On Aug. 26, a social media post hit every WesAdmits Facebook group, rocking the University’s entire online community. In the post in question, Assistant Dean of Admission Sebastian Ivory wrote to the student body that the administration would shut down the Facebook pages for good. The announcement was met with immediate backlash from both students and the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA).
“We didn’t know in advance that they were suspending the page. They just did it, and we were on it within about 10 minutes,” WSA Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) Chair Ben Garfield ’22 said.
While some students immediately commented on the post, outraged at the seemingly sudden decision, others had more faith in the community’s power to maintain the status quo.
“I was pretty confident it would not go through, similar to Yerbagate,” Teddy Wright ’23, who is active in WesAdmits, said. “I just said that the University was not going to win this battle against something that students were very fond of.”
With emotions running high in the comment sections, the biggest question out there was how the University could shut down such a beloved and highly used resource.
“I think the administration didn’t comprehend how much it was used and was useful to students,” WSA Community Committee (CoCo) Chair Sophie Chang ’24 said.
Historically, the Office of Admission creates new pages, titled “WesAdmits” with the class’s graduation year, for admitted students annually. The pages give incoming freshmen a place to introduce themselves and learn more about the University. However, according to the WSA, the admissions team failed to pay attention to how much students actually used the pages after they had arrived on campus.
“The longer history of it [goes back to] about four years ago, under what was a pretty different set of the administration,” Garfield said. “There was a meeting that took place about what to do about the WesAdmits groups, because the folks in admissions were thinking, ‘Why are we continuing to be responsible for these groups when the students are on campus? That’s not our job anymore.’ Fast forward to today, what’s important to note is that the people at the top of student advancement and admissions have all turned over since then.”
According to Ivory, the Admission Office was aware of the use of the pages, but they no longer thought WesAdmits should be the responsibility of the staff.
“While the Office of Admission understood that the pages were quite helpful [in] facilitating current student interactions, we did not feel it was appropriate for our office, which is primarily responsible for prospective and newly admitted student engagement, to moderate post matriculation interactions in this space,” Ivory said. “Prior to the WSA’s proposal, there were no volunteers to oversee the pages, which led to the necessity of shutting them down. We very much appreciate the WSA stepping up to take on the moderator role and are glad current student interactions can continue without interruption.”
Whether the administration was aware or not, the importance of WesAdmits became abundantly clear when its presence was threatened, and virtual chaos quickly ensued.
“It was a pretty shocking turn of events that no one saw coming,” Chang said. “And so obviously, as you saw on social media—on Twitter, on Facebook everywhere—a lot of people were just suddenly in a panic, and it was very chaotic for that initial time period.”
In the days after its publication, Ivory’s post in WesAdmits 2022 garnered over 98 comments, many of which involved students discussing the creation of a copycat page, “All Wesleyan Admits.”
The page, created by an incoming first-year student, claimed that the new group would allow communication between all students rather than having grade-based “segregation.” Soon, a full-fledged debate was raging in the comment section involving Wright and numerous other Facebook commenters. These comments have since been deleted.
“I think that the specific content made a lot of people upset,” Wright said. “The racial undertone of the comments rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. I feel as though if it hadn’t had that tinge, people would have been way less interested in the whole situation.”
The Argus reached out to the first year in question, but the student declined to comment.
Soon, Twitter was full of parodies and memes, including a well-circulated post that pretended to be raising money for an organization that would fight against the, as one tweet described, “WSA’s oppressive regime.”
Even though Wright and her peers engaged in discourse and were both enraged and disheartened by the comments, Wright also had a more forgiving perspective on the situation.
“I mean, generally, especially when it comes to pre-frosh or freshmen, I think something we learn as we spend more and more time in college is that there’s a sort of audacity that you come into college with,” Wright said. “Most people mellow; it’s just an emotional maturity situation. So I try not to be harsh or too biting with some of the more audacious behaviors that freshmen and pre-frosh engage in.”
As the dust clouds began to settle, news came that WesAdmits would indeed survive this tumultuous period. In an Aug. 28 post that was sent to every WesAdmits group, Ivory mentioned that the administration was in talks with the WSA about how to move forward with the page and had paused the shutdown until Sept. 7. Garfield then sent over a proposal to the administration which outlined the necessity of WesAdmits to the campus community.
“It is critical that these channels remain open for Wesleyan students to access while active students at the University,” the proposal read. “Asking students to migrate to new channels that are unfamiliar will create confusion and will damage relationships between students and hurt student trust in the administration. Please consider this plan as an effort to best serve students while lessening the burden on the admissions office.”
After the administration gave no definitive answer about the shutdown, Garfield said he sent over another email on Sept. 6. The deadline was again extended until Sept. 9, when the administration finally agreed to begin the process of turning over the pages to the WSA. During this interim period, Garfield was made a moderator for the pages until the WSA elections finished. Going forward, the only moderator from the assembly will be Chang, as the Community Committee is in charge of managing the pages.
“We’re not really anticipating having to do that much work because obviously [when] the Wesleyan administration did it, they didn’t know how often it was used, they didn’t check much,” said Chang. “There’s not really much involved with being an admin of a Facebook group.”
The WSA will continue to work with the Admission Office to work out the kinks of the transition of power, but for now the change has been relatively smooth. The office will continue to create new Facebook groups for the incoming classes, and then turn over the responsibility to the WSA once the students arrive at campus.
Garfield also commented on the lack of social media channels on campus that might offer an alternative to Facebook.
“I think that there’s a lot of people at Wesleyan on Twitter,” Garfield said. “There’s just not those other platforms that exist. I know that there are some folks that want to have this platform created called OurCampus, and I think that the idea is to replace WesAdmits. But they have a long way to go before they’re really going to be able to completely replace it.”
Wright said she feels that WesAdmits pages are critical to the Wesleyan experience.
“I think the main takeaway is that while Wesleyan [has] some divides between athletes, [other] students, and the different concentrations and everything like that,” Wright said. “But people are really passionate about widespread communication situations. WesAdmits is a way for people of all grades on campus to disseminate information effectively, to make jokes, [and] just have a good time with a wider audience, and I think it’s pretty reflective of this small campus vibe.”
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