McGill, News

“McGill’s forgotten freshmen” Facebook group compensates for glitch

To overcome an error preventing some students from accessing McGill’s Facebook Community, first-year students and some students from other graduating classes have turned to the McGill’s Forgotten Freshmen (MFF) Facebook group. Membership to McGill’s Facebook community is required to access hundreds of groups affiliated with the university— users must link their registered McGill email to their account. Over the past semester, many students with working emails have nonetheless been unable to verify them.

MFF administrator Keating Kenna Reid, U0 Arts, created the group on Oct. 14, 2017. It has since grown to serve 690 members and counting.

“Really, I started it as a joke, I didn’t expect it to get more than a few dozen members at most,” Reid said. “I didn’t have any serious goal of raising awareness or getting the problem fixed, I’m a little too cynical to think anything is going to change with this issue.”

Despite his pessimism, the group has grown far beyond what Reid imagined. In addition to posting memes and complaints, members now discuss temporary solutions and share their attempts to tackle the error.

“Next thing I knew, something like a hundred people had joined in a week,” Reid said. “I don’t think about it much, truthfully. I did call IT services at one point. They said they couldn’t do anything about it, which I think is true. I heard on [the reddit forum] r/mcgill that other universities are having the same issue.”

The Facebook error currently affects dozens of universities, including Bishop’s University, McMaster University, Concordia University, University of British Columbia (UBC), and University of Toronto. Jessica Goodsell, director of Communications and Marketing of the Students’ Representative Council at Bishop’s University, advises students with improvised solutions to the problem.

“[Students] have made [their own Bishop’s University] Facebook groups, which hasn’t posed too many problems,” Goodsell said. “[Students] have gone to our IT department and there’s nothing they can do. It’s a very strange problem, and I think it’s on Facebook’s end.”

Some McGill groups choose to remain closed to the general public because it protects them from spam posts and ensures that only McGill students can view their information. This is important for McGill Housing, a closed group within the McGill Facebook community that primarily seeks to connect students looking for roommates and apartments. While others, like McGill University Book Exchange, were created to be open to the public, many larger pages cannot alter their privacy settings, as Facebook prevents those with over 5,000 members from doing so.

Laurie Devine, social media manager at McGill’s Media Relations Office (MRO), is currently working with students to tackle the problem.

“I first heard about [the error] early in the term, when new students were trying to join groups,” Devine said. “Though [students] gave their McGill email addresses to the admins, they still weren’t able to join the groups. A few of them sent emails to me thinking that, as I manage the main McGill page I was the admin, which isn’t the case.”

Devine claims she reported the error to Facebook several times, without response. However, she suggests that students lacking access to the McGill Facebook community use Yammer, a closed social network run by Microsoft Office that connects members who belong to the same email domain. The layout is similar to Facebook’s, with a newsfeed and community groups. However, McGill’s Yammer community currently has 5,000 members, while McGill’s Facebook community has over 58,000.

In an email to The McGill Tribune, McGill IT Services urged students experiencing the error not to contact them, as they are unable to offer any assistance, and advised students to take their complaints to Facebook instead.

“We are unable to comment on this issue as this does not involve McGill IT services,” McGill IT wrote. “Facebook’s McGill community is not affiliated with nor endorsed by McGill.”

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