A group of students — who refused to name individual members and said they are not affiliated with any student organizations on campus — posted dozens of fliers showing the personal facebook.com profiles of Yale undergraduates that they said contained homophobic or misogynistic content on bulletin boards across campus Wednesday morning.
One member of the group — which refers to itself as “Performing Politics, Inc.” — who requested anonymity said the action was intended to raise awareness and promote discourse about homophobia and misogyny at Yale. But many of the students featured on the fliers said they are upset because their statements and quotations were taken out of context.
The posters were removed early Wednesday afternoon by the Yale Recycling Department as part of a routine cleaning because they were not advertisements for campus events and because they were monopolizing bulletin board space, recycling coordinator C.J. May said.
The anonymous member said the group did not intend to attack individual students, but aimed to make people reconsider their attitudes and beliefs.
“We did nothing illegal, and we did not make anything up,” the group said in an e-mail. “We made public what was already public information, and hopefully the Yale community will be more aware of the widespread homophobia and misogyny the evidence of which we (easily) found on thefacebook.com.”
But Facebook spokesman Chris Hughes said the public distribution of information on the Web site is illegal, and those who hung the fliers may face charges.
“These students could be held legally liable for their behavior by facebook,” he said. “The reproduction and republication of Facebook pages … is a violation of our terms of service and can lead to action against the responsible individuals by Facebook.”
Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said the University will not limit students’ freedom to express their opinions, but she said the group should share their opinions openly instead of anonymously to facilitate a fair dialogue.
“As a University where the tenants of free inquiry are highly regarded and highly respected, one doesn’t want to impinge on people’s freedom,” she said. “Anything that is done anonymously is the antithesis of how people should communicate with each other.”
Most of the fliers contained the profiles of male undergraduates — including the name, photograph, address and other contact information of each student — while some showed the profiles of supposedly offensive facebook groups.
Trachtenberg said she thinks the posters unfairly singled out and possibly misrepresented individual students.
“There’s a line between freedom of expression and hate,” she said. “Anything that interferes with the integrity of the community is a violation of trust. To pick out people gratuitously makes absolutely no sense.”
Many students whose personal profiles were put up said they were angered by the fliers, but some said they did not feel that the posters were an invasion of privacy.
Nate Jackson ’06 said a “favorite quote” on his profile containing the phrase “faggot balls” is from a movie and is not representative of his personal beliefs.
“I guess the facebook is a public display of your character, but to print it out and accuse me of something without even knowing me, that’s pretty low,” Jackson said. “I’m sure these people have good intentions … but they shouldn’t be using other people like that. That’s just not right.”
Kashif Jafri ’07 said the quotations that were highlighted on the reproduction of his profile were taken out of context. He said he was mocking, not endorsing, statements made by Mike Tyson and Sen. Rick Santorum, in which Santorum equated homosexual acts to bestiality.
“I’m poking fun at them for being stupid and ignorant,” Jafri said. “It is clear that much of my profile was poking fun at ridiculous things that people have said. I just think that it is absurd to take something like the facebook and attribute things that are jokes or very casual statements as reflective of a person’s character.”
Stephen Chen ’09 said that although he was upset at being unjustly labeled homophobic for a quote he included in his profile, he does not consider the incident a violation of his privacy.
“If I put it on the facebook, I am operating under the assumption that anyone in the world can see it,” Chen said.
Students who saw the fliers before they were taken down expressed mixed reactions.
Hugh Baran ’09, coordinator of the Queer Political Action Committee, said he thinks the posters show that issues of homophobia and misogyny are still pertinent at Yale.
“It demonstrates that there are these pockets of homophobia and misogyny in our community,” he said. “It’s not even hidden. It’s right out there in public view, in a public forum.”
But another student, who asked to remain anonymous, said he thought the students responsible for the fliers were out of line.
“It’s not permissible to take someone’s information like this and put it all over campus,” he said.
Every flier included one of two e-mail addresses — “firstname.lastname@example.org” and “email@example.com” — provided by the group for members of the Yale community to submit their thoughts.
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