Intolerance a persistent problem at UI campus, students

Editor’s note: The following guest column contains profane language.

“Hot girl, orange shirt,” I hear behind me as I sprint through the edge of campus near some fraternities. I’m annoyed. I didn’t go on a run to be objectified by my peers. Don’t even ask about what I wore — it shouldn’t matter. Street harassment happens without consequence, and many don’t think too much about it, especially on college campuses.

When I pull up my Facebook, I am exposed to the same cat-calls except they are anonymous. Thanks to Illini Crushes & Confessions, a Facebook page where people (specifically University students) can post anonymous “confessions” with only mild curating by page administrators, and it is followed by more than 6,800 people.

The page was created most likely with the intentions to build a closer and stronger campus community, but instead, its content perpetuates rape culture, body shaming, racism and intolerance on campus. “Likes” and “retweets” promote the content as funny, and hardly anyone calls out the page for its offensiveness. This Facebook page is a serious problem.

Examples of some of these offensive posts include:

“I wish we lived in a place with more beaches and a warmer climate so that more girls would not be able to hide their big guts behind layers of clothes. Maybe then they would have motivation to be in better shape and eat healthier, just a thought… #illiniconfessions”

“My roommate is a faggot ass(No homophobic)#illiniconfessions”

“I like you…just not in a sober way”

“[Sarah] puts the ass in gymnasst. #illinicrushes”

College confessions pages are forms of cyberbullying and perpetuate intolerance. Nobody asks to be harassed while walking to class or when they’re on a run, and nobody is asking to be picked apart on a social media site. Reading posts over and over on this page has desensitized students to intolerant remarks. Scrolling through the page, I wonder how these submissions were even allowed on the website.

My open letter to the administrators of the Illini Crushes & Confessions page urges them to stop posting intolerant submissions. But it’s more than page administrators, it’s the privileged student body. It’s the same ones who generated the #fuckphyllis Twitter trend when they didn’t receive a snow day, the students who proudly hang Confederate flags in their bedrooms and promote segregation within the Greek system.

I’m more than tired, I’m angry. At a campus where a stranger yells, “Want a real dick?” to my partner and me while we’re on a walk, where images of a Native American Chief on clothing are associated with drinking holidays, and where “Companion Animals in Society” fulfills the Western Comparative Culture course requirement (where students should actually be learning about culture), there is a larger problem than bullying on Facebook confessions pages.

Our campus has an intolerance problem that can’t be changed by hiring visiting speakers or sending an email about “Inclusive Illinois.”

Intolerance at our university can be denied time and time again by students who have the privilege to ignore inequality. Intolerant graduates will only perpetuate the discrimination in politics, business and advertising.

I’m calling on students to open their eyes to the racism, sexism, body shaming and oppression on campus. I’m calling on students to reject what they believe as tradition. This issue affects more than just me. Intolerance is everyone’s problem.

We can address every college campus confessions page that comes to light — YikYak, CollegeACB, you name it — but that won’t necessarily stop these sites from existing and being created. It’s time to face the real problem, the ugly truth that we have a tolerance problem. I’m calling on the University campus to listen to the microaggressions we make in conversation and class. Saying, “This is just how it is,” is a way of exercising privilege.

We can speak up. I’m calling on every student whose blood has boiled while hearing offensive chants from outside a house party. Every student who has been called a faggot. Every student who has been victim blamed after a sexual assault.

I’m calling out our campus and every campus that creates unsafe and exclusive environments. Let’s encourage the end of pages like Illini Crushes & Confessions, but also remember why these exist and persist in the first place.

Lucy Vernasco is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]