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Research the facts before you post online

Ensure the accuracy of reported events before taking to the web and reporting them as fact

Published: Monday, April 23, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01


Last weekend, racially charged assaults allegedly occurred over consecutive nights on Boston College’s campus. More than three days after the assaults took place, Facebook and Twitter exploded with students sharing their opinions on the alleged incident, the police and administration response, and what the situation said about issues of race on our campus. Many students claimed that the BCPD was withholding information about the alleged assault to protect the University’s reputation, while others were critical of the University’s perceived slow response to notify the student body. Students with no connection to the event or the victim and no firsthand knowledge of the events spread Facebook statuses about the incident, while others criticized the BCPD on their Facebook page.
The Heights believes that these accusations are woefully unfounded, and serve only to divide the BC community. Racism is certainly not dead, not on BC’s campus, not in Massachusetts, and not in the world. BC students should never ignore nor neglect reported incidents of racism or hate crimes. But past events have shown BCPD’s commitment to the safety of every BC student, and their efficiency in responding to student complaints. The administration and various student groups have collaborated at all levels to end racism and foster an environment of tolerance and support at BC.
The AHANA Leadership Council and numerous other culture clubs advocate endlessly for AHANA students to the administration, making sure the fight against racism never ends. The University has established Hate Crime protocol, and AHANA enrollment at the University is at an all-time high.
In a letter to the student body sent Thursday night, Patrick Rombalski, vice president for Student Affairs, wrote that many of the accounts spreading on the Internet were “inaccurate.” He warned that spreading false messages, for whatever purpose or under whatever guise, serves only to undermine the trust in our community. In interviews, many administrators also stated their belief that the events as reported did not occur. Official police reports further found that the events as reported were inconsistent with the investigation that was undertaken.
Social media is a powerful tool, bringing together millions of people, allowing everyone to have an equal voice on issues and spread news at an incredible rate. The power of social media has been evident in political revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and in the rapid growth and similarly rapid decline of the KONY2012 campaign. But with the power and effectiveness of social media comes the obligation to check facts. At BC, we are taught to think critically about everything, from literature, to religion, to science. Why, then, would so many students accept reported events as fact without bothering to verify them, or at the very least evaluate them critically?
Regarding an issue as sensitive and relevant as racism, it is even more important to stay true to the facts and avoid spreading misinformation. For example, in a separate event last weekend, the driver of a car reportedly yelled a racial epithet at a student attempting to cross Campanella Way. The advocacy and activism shown throughout the second half of this week is admirable and should be encouraged in the future for events like this one. BC students can and should come together to say that racism in any form is entirely unacceptable. BC students can and should work together to end racism, hate crimes, and any discrimination on campus. What is important, however, is to ensure the accuracy of reported events before reporting them as fact. 

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