Guest column by Kelly Diamond and Madison Hunt | Internet-shaming at Penn
February 17, 2014, 5:46 pm · Updated February 18, 2014, 1:25 am·
We are two members of the Class of 2013. As proud Penn alumnae, we have been distant witnesses to recent events at our beloved university that have made us uneasy. We realize we cannot speak to the atmosphere of campus at this time, as we are 3,000 miles away living our post-graduate lives in Los Angeles, California. However, as alumnae, we feel the need to speak. We are writing as individuals and not as a part of any organization that we were formerly affiliated with at Penn.
Firstly, we are proud of the efforts taken by the University and student body to break down barriers concerning the stigma attached to receiving mental health help. We are happy that President Amy Gutmann has chosen to hire more therapists at CAPS. We are thrilled to see links on social media to the new Pennsive blog and witness the bravery of students willing to share their own experiences with the community.
However, recent events that have occurred on social media have caused us much concern. The public skewering of students who attended a distastefully-themed social event is proof that some members of the Penn community are not willing to practice what they preach. After speaking with several friends who are still students, it has become evident that while the party theme was offensive, the public response is unacceptable in its own right.
Internet shaming is the scarlet letter “A” of our era. To see students insult others online is cyberbullying in the purest form. This party is just one example of a situation where no one is right. Yes, this event and others like it should be brought into the social discourse on campus. But activism does not mean insulting a student’s intelligence by calling them ignorant in the most public space possible.
Penn is already stressful enough. Watching students do their best to offer support to individuals who are struggling is beautiful. It makes us proud to be alumnae. But seeing students defame each other on the internet is causing Penn to take many steps back. Bullying causes harm to another person, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. Voicing your opinion is important, but attacking an individual publicly is undeserved and propagates a problem that students have been trying so hard to combat in recent weeks.
We are disappointed in our alma mater. Penn should be a safe community where students of all backgrounds can converse, debate and learn. Isn’t that why we applied here in the first place? This safety is jeopardized when the internet is used to threaten and humiliate. We urge you all to quit using the internet to spite each other. No matter our race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background, we are all Penn students and we are all incredibly lucky for this reason. Band together as a community to create respectful discourse around issues, but do not bully each other in the process.
Be kind to one another. You are family and you share a bond as Penn students. When you graduate, your alumni network will be your connection to the University. We know from experience that no one will remember you for your leadership positions or the social groups with whom you spent your time. But people will always remember how you treated your fellow classmates.
How do you want to be remembered, Penn?
Kelly Diamond is a 2013 College graduate from Philadelphia, Pa. She was a member of the Friars Senior Society. Madison Hunt is a 2013 College graduate from Salt Lake City, Utah. She was a member of Chi Omega and the president of Reach-A-Peer Helpline. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.