If you’re in the know on campus, you’ll have seen — or at least heard people talking about the rise of TU Snaps as a public forum. The infamous Snapchat account, once praised and hated for posting memes and nudes, has now become an outlet for people to anonymously discuss issues on campus; these issues include the school’s handling of sexual assault, Trinity administration, Greek life, student organizations and even laundry machines.
If you’re unfamiliar with TU Snaps, we suggest you add them on Snapchat (their username is trinity.snaps) and see for yourself. The way the account operates is that you can take a photo (of absolutely anything, as far as we know) and send it to an unknown admin. That person screenshots it and posts it for the world to see. While this account used to house exclusively content for “entertainment” and was offline for some period of time, it’s back and making its way into regular conversation.
Over the last few weeks, particularly after the Clothesline Project, TU Snaps received an influx of people’s thoughts about a range of touchy subjects almost all in the form of a black screen filled with white text.
But why is this important? Why dedicate precious editorial space to what still is essentially a meme account?
This indicates a shift in public discourse at Trinity. It’s clear that people want to discuss relevant topics on campus. As your campus newspaper, we always want to encourage open discussion. But the way we carry out that discussion is equally important to having it.
Having important campus discussions on an app like Snapchat not only is unfair for people who don’t have access to it but also perpetuates the idea that the only way we can have meaningful discourse is anonymously. While it certainly is valid not to have to come forward with a traumatic story and have everyone know your name, we should not have to hide behind screens to defend vulnerable people on campus or the student organizations we’ve dedicated years to forming.
There’s something missing from public discourse on campus, but it’s not as if no one is trying to have a conversation. So many student organizations work hard to plan events to spark a conversation. The Clothesline Project — led by the Coalition for Sexual Justice — is still impacting us, even though it was taken down a week ago. Cultural organizations like the Muslim Student Association, Black Student Union and Trinity Diversity Connection work hard to organize panels and events to help inform fellow students. You can see groups like Tigers for Life tabling in Coates and trying to have conversations with passers-by.
You can tell there’s a disconnect between these conversation-starting groups and the general Trinity audience because the conversations aren’t necessarily taking place the way they were intended. There’s also the problem of knowing if you’re reaching the right people or if you’re feeding into an echo chamber. It’s not bad to have a group where you can comfortably voice your thoughts and be around people who support your common beliefs. But if that isn’t the mission of your organization, it means people aren’t paying enough attention to what you’re preaching.
There isn’t necessarily an easy way to resolve this. One solution is to support your peers and go to the events that they put on so as to actively engage in discourse in person. Another is to learn to be comfortable with conversations that take place face-to-face, not behind a screen. The more we are able to stand by our opinions and engage with our peers in an open and respectful way, the more we can learn.