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"Censorship Is Rarely, If Ever, The Right Choice": BC Confessions Moderators Weigh In

Since joining Facebook last February, the Boston College Confessions Facebook page has done its fair share of stirring the pot at BC. On a campus where many have perfected the art of putting on a happy face during rough times, BC Confessions serves as a reminder that we're all human. We suffer, we envy, we regret. At the same time, we joke, we admire one another, we secretly love Pretty Little Liars.

BC Confessions highlights every side of the BC student body: the good, the bad and the ugly. And boy, have things gotten ugly.

Confession #7122, which has since been removed from the page, told the intensely disturbing story of a student who has raped three girls on campus, suggesting the possibility that it could happen again. Students rallied instantly, flooding the posts with comments that condemned the student's actions and demanded that he seek help.

It appears, however, that the entire controversy was just a tasteless prank, as the anonymous poster has allegedly turned himself in and admitted to fabricating the post.

Dean of Students Paul Chebator deemed the confession a hoax in an email to the BC community. "While there is a continuing investigation into this matter with the BC Police and the Dean's Office, the student has been referred to the Student Conduct System to face appropriate disciplinary sanctions," he wrote.

So, what is next for BC Confessions? While some students argue that this incident should shut the page down altogether, others praise the forum for opening a dialogue on rape that otherwise may have been stifled. We corresponded with the moderators of BC Confessions to get their side of the story.

What inspired you to create BC Confessions?

We started the page after seeing similar confession pages popping up around the country. People, and college students especially, are often hesitant to express certain emotions and thoughts that need an outlet. So we decided to provide that outlet for the BC community.

When you created the page, how did you envision the BC community using it? How do these expectations compare to reality?

We never expected the page to become what it has grown into. It started out as an outlet for students to share humorous thoughts and experiences around campus, along with their frustrations. We soon realized that it was something much more significant than that. The page became a place where students could finally speak openly about their BC experience without fear of judgment, and on a forum that is viewed by a significant portion of the undergrad population.

How do you decide what to post on the page? Do you ever choose to omit confessions that are submitted to you?

We have a rough set of guidelines we use to decide what should and shouldn’t be posted. We omit any that are meant to put down a specific individual, any that target a particular faculty member, any that are excessively vague, and any that are clearly advertising a particular group on campus. Generally it is just left up to the judgment of whichever moderator is posting.

How does it feel to be the first set of eyes to read a confession that touches on darker topics such as suicide and sexual assault? When you received Confession #7122, did you expect the amount of backlash from the student body toward the writer?

It really puts a big weight on our shoulders. These kinds of posts are the things that keep us up at nights. With the suicide posts, we fear that the wrong move on our end could ruin or end someone’s life. As far as the now infamous Confession #7122 goes, as soon as we read it we knew we had a tough decision to make. It was clear that once it was posted there would be a major response, but if we didn’t post it would just be another case of people pushing the issue of rape under the rug.

Some people have suggested that it was wrong to post the confession instead of bringing it immediately to the police. Why did you decide to make this confession public?

We alerted the police and gave them all the information we had on the submission immediately after posting the confession. Censorship is rarely, if ever, the right choice. It might have come at the cost of making many students uncomfortable, but rape is happening at this school more often than any of us care to admit and it is a problem that will never be fixed unless it is confronted head on.

Were you involved with alerting the police of this matter? At what point did the authorities get involved?

We alerted BCPD and gave them every detail of information we had immediately after the confession was posted.

In light of the fact that someone has admitted to writing the hoax confession, how does it feel to balance a page centered on honest communication knowing that some are using it for dishonest purposes?

We have always known that many of our posts are likely made up, and at the end of the day there is no way to tell which are true and which are not. It’s something we have to deal with in order to enjoy the benefits of anonymity. It’s a shame that this one post has single-handedly damaged our credibility overnight. But we hope that we will be able to move past this and continue to provide an outlet for the BC community. We feel that as a whole, BC confessions has helped BC students realize that no matter what they are going through, there are a hundred other students going through the same things, and they are in a community that is willing to provide support if they are willing to look for it.

What do you hope comes of this hoax? Does the BC community have anything to gain from the events that surrounded the confession?

Hoax or not, I hope that this event helped people realize that rape isn’t just something that happens on Law & Order SVU, it is happening in our own community and we have the power to stop it. It’s a shame that BC is getting so much bad publicity because of the situation, but at the end of the day, if even a single sexual assault is prevented because of the discussion that this event has fostered, I’d call that a win.

A group of students has created an event called "A Response to Boston College Confession #7122" as a safe zone to discuss the post and its implications about sexual assault on campus with BCPD officers. The discussion will take place on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7:00 pm in Cushing 001. 

School, major and year: A&S, English and communication, 2014

Hometown: Acton, MA, but my parents recently moved to Beacon Hill, which is way cooler.

What makes the Gavel so BANGin’? Everyone is just the perfect amount of weird. It is one of very few environments in which I don't feel like the weirdest person in the room.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a pep talk the night before you moved into BC as a freshman, what is the most important piece of advice that you would give to your former self? I would offer myself a friendly reminder that everyone comes to college friend-less, and therefore looking for friends. Before coming to BC, I pictured myself eating every meal in solitude because I forgot that I wasn't the only person who would be entering day one without really knowing anybody. That was silly of me.
What is your favorite study spot on campus? Stuart law classrooms.
What is your go-to meal at Late Night? Mozzarella sticks.
What is the #1 most played song on your iTunes? "Gong Li" -- Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What is the best Halloween costume that you have ever worn? I was a Hershey's kiss as a toddler. Aaaaaand I rocked it.
If you could befriend the main characters from any TV show or movie, who would you choose and why? "The Office," because I have always thought that Jim and Pam would appreciate my sense of humor.