Students use social media to promote discussion

Tessa Duvall

Facebook has become more than just adding friends and ‘liking’ photos — it’s about making a point.

Social media outlets, such as Facebook groups and Reddit threads, allow students who may not otherwise know one another to form a community in which they can discuss and share opinions.

WKU and the Honors College both create groups for each class of incoming freshmen, and many fraternities and sororities use private groups to discuss chapter ongoings. In other cases, students independently create Facebook groups for their clubs, organization or degree program.


And then there are protest groups. Groups such as “WKU Students Against the Centennial Mall Sculpture” and “The organization of Concerned Students against Douchebags (WKU Chapter),” both of which have one member after the overhaul of Facebook groups, whereas “Students Speak Up Against The WKU History Professor Jack Thacker” currently has 56 members.

Amina Abou, a sophomore from Casablanca, Morocco, decided to create the Facebook group about the history professor after her husband completed Thacker’s military history course and was concerned by the content of lectures.

Louisville senior Ryan Hunton, Abou’s husband, said Thacker would frequently digress during his lectures, making comments about things such as Sharia law, the conflict between Israel and Palestine and “Obama’s army.”

Hunton said this was inappropriate because the class consisted of about 90 percent Army ROTC cadets, who will go on to become commissioned officers and potentially serve in predominantly-Muslim countries.

“If I was Muslim, it would be an environment I wouldn’t be comfortable in,” Hunton said. “And even just as a cadet, in the classroom, I could tell it was an environment that wasn’t the general military environment that I was used to where it was nonpartisan, nonpolitical.”

Abou, who is Muslim and has been married to Hunton for more than two years, said she decided to wait until after Hunton received his grade to create the group, which she did on Feb. 3.

There is no specific goal or desired outcome for creating the group, Abou said, adding that she just wants to share information, including a letter written by Hunton expressing his frustrations with the class.

“If nobody will speak up about this professor, there is always the power of this professor to keep going,” she said. “It’s so hurtful. Somebody has to speak up.”

Thacker said the comments being made in the group do not make sense. Perhaps he was misunderstood or statements had been misinterpreted, he said.

Thacker said he is careful to distinguish that Islam and radical Islam are different and that soldiers will serve in countries where radical Islam is present, making it an important part of military history.

Hunton said he and Thacker will meet later this week to discuss the course.

Similar to Facebook groups, Reddit — a social news website where users can vote posts up and down — allows its users to come together to openly discuss almost anything.

Reddit does not require registered users to provide more than a screen name and password, while email addresses are optional. To view Reddit threads, a person does not have to create an account.

A subreddit focused entirely on posts related to WKU, /r/WKU, currently has 189 subscribers and three moderators. Two of the subreddit’s three moderators, Kaliegh Belda and Autumn Jarvis, are WKU students. Belda and Jarvis became moderators last summer after the subreddit creator graduated from WKU and moved away.

Belda, a Columbus, Ga., junior, said the WKU subreddit allows subscribers to share links, photos, comments and have discussions with one another.

“It’s all things related to WKU or about Bowling Green,” Belda said. “That’s why it’s broken up into a subreddit. It’s just a place for people to share information. It’s a really good resource for learning and to gain information about a lot of topics.”

Popular threads in the last week include creepy spots on campus, Chinese food takeout, a meme about campus parking and the “external computer use and ethics” part of the student handbook, with the latter of the four gaining 30 comments.

Belda and Jarvis agreed they both take a hands-off approach to moderating the subreddit.

Jarvis, a Madisonville senior, said she will generally only remove a post if it is a violation of Reddit’s rules, someone’s personal information or severely offensive. Examples of removed posts include phone numbers being given out in revenge, scanned student IDs and really racist comments.

“We’re very for free speech,” Belda said. “But with free speech there’s a responsibility with that.”

Although Reddit allows for anonymity, Belda and Jarvis said that many subscribers of the WKU subreddit feel they are a part of a community and choose to make real-life connections with each other.

“We’re not forcing anyone to divulge their identity,” Belda said. However, members of the group frequently meet up to go to Hilligan’s, Prince Hookah Lounge and other spots around Bowling Green,  and students new to WKU use the subreddit to network with other students, she said.