At this point last year, curious to see what I was getting myself into by committing to coming to UChicago in the fall, I decided to do some research in the worst possible way. I began to browse UChicago Secrets and entered full panic mode. Filled with stories of practically any grievance conceivable, my mental image of the school turned into a picture of hell, but with more depression and hate speech. Yes, UChicago does have issues, especially with regard to mental health, but UChicago Secrets is in no way indicative of the school in general. By having a space where hateful rhetoric and serious mental illnesses are normalized anonymously on Facebook (often by campus trolls), UChicago Secrets does next to nothing to benefit students on campus. The campus community and incoming students would greatly benefit from the page shutting down for good.
UChicago Secrets can be seen as a way to seek anonymous help for mental health–related issues. With nearly daily posts about struggling to cope with issues ranging from classes to social life, a brief glance at the page can lead someone to believe that these issues affect every single student at this school, presenting a skewed picture of the campus community. Not only that, but these complex and nuanced problems become normalized when they are constantly being posted on a page. Eventually, stories of mental illness and struggle become just another thing to mindlessly scroll past on your feed and to react “wow” to. To make matters worse, these issues are also being analyzed by students with often very little experience or knowledge about how to deal with them. It is in no way beneficial to be receiving advice from aspiring psychology majors. If anything, the reliance on UChicago Secrets only points to a larger problem within the campus community, namely that there are not enough mental health facilities and options at UChicago. Rather than leaving mental health issues in the hands of students, the college needs more therapy walk-in hours beyond Let’s Talk and possibly the creation of an online service that connects struggling students to a trained professional.
On top of toxically managing mental health issues for students, UChicago Secrets also fosters an environment that allows harmful opinions that fall under the category of hate speech, to pass without any repercussions. Within the past week, there have been numerous attacks against UChicago United’s list of demands to the University on behalf of cultural groups on campus. These demands, which range from the formal recognition of Greek life to hiring more diverse faculty, have been labeled by some who post as “ignorant.” Other posts on the page freely use homophobic slurs and attack students dealing with mental health issues, categorizing them as “awful fucking people with insufferable personalities.” This is a completely toxic environment that further ostracizes already underrepresented groups on campus.
With nearly 1,500 people liking the page, and a much larger number exposed to the page through sharing or chance browsing, it’s hard to deny that UChicago Secrets has a large presence on campus. While it’s easy to say that an anonymous forum for airing problems or secrets can be beneficial, that argument doesn’t seem to understand the true nature of the page, which has few secrets yet many hateful comments about campus minorities.
With UChicago Secrets gone, hopefully students would feel incentivized to seek professional help and be a first step against anonymous hate speech on campus. Not only would this improve campus life for students, but it would also end the overt misrepresentation of issues on campus to those outside of the UChicago community. While UChicago Secrets allows certain issues to be addressed more directly by the UChicago community, it is important to remember that, realistically, more harm than good has come from this subsection of the larger community.
Fred Kardos is a first-year in the College.