Rachel Ayres | Staff Writer
Drawing the line between whistleblowing and slander is a difficult task and has been a recent struggle at Whitworth as community members reacted to the anonymous Instagram page, "WU Confessions."
The unknown creator states that this account is, "shining a light" on the goings on at Whitworth, but many at the school disagree and find the page, "concerning," and even "disgusting."
“WU Confessions” is a private Instagram page that currently has just over 700 followers. The account’s bio invites students to submit confessions by either direct messaging the page or using an anonymous Sarahah.com link. The unnamed account owner then publishes these confessions anonymously on the Instagram account.
A couple of weeks ago, an anonymous confession was posted detailing apparent illegal activities as well as Title IX offenses.
President Beck Taylor was notified about the post soon after it was published.
“I was made aware of [the account] by a couple of emails that I received from students who were concerned about some of the content,” Taylor said. “After that, I subscribed to the account and that caused me some concern, in part because we lived through a season of Yik Yak a few years ago.”
According to a NBC New article from 2015, Yik Yak is an, “app that lets people post anonymous messages that can be seen by anybody within a set radius.” Whitworth was one of the many college campuses nationwide that experienced chaos from the use of the app amongst students.
Now, “WU Confessions” is once again bringing the element of anonymity to Whitworth’s social media sphere.
Director of University Communications, Nancy Hines, believes that in today’s day and age, social media is an established communication source.
“I think there are lots of great things about social media, and I think that there are obviously lots of negative things too,” Hines said.
Taylor himself as an Instagram account, as well as other social media accounts.
“... I really love the proliferation of Whitworth [Instagram] accounts. Most of them are fun, unique and creative and I love that and really encourage that,” Taylor said.
Many Whitworth clubs, residence halls, departments and other groups have their own Instagram accounts. Also, there are multiple accounts, such as “Whitworth Men in Scarves,” “Beck Taylor Memes” and “Whitworth Pinecones,” that are more for entertainment purposes.
“I think those accounts bring out the best in the community,” Taylor said. “They highlight the best in the community and they encourage people to be their best in the community. What I saw on [‘WU Confessions’] was just the opposite.”
The recent flare up regarding the “WU Confessions” post detailing sexual assault was caused by concerned students.
Freshman Lydia Kramer was one of those students who became concerned after seeing the post.
“Honestly, I was incredibly disgusted. Statistically, I know that sexual assaults happen on every college campus, this one included [...]. It was shocking to not only have that reality thrown in Whitworth's face, but to see that the attacker mentioned it so casually,” Kramer said.
Like many students, Kramer responded to the post.
“I reposted a screenshot of the post on my Instagram story; I know that reposting this was giving the attacker attention, but I strongly believe that these kinds of things need to be brought to the forefront of conversations so that action can be taken.”
Taylor also responded to the “WU Confessions” post with an Instagram post of his own, a graphic of Phillipians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
While Taylor does not believe the account should be deactivated, he has used his own position and social media presence to censure it, saying:
“I am not pursuing any route to take the site down. I think students have the freedom to [post] those things. But, I did feel the need to post a somewhat ambiguous post on my Instagram account. I made that decision because if I am going to be in the social media space and I am a leader on the campus, then I need to take on my role and responsibility of calling our community to its best. And when I see something that I think is detrimental to our community and is harmful, then if I don’t name it, who is going to?”
The anonymous account owner of “WU Confessions” in turn responded to Taylor by posting, “I made this page because of so many things that have happened at Whitworth University that have been pushed under the rug.”
At this time, that specific post is now deleted from “WU Confessions”, but the 12 other posts on the page have content that range from stealing bananas from Sodexo to: “found an open vodka on dj’s booth. Chugged it all. Made out with chicks. Don’t remember anything. No regrets.”
While Kramer believes that WU Confessions doesn’t show Whitworth in the best light, she thinks that bringing up these issues may be beneficial.
“I think that ‘WU Confessions’, because of its anonymous nature, has a tendency to show the dirt of the Whitworth community. However, I do believe that having these conversations about the not-so-pretty sides of our community is necessary if anything is to change,” Kramer said.
Since its first post on Feb. 15, 2019, “WU Confessions” has raised many questions for the Whitworth community, like whether such postings have any place at Whitworth.
“I do think that there might be some benefit in anonymous postings,” Taylor said. “If someone wants to raise an issue within our community that calls us back to ourselves, somebody might use an anonymous post to call attention to discrimination they may have felt in a particular setting or less ideal circumstance on campus when they don’t feel comfortable identifying themselves. So, I do see some benefit, but too often with these anonymous accounts, people abuse that opportunity and often say things to be provocative or to elicit a reaction. And often, those things that are said are not our best and are not of our aspirations as a community that supports one anothers.”
Following the trend of Yik Yak, some feel that this Instagram page will be short-lived.
"These sites come and go because people realize that, at some point[...]while they may dabble in them[...]they don't stick with it, and there is a reason for that,” Hines said.
With “WU Confessions” still in operation, the Whitworth community has only to wait and see if it will stand the test of time.