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University condemns web anonymity

3 April 2011 By Daniel Gross, Editor-in-Chief 11 Comments
VP for student affairs wants Towson off of CollegeACB, site refuses request
Courtesy of collegeacb.com

Courtesy of collegeacb.com

Following an online post that included the N-word in its title on anonymous posting website CollegeACB, members in the Towson University community took action out of offense and protested the website’s existence. The post included even more potentially offensive remarks in its content.

After several campus leaders and administrators voiced opposition to the post, vice president for student affairs Deb Moriarty sent an email to CollegeACB in an attempt to have the Towson University section removed from their site.

“While your Web page asserts that, ‘We’re trying to make CollegeACB a more positive and productive place to have anonymous conversations,’ your failure to do so in a timely manner is causing untold grief, hurt, anger and conflict at my institution,” Moriarty wrote to CollegeACB.

Moriarty included a list of requests in the email sent on March 31:

The racist, homophobic, sexist, derogatory, biased and otherwise hateful postings you have allowed on your site are despicable.  On behalf of Towson University, I ask you to do the following:

1. Cease the operation of a Towson University site on your website.

2. Remove all racist references and messages from the Towson University site.

3. Set clear and firm guidelines on civil discourse for all your postings and enforce them – you have the opportunity and the responsibility.

4. Monitor your postings for racist, homophobic, sexist and otherwise derogatory postings and do not post them.

If you choose to continue to post anonymous messages, then you have the responsibility to ensure that the postings are appropriate for civil discourse.

CollegeACB’s conduct terms state, “You agree not to post, email or otherwise make available content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, or is harmful to minors in any way.”

CollegeACB began in 2008, shortly after the well known “gossip-based” website Juicy Campus went under, citing lack of advertising revenue as its downfall.

The CollegeACB mission statement reads, “’To censor words is to censor ideas, and we surround ourselves with tremendous self-censorship … Why anonymity? Because everyone has something that they’re afraid to say out loud.”

The site includes Towson University in their list of colleges and universities with anonymous message boards.

On the Towson section of the site, posts can be seen regarding a variety of subjects. Posts ranging from best bar destinations to trashiest sorority chapter to least attractive Towson student can be found on the boards.

A representative from CollegeACB responded to Moriarty’s email the same day, placing responsibility for the anonymous posts in the hands of the University.

The CollegeACB representative refused to give their name saying, “We run the site anonymously.” When asked for further comment, the representative referred to their email response to Moriarty.

“Maybe instead of offering students colorful, preachy politically correct bullshit like your Tiger Pledge, or censoring students on CollegeACB, you could actually have students develop a real appreciation of racial tolerance and acceptance by having an honest and frank conversation about race,” the representative of CollegeACB wrote back in an email. “It would be more work and harder work, but it would also lead to more lasting improvement in your school.”

In addition, the College ACB representative defended their right to allow the forum-based site to exist online and said they only provide the service, not determine its content.

“We didn’t encourage these postings on our site. We did give people a space where people could be authentic and honest without repercussions. Sometimes, people are authentically assholes,” the representative said. “We’re sorry that you seemed to have admitted a bunch of assholes into your school.”

Moriarty said she was surprised to see their response to her concerns with the site.

“When I first read ACB’s ‘anonymous’ response to me, I was rather shocked. But upon reflection, I realize that their defensive and accusatory response, which included very negative and inaccurate statements about Towson University and our students, is reflective of the concerns I have about their site,” she said.

SGA vice president Angie Hong said the anonymous postings have been a concern to the SGA, and they have had lengthy discussions about how to solve the issue.

“When the anonymous posting on CollegeACB was brought to SGA’s attention by a concerned student, we immediately began discussions about was being posted that night,” she said. “There was a lot of hateful language, and we sought to resolve that issue.”

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Recently, the University launched tufreedomsquare.com, an online version of Freedom Square on campus. The site allows anonymous commenting.

Hong said remaining anonymous could be important in certain aspects.

“Anonymous posting can be used for more constructive and civil purposes, not as a place to hide behind negative and hurtful messages,” she said.

Hong said she hopes that TU students do not use the website and said the CollegeACB staff made it very clear in their email response that they are not open to removing the Towson page from their site.

“I do believe that if they feel so strongly about us Towson students being ‘hateful,’ then it would not make sense for them to have Towson listed on their website,” Hong said. “Hopefully, Towson students will also decide to take a stance by refusing to participate on their site.”

Administrators will continue to have discussions with the Student Government Association and Center for Student Diversity to consider the repercussions of this type of dialogue with TU students, according to Moriarty.

Read CollegeACB’s full response to Moriarty’s email below:

Hi Deb,

Anonymous community boards can be amazing because they provide speakers with a space to be authentic. We would like CollegeACB to be a more positive and productive place. That means that we should have fewer negative posts and more productive posts. Sometimes, productive and authentic posts are offensive because they bring to light ideas that are unpopular, offensive and ignorant but nonetheless worth discussing.

We don’t remember the offending post in question. We also didn’t admit a bunch of hateful, racist, homophobic mysoginists into ourcollege. We also didn’t choose to go to school with a whole bunch of hateful, racist, homophobic mysoginists. We didn’t choose to work at such a school either, but just between you and me, if we did work at such a school and we didn’t know that there were underlying racial issues and someone brought it to our attention and helped start a serious discussion about racial issues, we almost certainly wouldn’t want them to censor the offensive ideas. We would want it up for public debate.

We suspect that the reason why you are carbon copying 2 students (presumably student leaders who you’ve had extensive meetings with) and the school newspaper on this e-mail is because you do not think that this is just one student lashing out at a racial group. We think that you think that this might be a significant portion of the school.

We didn’t write the posts. We didn’t “allow” these postings to be on our site. We didn’t encourage these postings on our site. We did give people a space where people could be authentic and honest without reprecussions. Sometimes, people are authenticly assholes. We’re sorry that you seemed to have admitted a bunch of assholes into your school. We suggest that rather than talking about how “CollegeACB” did this or that and reaching out to “victims of CollegeACB,” you think about what kind of atmosphere your school fosters where a significant portion of the population may be hateful and racist.

Maybe instead of offering students colorful, preachy politically correct bullshit like your Tiger Pledge or censoring students on CollegeACB, you could actually have students develop a real appreciation of racial tolerance and acceptance by having an honest and frank conversation about race. It would be more work and harder work, but it would also lead to more lasting improvement in your school.

We didn’t create an atmosphere of hate. You created an atmosphere of hate. We just allowed it to be shown in its true colors. Our responsibility is to create a space where students can be themselves. Your responsibility is to teach them how to not be a bunch of pricks. We’re sorry we didn’t do better on the cover up of your failures?

CollegeACB

PS: The only schools who have ever considered censoring their students are schools from lower tiers. Faculty and staff from the Ivy League, Caltech, MIT, Duke, Stanford and UChicago would never, ever have sent this embarrasing e-mail to us. We know because we’re in constant discussion with them about the proper role of this site.

PPS: We learned to curse like sailors from dealing with professors at Ivy League-level schools. We also learned how to discuss and disarm racial tensions with more than mere censorship. We didn’t learned a Tiger Pledge, though, so maybe we missed out.


11 Comments »

  • ACB is right... said:

    I’m sorry for Dr. Moriarty and those offended by the site, but frankly Towson has no grounds for legal action against the site. They could try to block it within the TU network, but it would still be accessible elsewhere.

    ACB is right. If some Towson students weren’t jerks with the desire to rip their fellow students, the university wouldn’t have any issues.

    The way to address it is in the next Orientation, and not with some hokey student affairs skit or speaker, but by building a sense of community and pride on this campus from the start.

  • thetowerlightreader said:

    Agreed with the person above me. I hate to say it, but their email response also kinda rocks.

  • Moose said:

    Moriarty needs to get herself out of fairy-tale Tiger Pledge land and come back to reality. CACB is totally correct – sometimes, people are assholes. And sometimes assholes are admitted into college by people like Deb. And neither she nor the SGA will have any grounds to even get Towson removed from that website.

  • Ben said:

    Does she believe the problem will be solved or helped if students are censored? While the postings are terrible and racist at least we are now able to have a discussion about it.

  • Adrienne said:

    I have to agree with CollegeABC and anonymous website posting boards. Sites like these do not have to uphold to “hey let’s be good samaritans” codes. There’s no grounds to be moral or nice to people, online or not. I know Moriarty is writing the letter to keep the school’s name intact.
    It’s a shame that our peers and students are jerks to each other, but what college campus has an entire population where everyone loves each other equally? People have things to say, jokingly or not. Freedom itself includes being able to talk smack and not get reprocussions for it. Let’s be glad we can actually HAVE anonymous posting forums.
    Yes, some comments are hurtful. Yes, most are done by idiots and trolls. But why censor it? Don’t push this “hate epidemic” (which it’s not, it’s just the internet) aside, let it be fucking free.

  • Anonymity incarnate said:

    Anonymous comments shouldn’t be allowed anywhere on the internet.

  • Esther Roskam said:

    I condemn the negative comments that were made, but it’s the sad truth that there will always be people with hateful thoughts. While I don’t encourage a platform for hate, anonymous comments allow those hateful people to expose how they truly feel, thus showing the rest of us where work needs to be done to break down those ideas.

  • Thomas Howard said:

    The SGA and and Deb Moriarty have no right to censor anyone, and they are horrible people for trying to. All this politically correct bullshit is just making these problems worse, and frankly, its just fucking retarded. If Towson wants to be a bigger and better school, they better start acting like one. They are totally right, Ivy League schools would never be a bunch of bitches like the Towson administration/SGA.

  • Thomas Howard said:

    I dont have to be anonymous to be annoyed with all the BSU members standing in the middle of the hallway. They do get in people’s way with seemingly no regard for the inconvenience they are causing.

  • Christina said:

    I agree with the website’s response. I don’t agree with negative and hurtful comments but Towson administrators could go a long way with changing views on race at this school.

  • Student said:

    I think that anonymous post are good for people but that is what blogs are for. The stuff people write on there is unacceptable and are purposely hateful. This is why people go to colleges with guns and shoot out half the campus because people can’t grow up.

    And that goes for College ACB as well. If they are expected to be respected as a website and people not to try and retaliate against their foul language they need to act professional. How old are these people running this site? 16? Let’s grow up people and learn that people need to be censored because it is people like CACB that allow this awful stuff to happen in the world and why it causes violence.

    People just need to grow up. Honestly. Especially if you are in college and a part of running College ACB.

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