By PASQUALE DIFRANCESCO
More than 60 students gathered in the Grounds for Change coffee shop on Oct. 3 for an open discussion on the controversial “Allegheny College Confessions” Facebook page.
The page acts as a space where anyone can anonymously write his or her views and opinions about anything related to the Allegheny community. Since the beginning of the academic year, the page has hosted many controversial comments negatively targeting various individuals and student groups across campus.
With such acts being committed online, the Allegheny Student Government felt it necessary to give all individuals an opportunity to discuss the page in an open forum setting.
Katie Beck,’14, director of diversity initiatives committee for ASG, and the rest of the eight-person committee attempted to act as a neutral party at the forum. They facilitated a “popcorn” style conversation with students raising their hands and being called on in successive order.
Students gathered on the couches and chairs in the GFC, sipping coffee and tea.
In an attempt to foster a welcoming and informative environment, Asha Alexander, ’15, opened the discussion by laying out a series of guidelines, previously approved by the diversity committee, for everyone to keep in mind throughout the conversation.
“Carry the lessons you learn, speak from the ‘I’ perspective, and remember to participate and not dominate the conversation,” Alexander said.
The conversation began with a reflection on the positive aspects of the page.
“It’s something for people to talk about, some of the posts were even pretty humorous,” Autumn Vogel, ’15, said.
Another student said, “In some ways it can connect people around the campus.”
However, this conversation about positive effects did not last long, for a majority of the page’s content is cause for much more concern than appreciation.
When asked “What don’t you like about the page?” Students responded with both personal and general concerns.
“It can get really negative, especially about greek life,” a student said.
“I don’t like that individuals feel as though they need to be anonymous to state what they have to feel. We need to establish a safe-zone where people can express their differences,” said Aurora Arop, ’15, attorney general and parliamentarian in ASG.
Among talk about page students also recognized that this is an issues that stems far beyond a simple Facebook page.
“Wake up Allegheny. This is real, this is not simply about trolling online, these are real problems happening in our community,” Grace Beah, ’14, said.
Another student supported this point saying, “Those aren’t random thoughts or random people, they are real and they are here on our campus.”
The conversation yielded tears, laughter, raised voices and most notably an understanding of fellow student perspectives. Some students requested to keep their own comments at the discussion anonymous.
Although Beck and the diversity committee did not establish any concrete steps to address the page at the end of the meeting, students strongly agreed that the conversation must continue.
“I think that student government is taking interesting steps towards being a more transparent and inclusive presence on campus,” Brogan McGowan,’16, student government chief of staff and director of student voting said. “I think Katie Beck is doing a really good job at it.”
According to Beck, the discussion was productive and unsettling. The diversity initiatives committee will be looking into ways to follow up with the discussion, Beck said.
“I am feeling emotional and I am unsettled. I was a neutral body but I also felt so involved in the conversation,” Beck said. “It was nice to see people who were not normally a part of the conversation as a part of it. I think it is important that we all leave uncomfortable.”