MAKENZIE RUSSO ’16
On Wednesday, November 13 Trinity College’s M.O.C.A held a discussion based upon the debate as to where the line is drawn between protecting students’ freedom of speech and penalizing anonymous cyber bullying. The discussion was most directly linked to the web page “Trinity Confidential” that frequently publishes anonymous posts that target specific individuals on campus. The majority of the posts are negatively charged, spiteful, and call out particular individuals. The repercussions for these actions may go much farther than anticipated and therefore it has become a topic worth discussing. Several important points were raised during this discussion, including what steps the administration has taken to begin addressing the problem. Professor Silk and Dean Alford were on the panel for this dialogue and they offered their own personal opinions while listening to the input of the students who attended the meeting.
The overall consensus in the room was that cyber bullying has become an issue on Trinity’s campus. The negative comments that are posted on this page, although they are unsubstantiated, are often hurtful and unnecessary. The eclectic range of the comments that are posted on “Trinity Confidential” have created the question at hand “what is tolerable?” We all understand that we live in a digitized world, one where computerized communication is prominent and negative comments are a norm. These issues are not unique to Trinity College and have been around for years but have now taken a different form. Dean Alford even suggested that these comments have shifted from bathroom stalls to Facebook walls. However, the future implications are now very different and the possibility of future employers drawing conclusions based off of vicious anonymous accusations is very real. There is no question that free speech should be protected but there is a fine line as to what exactly should be protected.
Many students were curious about what steps are being taken to address the issue of cyber bullying. Dean Alford explained that “Trinity Confidential” was brought to the administrations attention when a crime was confessed on the site. An email was then sent out to all students that mentioned how these comments that incorporate racism, homophobia, and other inappropriate statements are a terrible reflection on Trinity College as a whole. Since then, they have spoken to a lawyer and have investigated the terms and conditions of both Facebook and Google to see if there is anything that can be done to have the posts removed.
Ultimately, the fate of this issue is in the hands of students. During the discussion it was repeatedly mentioned that there is much hesitation for students to stand up to these anonymous posters and put their names next to any posts. Individually there is not much that can be done to stop the posts from flowing so long as the demand for them still exists. Therefore, a collective movement must be sparked to create a more civil and united environment on campus that would eliminate the need and want for such a site. The snide remarks made on “Trinity Confidential” generate a hostile setting and drives out good sentiments. The panelists and attendees agreed that these anonymous posts speak volumes about the culture on this campus and students should want to take steps towards establishing a community where there is no need to worry about being the target of an anonymous post.
These suggestions made by the panel and by students are both realistic and reasonable. It is not rocket science that once the students backlash against this site and no longer pay any attention to it then it will no longer hold any power.
Regardless of who should be held accountable for publishing these posts, We should come together as a whole to decide that we have no interest in what these faceless commentators have to say. The problem will then evaporate on its own. In the mean time, it was made clear that administration will continue to do everything possible to protect the students from any possible harm brought forth by this site.