Monday, April 11, 2011

Campus Climate: Anonymity

Second, anonymity is the wrong debate to be having. The Faculty of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work has voiced concerns for safety and respect in their latest article. They believe that by stopping the anonymous postings on the Skidmore News comment sections, they will stop anonymous hateful speech. Skidmore News has stood by the position that in all cases but what they deem unprotected speech, they will not censor their comments section, expressing a need to maintain their integrity and freedom of expression. I cannot help but feel that limiting speech in any form will not stop the opinions of people that have expressed themselves as potently as I have seen on the forums. Anonymity is a tool for expression and release. Crime has not increased with the wider availability of anonymous outlets for expression. I’d argue the opposite, the lack of accountability to the words expressed does not generate an obligation to action that a non-anonymous comment does—it provides a release without the necessity of follow through. In a different sense, anonymity is important for other reasons. Skidmore’s successful post-secret event is predicated on the power of anonymity. People can express their pain, their secrets, and their desires without having to own up to the personal stigma that would otherwise be created. Anonymity is just another way for people to express themselves; fighting to remove that outlet will be ultimately ineffective at stopping the hatred behind the comments.

Anger and hatred are emotions with just as much validity as any other. To single out the angry and hateful anonymous comments is to ignore the productive and insightful anonymous comments that have been posted as well. While I would certainly prefer if everyone signed their name with their comments, we cannot get rid of an outlet that may give the timid a voice. Ultimately, if this is a community as we say it is then these hateful anonymous comments belong to all of us. It is our responsibility, together as a community to find the needs behind the fire and help these anonymous voices come out in the open without stigmatization. Give them the opportunity to share their thoughts—be accepting. Hopefully, in starting that process, we can openly engage in a real debate; give this community the opportunity to collaborate together to find the solutions that work for all of us. Not just the progressive, the liberals, the racists, the conservatives, the blacks, the whites, the jocks, the sluts, the art kids, the prudes, or whoever. This campus is for all of us.