Are We Who We Say We Are?

Cartoon Issue 18

New Paltz Secrets, a currently trendy Facebook page where New Paltz students anonymously post “secrets” to the greater “community,” has sparked outcry from various parts of our campus.

While the page might have had some value to our college community at one point, it has since been diminished by a deluge of comments, posts and general unrest that has us at The New Paltz Oracle troubled.

This page was alledgedly meant to form a community, but it has failed to do so. It has created a cesspool of comments that could not even remotely be called a “community.”

Not every post that makes it to the front page of New Paltz Secrets is offensive – in fact, a large majority of them amount to nothing more than trivial drunken tales that have little to no value being shared in the first place. However, that does not hide the fact that many posts on the page have been incredibly demeaning to an almost incalculable number of people who live and work on this campus.

But besides the blatant misogyny, racism, transphobia and unsettlingly voueryistic trends it showcases, New Paltz Secrets is a perfect example of a dirty little secret our campus has — we are not who we say we are.

We as a campus like to flaunt terms like ‘progressive’ and ‘forward thinking’ when we refer to ourselves as a student population. From the outside, we’d like to have you believe we are accepting and inviting of others; champions of social justice. To many, SUNY New Paltz feels like a little bubble of acceptance nestled among the Shawnagunks.

But how can we justify the use of any of those terms when something as mind-numbing as New Paltz Secrets has more popularity, relevance and apparent importance in the campus community than some of the campuses most important – and engaged – organizations?

As of Monday night, New Paltz Secrets had almost 200 more ‘likes’ on Facebook than The Student Association, WFNP and The Oracle combined.

Let that sink in.

SUNY New Paltz, a campus with rising academic standards known for its progressive environment, has multiple organizations aimed at informing and discussing topics of importance and relevance within the campus community – and each of these has less interaction with the student body on the internet than a page of narcissistic gossip and vitriol.

Many on our campus make strides toward accomplishing social change. We have groups of incredibly passionate and powerful student leaders all with the hopes of achieving the climate of change and acceptance our student body loves to flaunt.

But to truly accomplish these changes, our student population needs to be educated, informed and willing to take the necessary actions against the casual hatred and status quo bigotry that often slip by unchecked. We have to be vigilant representatives of the world we want to see and keep the hateful words out of our community.

Despite all of the work of various organizations at New Paltz that strive for these ideals, based on mere online interaction, New Paltz Secrets serves as a disheartening pulse on what our campus community believes – and it’s not a happy picture.

In 2011 when our campus was shocked as hateful racist messages were posted on campus, the dramatic example shook our campus to take action with a flurry of discussions and forums aimed at shifting the focus from what happened to how we can use it as a learning tool moving forward.

Since its creation last semester, there have been numerous instances of blatant racist remarks on New Paltz Secrets.

In 2012, when a campus climate survey gauging student feelings on the LGBTQ community was culminated, it showed that 97 percent of those in the survey expressed “supportive attitudes” toward the community.

Since its creation last semester, many posts on New Paltz Secrets have been filled with hateful messages to all factions of the LGBTQ community.

Some within the community compared the posts to the racial signs of 2011, and their parallels are well grounded. Not only are the posts in question offensive, they actively perpetuate a culture that creates an unsafe environment for our fellow students.

Have we fallen so far New Paltz? It is not enough to rest on the lofty liberal reputation we have crafted for ourselves and then spit in its face when supporting the social change isn’t trendy any more. Social change takes work. True progress requires us to take a consistent stand against bigotry in the myriad of small opportunities we are presented with.

It is not enough to have a supportive attitude, you need to couple that with supportive action. How can we call ourselves supportive when basic human dignity is thrown into the wind and the well being of so many parts of our campus is threatened?

If you think that the posts were mere ‘jokes’ or ‘not to be taken seriously,’ you are just as much to blame for the culture being created for members of our campus. Take a moment to look past your narrow view of what internet culture is and actually make an effort to understand the full spectrum.

Get involved, live up to the ideals you supposedly believe – but most of all be informed. The first step is literally a click away. If we as a student body can’t live up to all of the forward-thinking ideals we say we have, maybe it’s time we rethink on how we define ourselves as a campus.