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Re-posting on WikiLeaks could affect job prospects

December 6, 2010

For some students, posting links to WikiLeaks on social networking sites might be another hurdle to landing a job in an already competitive job market.

WikiLeaks, an organization working to provide government and leaked information to the public via the Internet, released additional confidential government documents to numerous media organizations last week, and has since sparked a worldwide debate.

Students planning to find work or internships in the federal government after graduation were recommended not to post about or comment on WikiLeaks on social networking sites by college career advisers across the country — including at MSU.

Jaimie Hutchison, field career consultant for James Madison College, said an e-mail was sent Friday advising MSU students against posting statements on social networking websites about WikiLeaks.

However, the information in the e-mail is not based on any official James Madison College or MSU policies, she said.

Although the decision is up to students, they should be aware of possible implications of their actions, Hutchison said.

“I don’t know what the outcome of this will be — I just want students to have a heads up,” she said.

“The important thing for me as a career adviser is to make sure students have the information I do.”

The statement was influenced by a similar letter sent to some students at the University of California, Berkeley, Hutchison said.

The e-mail was addressed to students looking to apply for federal jobs and noted posting or commenting on WikiLeaks might “call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.”

Despite the warnings, international relations senior Horia Dijmarescu said he will continue posting links to WikiLeaks on Facebook. He also said he does not plan on working in the federal government after he graduates.

“I think the university, again, is kind of trying to help students, in that students should understand the ramifications of their actions,” Dijmarescu said. “(But) honestly, when I saw the e-mail, I was a little disappointed.”

Hutchison said although the federal government has not yet taken an official stance on re-posting the leaked information, linking to or commenting on WikiLeaks’ documents might affect students in the future.

“It’s something that may come up in a background check,” she said.

“Students will be handling a lot of confidential information for the federal government. … I would encourage them to talk to the agencies.”

After the release of confidential government documents and cables to the public through WikiLeaks, how the information is used and published now is considered controversial, said Matt Zierler, an assistant professor of international relations.

“There are rules about dispersing the information,” Zierler said.

“That information was made public when it shouldn’t have been, so the question arises, ‘What do we make of this information?’”

So far, the leaked information does not seem to be a direct threat to national security, but it might lead to further restrictions on government information, Zierler said.

Still, the university should take a firm stance to protect freedom of information, Dijmarescu said.

“I think that universities … have been historically — and should remain — a place where ideas can be exchanged freely,” he said.

“I think the university needs to take a real stance for freedom of information and freedom of study.”

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