Earlier this week, an editorial published in the News questioning the place of athletics on-campus sparked widespread community debate on Overheard at Yale — a Facebook group composed exclusively of Yale affiliates where members post notable things they have overheard on-campus. This prompted WKND to investigate other communitywide discussions on Overheard that have occurred this academic year, including the Grace Hopper College name change and post-election criticisms of “liberal snowflakes” at Yale. Using these three campus events as case studies, WKND explored the magnitude of reactions and immediacy of response to the posts as well as how these campuswide discussions fit into the larger context.
Within minutes of University President Peter Salovey’s email to the Yale community about changing the name of Calhoun College to Grace Hopper College, a screen shot of the email was posted to Overheard at Yale. Throughout the first four hours of the original post, eight others followed. Over the next two weeks, 21 different people made original posts on this topic, demonstrating the breadth of people engaged. Cumulatively, the posts received over 5,600 reactions, of which over 95 percent were “like” or “love.”
In the midst of the presidential vote count on Nov. 8, an Overheard member posted a screen shot from Piazza of students in a science class asking their professor to postpone the midterm date. Twelve other originals posts were submitted over the next week, generating 4,500 reactions in total. (Of these, four times as many were “angry” reactions and three times as many were “sad” reactions.) One poster submitted a political cartoon that depicted college students as crybabies. While the post generated 72 reactions, it inspired 36 comments and 12 comment threads, which WKND characterized by more than two responses to a comment. Notably, numerous comments — sarcastically praising the humor and thoughtfulness of the cartoon — received more likes than the original post, highlighting the level of engagement in the conversation and the fact that multiple discussions were happening simultaneously.
Earlier this week, a poster submitted a link to an op-ed in the News (“Admissions and Athletics,” Feb. 27, 2017) critiquing student-athletes on campus. The post was met with 838 reactions, of which 250 were “angry.” Within the next few days, the News published three letters to the editor and three guest columns in response to the op-ed. Additionally, an op-ed published in the News by Andrew Sobotka ’15 (“Equal athletic appreciation,” March 6, 2013) in support of student-athletes began recirculating on Overheard. Of the 114 comments on the original post, 23 comment threads were initiated. One comment, “I would be offended but I’m an athlete so I don’t know how to read,” garnered 1,806 likes, more than three and a half times the original post.
Events occurring in the real world inspire conversations on Overheard, which prompt people to react in their daily lives. Overheard discussions and on-campus protests regarding the Hopper College name change often occurred concurrently. While the debate about student-athletes dominated conversations within Yale, online and in student publications, Overheard has even farther-reaching effects. In reaction to the post-election pleas for midterm rescheduling, economics professor Steven Berry submitted an op-ed to the Washington Post after the fact that he had made his midterm optional spread to major news outlets, such as Fox News. In his piece, Berry refuted the idea that his students were “snowflakes” who were incapable of confronting opposing viewpoints. Additionally, an Overheard post referencing an episode of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” featuring Yale students prompted a comment from Jo Miller ’88, the executive producer and head writer of the satirical show. “I wrote this for y’all,” Miller said. “Nobody shits on my kids.”