Oxy Confessions is not the place to debate sensitive issues


The Oxy Confessions Facebook page is a public, anonymous platform for students to post statements pertaining to life at Occidental. Students use Oxy Confessions to comment on their attractive lab partner or showcase their wit and sarcasm. While posts are usually lighthearted, some use the forum as an outlet to discuss the more serious side of what it means to be an Occidental student. These serious posts and the responses to them can be misinterpreted and unproductive, especially in regards to the recent ATO thread, proving that Oxy Confessions is not a constructive space to explore complex issues.

The very nature of anonymous posting is questionable, as it exempts the author from any accountability. There is no next step after an anonymous post. Anonymous internet posting can create a potentially harmful enigma. The University of California, Davis researched the effects of anonymous interaction online in relation to psychologist Stanley Milgram’s experiments. Researchers found that posting anonymously causes participants to become much more aggressive than they would otherwise.

This is evident on Oxy Confessions, where members of the Occidental community have more frequently been voicing complaints about alleged sexual misconduct at ATO, an off-campus house traditionally home to Occidental football players.

The anonymity of these posts calls into question the intentions of the authors — are they trying to initiate a dialogue, or is ATO just an easy target? It is detrimental to be ambiguous in an anonymous forum, where aggressive emotional rhetoric tends to overshadow the truth. This is not a productive environment in which to address controversial subjects.

From the ATO thread, it seems that some of the house members have felt slandered by the posts.

“Your house is unsafe and if you spent half as much time owning up to it and trying to change that as you did defending ATO on Facebook, maybe you could actually make a difference,” one commenter said.

Other ATO members have been very open and willing to change the culture of their house. In Confession #7358, someone noted that many of the members of the football team have expressed an interest in opening up a dialogue with members of the Occidental community, aiming to improve its culture. It is important to give credit to these members of ATO because their primary interest seems to be to improve and mitigate the culture surrounding their house.

“I respect and appreciate all of the ATO house members being willing and open to a conversation, that is a huge step and please recognize you are being applauded,” the contributor said.

Yet, this is far from a perfect solution. However well-intentioned, asking for survivors to reach out to ATO in order to affect change puts the responsibility on those survivors rather than on the house itself. Sexual assault is a triggering topic, and an anonymous platform could prove beneficial in discussing ATO and its problematic legacy — just not Oxy Confessions.

“There should be a separate page called Oxy Dialogues where people discuss complex social matters on campus,” one contributor said.

The new Oxy Anonymous Discourse page may be a more appropriate place to engage in debates regarding sensitive subjects. This page was recently created in response to the heightened debate regarding ATO. Their introductory message states that the creation of Oxy Anonymous Discourse is to prevent political discourse from overwhelming the Confessions page. Since it was created to counterbalance Oxy Confessions, using this forum is more constructive.

Perhaps a forum like this, one that acknowledges the sensitivity of its topics, would be a better place to explore the history and interrelation of Occidental, ATO and sexual assault.

Oxy Anonymous Discourse is progress, but an in-person discussion is optimal.

“Oxy as a community needs to do a better job of listening, supporting and trying to understand those they don’t necessarily agree with or relate to in order to make the school an environment that everyone feels they belong in,” one contributor said.

We should take this opportunity, as a community, to model the way forward — not backward — and we should do it in the open, face-to-face. Oxy Anonymous Discourse is a step in the right direction, but face-to-face dialogue would be the most productive way to move forward. It is imperative to our growth as a community that such serious conversations be treated with respect. On campus, confidential medical and advocacy services such as Project S.A.F.E. and Emmons Counseling can be utilized by all students.

Campus sexual assault is a devastating and nation-wide epidemic. The correct place for a discussion about these issues is not sandwiched between sex jokes and comic confessions on an anonymous Facebook page.

Elizabeth Brewer and Emma Pottenger are both undeclared first years. They can be reached at brewere@oxy.edu and epottenger@oxy.edu


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