Senate Must Maintain Integrity of Social Media Presence

Oberlin Student Senate’s Instagram page (@oberlinsenate) is, overall, what you might expect of a college student governance group’s social media account; the page primarily features students’ accomplishments and activities, events happening on campus, student senator bios, pictures of Oberlin’s campus, and the like. That’s part of the reason why the account’s Tuesday night Instagram Story felt jarring, and not reflective of how Senate seems to — or should — want to present itself.

The story went as follows: It started off with “Senator Sightings” in Mudd library — pictures taken from afar of various student senators spotted in Mudd library doing work and chatting with friends, as many students do on a typical Tuesday night. The story quickly moved from Mudd library to Lupita’s, where photos featured three Oberlin students were toasting “$1 margs” in the first shot, flipping off the camera in the second shot, displaying five empty margarita glasses in the third shot, and sipping on more margaritas in the fourth and fifth photos. It is not confirmed if the students featured in the photos are of legal drinking age.

I was so appalled and shocked by this display that I had to double-check what Instagram account posted the story — I could not believe that a page that represents Oberlin College and Conservatory would propagate such an image. This is not the kind of content that should be representative of Oberlin student life, and especially not the values of one of our student governing bodies.

For one, I do not feel it accurately reflects the drinking culture on campus. While Lupita’s dollar margaritas are an honored tradition for some, they are not for many. In my experience, the majority of Oberlin students are not out getting trashed on a Tuesday night. For one of our Student Senators — someone who is supposed to lead and represent the student body — to promote such images is not only inaccurate, but inappropriate.

More broadly, however, is this really what we want Oberlin College and Conservatory to look like on social media — especially at a time when part of our financial security for next year is going to be determined by decisions that will be made in the next two weeks? We are in the middle of All Roads Lead to Oberlin — with our final, and therefore most important, All Roads days happening yesterday and today — so prospective students and families will look closely at Oberlin and will use any bit of information they come across to narrow down their list of potential schools in order to make their college decision easier.

Something so irresponsible and uncharacteristic of Oberlin College culture as Senate’s post should not play any role in helping prospective students make that decision. Unfortunately, it could. Senate’s Instagram page is a public account, so any prospective student interested in politics or policy or getting involved with student governance could come across it and be left with an impression of Oberlin students’ priorities and habits — especially in terms of academics versus alcohol — that is not reflective of the majority of the Oberlin student body.

On a personal note, I work for admissions, along with a staff of more than fifty other students who have been working tirelessly all year to recruit a class of 2022 that will uphold the values of Oberlin College and Conservatory, and will feel safe, welcome, and included if they decide to make Oberlin their home. The timing of this post — as well as the overall sentiment — felt like a bit of a slap in the face in that regard. It made me feel extremely uncomfortable, as the Oberlin that was represented in that story is not the Oberlin I attend.

@oberlinsenate: Please be more mindful of what you post on social media.