possibility.

    Or - tl;dr, Erik and Kopiok/Steve are right.