Coming under fire over claims of promoting sexual harassment, the Facebook page Spotted: University of York Library has stopped posting messages.
The Spotted: York page invites students to contact them if there is “Somebody catching your eye in JB or Harry Fairhurst” or if they have “decent library banter to share”. The site then anonymously posts the students comments.
The Spotted: York page is part of a trend, with similar pages cropping up within universities all over the country. Despite having only been created on December 17th the York page has now gained over 2,500 likes.
Student Anjali Vyas-Brannick has set up a campaign entitled ‘Stopped’, calling for moderation of the Spotted: York site. The group had planned to send a message en masse to the creators of the site, explaining their opposition to the “sexual harassment” and “body-shaming” that they claim the site promotes. The Facebook site for the campaign states:
“Not all of the posts on this page are awful, in fact, one just now is trying to help someone locate a lost study buddy (or friend or something). But the sad part is there is way too much body-shaming and silent cat-calling going on. Cat calling is sexual harrassment. Everyone has a right to work in a space where this sort of thing does not happen. Let’s make it so.
“I’ve spoken to too many women who now feel uncomfortable at the prospect of being watched in the library, or have even felt the need to dress differently or wear make up when they never have before.”
The owners of the Spotted: York page last night posted a statement in response to this criticism:
“Many of you will know that this page has come under fierce criticism for its content over the last couple of days via a petition against it on another Facebook. It is true that everybody has the right to a study environment without fear of judgement which we agree completely with, and along the way we had to filter out and ignore many messages that crossed the line of simply inappropriate or outright bullying. We never intended for anybody to take any offense, feel intimidated or upset as a result of the page or its posts; that is not at all what we were about. We simply wanted to give people the chance to have a little bit of a laugh and maybe even feel a little flattered if they got a nice post about them.
Because of the petition against it and the concerns raised, WE ARE NO LONGER POSTING MESSAGES. It is simply not worth the trouble and is a waste of everybody’s energy, especially at this time of year when everybody is revising. That is not to say we will not resume at some point, however we would have to look in to some form of moderation to prevent the problem from surfacing again. Thanks.”
They have since deleted all of the previous posts on the page.
Vyas-Brannick responded to the actions of the Spotted: York site with a statement on the Stopped Facebook page:
“They’ve responded maturely and sensibly, and have happily proved that sometimes people just make errors of judgement, and aren’t actually just the “trolls” that some people were hoping for/dreading. This is also a good thing, because it means our fellow students are good people who listen to others. Hooray :)
Personally I still feel the need to send a message on an individual level. Clearly I’ll alter what I will send based on what they’ve posted, but I will still be sending something on Wednesday.”
However, other students have defended the Spotted: York site against these claims of sexual harassment. Jordan Gillies commented on the Stopped campaign’s Facebook page:
“It puts a light funny spin on a really tedious day and whilst it may seem like sexual harrasment the majority of them are done between friends and people that know each other for a wind up and it’s funny and taken in good jest.”
“Lighten up, don’t take it seriously and start acting like a student…”
In response to the claims that the messages posted on the Spotted page were simply a joke and that the campaigners should “lighten up”, Vyas-Brannick commented:
“to anyone who thinks I or anyone else here should (as someone below has summed up neatly) “lighten up, [not] take it seriously and start acting like a student” I would like to respond as follows:
– I don’t even know what a student’s supposed to act like. I’m an individual who will chat and work and drink and do all-nighters on essays and not always do the reading and party and finish stuff at the last minute and speak and protest and maybe try to make the world a better place all at the same time. It seems a lot of other people feel the same. If this makes us students by your definition no longer, then I’m not sure I like what a student *ought* to be, and I’m very glad to act like me. As I’m sure many of you are glad to act like yourselves and no one else.
“This is not about defining who we are and what we should be. This is about being considerate to every individual, however they should define themselves and ensuring that they feel comfortable enough to express this.”
Despite the closure of the Spotted: University of York Library site a copycat version has already sprung up. Spotted in The Harry Fairhurst Library-York has already gained over 500 likes and posts similar messages to those which appeared on the original Spotted: University of York Library site.