Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sex, Booze and Gay Mormons: Utah's College Students Confess

Posted By on November 5, 2013, 10:00 AM

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Why keep a secret when you can anonymously tell the Internet? That seems to be the trend with college students around the country, who are anonymously telling the world about their drug habits and sex lives on Facebook college-confession pages. And Utah is no exception—there are confession pages for most of the colleges in the state.---

"It's kind of the culture, Utah County especially; it stops people from saying what's on their minds in public," says the UVU Confessions creator, who wishes to stay anonymous, about the Utah Valley University page. "I felt that this would be a good way for people to express themselves without being rejected or discriminated against."

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Some pages have been very successful, such as the Weber State University page, which has grown exponentially since first starting in September. The page reached 1,000 likes within the first three weeks of its creation. According to the site's creator, the site receives 200 to 300 submissions per day.

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Brigham Young University was the first Utah school to start a confession page, called BYU Secrets, and the administrator says the inspiration came from New York University.

"For starters, we're brothers, and one of us attended NYU and the other attends BYU," says the administrator, who also requested to remain anonymous, "Once NYU's secret page became popular and some other schools started to follow suit, we thought we'd try and see if a BYU Secrets page could be as successful. We had always talked about how ... different ... NYU and BYU were, so we thought it could be interesting to see the differences between their secret-page cultures."

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Snow College's page creator says that they got inspiration from all of their free time.

"The honest truth is that there isn't a lot to do in Ephraim in the summer."

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On most pages, the posts are user submitted through either a Google form or SurveyMonkey, so that the admin of the page does not know who submitted the confession. BYU Secrets is not entirely anonymous, having submissions go through e-mail.

Not all submissions make it onto the sites. For instance, according to the Weber State Confessions and the UVU Confessions creators, they reject posts that mention people by name or attack certain people, and Westminster said they don't post anything that is obviously fake.

"I don't post anything that singles out one person," says a Westminster admin. "Anything that's really vulgar or really inappropriate, like hard drug use, I don't want parents looking at the page and thinking that this is what Westminster is."

Southern Utah University's confessions page only accepts about half the submissions it receives.

"I turn down probably more than half," the SUU Confessions admin says. "Usually, because they are dumb, they don't make sense, they are trying to promote something or they are too controversial."

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And the University of Utah's page rejects anything that runs the risk of shutting its page down.

"I filter the content," says the creator of University of Utah Confessions, who prefers to remain anonymous. "The reason that I do this is because I read about a fair amount of college-confession pages being shut down by the school for a variety of reasons, such as confessing about crimes people have committed, defacing/slandering the schools in an explicit manner and calling people out in ways that offend them. I just try and post confessions that aren’t going to get the page shut down."

Utah State University has had problems with its confessions site after an alleged rape confession was posted. The admins created a new page, called USU Confessions 2.0, and the school is currently monitoring it. According to a KSL article, USU spokesman Tim Vitale said they are concerned about the safety of their students.

"We're also concerned in the larger sense about the negative impact it has on our students," he told KSL. "The site does not reflect the characteristics of the Utah State University experience, so that worries us. But that's also people's individual right to post whatever they want, as long as it falls within the letter of the law."

Vitale also said they are worried about libelous material that has the USU name on it and whether the school could be responsible for what is posted.

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The pages aren't only a place for students to get something off their chest; students at Westminster also discuss campus issues.

"All the other schools could be just as productive with their confessions page, but they just choose not to be," the Westminster admin says. "You go to the other schools, and it's just like 'had sex in this supply closet here.' We diversify our moderation. Nobody goes to Westminster's senate meeting because they're boring as hell. But when the real, actual issues come up on the site, there have been huge debates, like 50 comments. Students that I didn't even know go here have great opinions about shit." It seems students are much more open to discussing campus affairs when they know they are anonymous.

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Dixie's Confessions Page

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The posts on the confessions pages can range from ridiculous to completely serious. On the WSU page, there was a post from someone who hinted at wanting to commit suicide. "The suicide post one is probably my favorite just because it brought back my faith in humanity," the creator says. "There were 20+ responses that were just like, 'There's help,' 'Everybody loves you,' 'Don't do it.' The community really does care and this could really work."

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Rumors have flown around the pages about school administrations' attempts to shut the pages down, but official spokespeople for the colleges don't agree. "The page is independent of the U," says Valoree Dowell, a University of Utah spokeswoman. "Our staff has nothing to do with it, nor have we ever promoted or mentioned it from any of our social media."

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Westminster’s page administrators say that it’s the most popular website on campus "Students go to this page before they go to the school's."

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“I think it’s a lot of fun. Every day, you can go on Facebook and see what has happened,” sophomore Benedicte Aune says, “but it isn’t just funny things. People also post opinions about issues on the campus that they want to reflect on. Like, there was someone from the student government who wanted to get people’s opinions about something, so they posted to the page.”

However, Jackie Goodman, a junior at the University of Utah, thinks that she knows a little too much about her classmates now.

“It's hilarious, but usually a little on the gross side. I now know how many people pee in certain elevators.”

Twitter: @LaurieReiner

Twitter:@IvyASmith

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