“I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil! I saw George Jacobs with the Devil! I saw Goody Howe with the Devil! I saw Goody Sibber with the Devil!”
Does this sound familiar? Either you read Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” in high school, or can just replace “with the Devil” with “at the Courts” or “without a mask.”
If you haven’t read “The Crucible,” it is a story about empty allegations and accusations brought on by an environment of fear and conformity during the Salem Witch Trials. If this strikes a chord with you, it might be because of the toxic “snitch culture” environment that plagues college campuses all over the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once-united campuses are increasingly divided as students feel the need to look over their shoulders in fear of another student “snitching” on them. The resemblance between “The Crucible” and Villanova campus culture is uncanny – all thanks to something called the “Community Concerns Referral page.” Students now have the platform to essentially accuse their classmates of anything, even if it is simply because they personally don’t like them.
This is absolutely not intended to underplay the importance of campus and community safety during a worldwide pandemic. My concern is the possibility of students abusing this page for personal gain.
While we can only assume that this toxic culture is merely an unintended consequence of Villanova creating the Community Concerns Referral page, the very existence of this page encourages a divide between students. I fear this page is being taken advantage of more than it is being used for its intended purpose of promoting overall campus safety and wellness by following COVID-19 restrictions. The page is instead being abused with the incentive of fulfilling one’s own personal vendetta by being able to submit reports of restrictions being broken without any proof.
One student, who chooses to remain anonymous out of fear for his or her reputation in this toxic environment, tells the story of how they were called to the Dean of Students for a meeting because another student submitted a report against them.
“Like most readers, I came to Villanova because of the tight knit, loyal community many students feel when visiting campus –– a fact Villanova never fails to promote,” the student said. “It therefore came as a surprise to me when I received an unfounded report from the Dean’s office claiming, ‘large gatherings’ and music in my room. The irony of the situation is that I was home during the week I received the report. Why then was it only my name listed? The only explanation was that somebody was purposefully targeting me.”
Another student, who also chooses to remain anonymous, tells a similar story.
“I was called in by the Dean of Students for a meeting because someone sent in photos from my social media, accusing my friends and I going to dinner during the ‘Slow the Spread’ directive,” the student said. “However, the pictures on my social media were posted before the directive and the dinner itself took place weeks before I even posted them. It genuinely felt like a personal attack.”
Although the Community Concerns Referral page was started by Villanova with the intentions of increasing overall safety and wellness on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the very premise of asking students to police each other is incredibly divisive and disruptive to campus life. Villanova is promoting a sense of “snitch culture,” which is encouraging students to turn against each other.
In this trying time, campus unity is more important than ever. Once again, this is not to underplay the importance of health and wellness and following COVID-19 restrictions, but relying on college students to essentially “tattle” on their peers is a very slippery slope. We need to work together as a community to keep our campus safe during this pandemic, but the societal effects of this “witch hunt” for rule breakers are detrimental to the environment on campus.