Campus News

University deactivates official class Facebook groups

Multiple university Twitter accounts were hacked Wednesday morning.

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After many UW-Madison students were confused by a May 5 Facebook notification telling them their official senior, junior or sophomore class groups had been “archived,” a university official confirmed to The Daily Cardinal that the school shut down the groups.

The UW-Madison Class of 2018, 2019 and 2020 groups are frequently used by students beyond their freshman years to locate lost items, search for subletters or ask for favors from classmates. But the university says that is not their intended purpose.

Katie Cummings, communication coordinator for UW-Madison’s Center For the First-Year Experience, served as an admin for the Class of 2020 Facebook page before archiving it last week. She said the class groups are intended “to support new students’ transition from admission through the first year.”

“[First-year students] can communicate with fellow future and new Badgers, find roommates, and ask questions about the next steps they need to take to enroll, receive financial aid [and] secure campus housing,” Cummings said in an email.

The only page that remains active is the Class of 2021 group, which serves students who will enter UW-Madison in the fall, according to Cummings. She said the university decided to archive the groups “after the students’ freshman year, as that is when key campus offices cease needing to communicate with students specifically through these groups.”

Some students thought the groups had been archived because they had become a breeding ground for controversial political arguments between students that sometimes became heated. However, freshman Nesha Ruther said that comments on the page were not only uncomfortable but, "blatant racism" and silencing people of color.

Cummings said that the university was already “in the process of deciding that all of the Class of 20xx groups would be archived after the first year,” but that the intense disputes taking place in the groups solidified the decision.

“As an official University Facebook page, there is also an expectation that we moderate comments to support an inclusive, respectful environment,” Cummings said. “Moderating discussions that often included personal attacks against individuals and groups of students was beyond our capacity to manage around the clock.”

Students who belong to the Facebook groups reacted swiftly to their termination. Jimmy Yang, a freshman, wrote an email to Cummings asking the university to reconsider archiving the groups. Yang said that arguments in the group tended to get “uncomfortable,” but that shutting down the group was “unwarranted and a step backwards.”

“I believe that the Class of 2020 page is an important platform for students to express their opinions and thoughts,” Yang wrote in the email, which he shared to an unofficial class of 2020 Facebook group. “It is through these discussions that we can slowly but surely improve racial tensions, stereotypes, or implicit and explicit biases.”

Not all students agreed, however. Nathan Fisher, who commented on Yang’s post, said he thought the university made the right choice.

“That place had become nothing but a hub for impulsive hate,” Fisher wrote. “I’m glad it was shut down.”

Cummings confirmed that there are a number of unofficial class Facebook groups that are not affiliated with the university, which she said students are welcome to participate in.

“We certainly do encourage students to form their own relationships and groups as they see fit, in whatever forum they find useful, to engage in productive and respectful conversation,” Cummings said.

Students can still view past conversations in the official groups, but there is no way to post new content and new members cannot join the groups. 

UPDATED May, 10 2017 10:20pm: This story was updated to add additional context

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