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An Ethical Dilemma of a Hypothetical Nature

Meg’s recent hints of students in crisis over at xoom raises a question for me, one I’ve been wondering about for some time. This really is more hypothetical than actual, at the moment, but it’s had moments of actuality, and I’m just kinda wondering how to handle it should it arise again in the future.

Say, for instance, that one of your students, or former students, gave you her LiveJournal URL — she reads your blog, and invited you to read hers. And say that, through her friends list, you come upon a community composed of many students from your institution. And say that, perhaps, you peek into that community from time to time, just to get a sense of the campus vibe. No judgments. No real sense of what LJ belongs to whom. Just a curiosity, as I say, about the general sense of things on campus and an enjoyment, mostly, of the writing.

Say, though, that through a series of circumstances you sorta accidentally figure out who the author of one such journal is — not a student of yours personally, perhaps, but a student of whom you are aware. And say that you become familiar enough with this student through her LJ to get the impression that, of late, she’s become massively depressed, and that her academic life is suffering because of it.

What do you do? You’ve come to this conclusion via information that you’re sorta not supposed to have, and through a source that might indicate more venting and hyperbole than actual factual representation. On the other hand, if the student really is in crisis, you ought to tell someone, right? Someone who can at least do a subtle check-in and see if everything’s okay? But what do you say?


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