Campus White Board Creates Platform for Potentially Inappropriate Content

Psychology club addresses recent not-safe-for-work content posted on their public white board.

By Jesse Mishler, Staff Writer

The Cambridge campus psychology club whiteboard has been an ongoing source of inappropriate content near the cafeteria, which has been a cause of concern for some students. The psychology club board has been this way because it’s a place where anyone can post what they feel like posting, anonymously.

Psychology club president Travis Nelson explained that the purpose of the white board is to share club updates, mental health info and the question of the week. Hillary Gokey, the faculty advisor for psychology club, said that the question of the week on the board is important “because we see value in uniting students on a forum, as simple as it is. It is a fun way to keep students thinking about different topics and having a place to write/read.”

Despite the idea behind the question of the week being positive, content on the white board has sometimes been offensive or inappropriate. Nelson explained that inappropriate content is anything that is considered not-safe-for-work. Likewise, Gokey said that determining what content is inappropriate can be tricky and subjective. “If something is written that makes you think, ‘hmmm…that doesn’t really seem appropriate and/or nice,’ we will consider removing it. A good rule of thumb is to be nice! Don’t try to shock anyone – that is not the purpose of the board.”

This recent picture of the whiteboard from March shows that students have written questionable and irrelevant content, including a statement about defunding Planned Parenthood and false information about the Covid-19 outbreak. Image Credit: Yuri Malik

Content that has been removed in the past included things like sexual comments, hate speech and arguments on the white board. Student Mikhayl Turnock said that he has witnessed inappropriate content. “I have erased a few of them; some of them were quite inappropriate.”

The psychology club whiteboard is an open forum that everyone can see and write on and by hosting inappropriate content, it can create an unfriendly, unwelcoming environment that is “detrimental to the student body. Especially considering there are PSEO students, so we gotta [sic] keep it okay for kids, too,” according to Nelson.

Having the right to speak how you want is important, but it is just as important to be civil to one another and respect that responsibly. Regarding drafting a content removal policy, Nelson said, “We haven’t yet, but that’s definitely something I’ll bring up next meeting. That’s a wonderful idea so we can be more upfront with how that business is handled.” Gokey explained, “It might turn into a conversation that does not have an answer we all agree on, but it is important to consider.”

As of right now, students can report inappropriate content, according to Gokey. “Anyone can read it and report comments. It is in a populated area, so it is easy to check. Of course, there is also an eraser by the board, so anyone can erase – though we don’t want people to do that; we prefer they send me or a faculty/staff member a message.”

When deciding on the questions to be put up on the white board, Gokey said “Normally, once a week. We had a slow start this semester, but we are up and running now! We have a new banner on the top of the board, so if you have not checked it out, you should take a peek.”

While there are no students currently on campus to write on the board, as we are all working remotely right now, perhaps the board will be thriving again in the fall without any inappropriate content.