As U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks continue to create shockwaves in the international community, Georgetown students looking to futures in diplomacy face advice urging them not to discuss the documents on social media sites.
After a tip from an alumnus working in the State Department, Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs’ Office of Career Services issued an email late last Tuesday cautioning students against posting anything about the leaks on personal media like Facebook and Twitter.
“Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government,” the email said, according to The New York Times.
Later that week, Dean of SIPA John Coatsworth stated in a second email to students that they have the right to discuss the scandal, retracting the initial Career Office email.
The documents have been a major topic of discussion at Georgetown, with students seeming unconcerned about posting about the leaks.
“All my friends are discussing it profoundly with a lot of excitement and agitation,” Sara Moufarrij (SFS ’12) said. “It’s very terrifying and interesting. It makes you rethink the way politics is conducted.”
With many aspiring diplomats enrolled in the School of Foreign Service, administrators have responded to students who want to ensure a fair shot at a career.
“Our advice to students – about anything that any future employer might see – has always been that whatever they blog about or post to Facebook could be accessible publicly and available permanently,” SFS Dean Carol Lancaster (SFS ’64) said in an email. “We do think this is a learning moment; students should certainly be keeping up with news reports on the issue and thinking about what the implications are for diplomacy going forward.”
After asking the dean’s office to consider issuing an official statement on the ordeal, the SFS Academic Council is now hoping to educate students in the next couple weeks about appropriate responses to the leaks, Council President Josh Mogil (SFS ’11) said.
The Career Education Center has yet to take an official stance on the issue, but generally warns Georgetown students to be careful about their social media use.
“The Career Education Center has not cautioned students about posting WikiLeaks-related information on their social media pages,” Director Mike Schaub said in an email. “However, this would be a good time to remind students to be thoughtful and judicious about their social media posts. Students must keep in mind that employers are increasingly using social media to vet job candidates.”
During a Career Education
Center-sponsored government week session with a variety of State Department and CIA officials earlier this semester, representatives from various government sectors warned against social media use, specifically for students seeking State Department internships. Students said that they understood the concerns, and did not want to risk their chances through lack of foresight.
“It’s already tough enough to get those internships. The last thing you need is [to post] a status update or something,” Evan Smith (SFS ’14) said. “This information isn’t any less sensitive now that it’s been leaked. Some of this stuff really is sensitive, and if you’re interested in diplomacy and the State Department then that’s something you should understand.”
Ali Soroush (NHS ’12) disagreed.
“I’m not looking to work in government, so I’m not affected by the [possible] warnings,” he said. “But I think we need to have public discourse about foreign policy. . Just because the State Department wants it to be classified doesn’t mean it is. It’s out in the open now.”