There’s an issue on the desk in the Wire office from March 10, 1994, five months and a day before I was born. The top story in a newspaper with a broadsheet format is always on the far right of page one, because that’s the direction the eye naturally goes when looking at the page. (The eye that reads left to right, anyway.)
The article in this position of prominence on March 10, 1994 is “Wheaton Student Taken Into Protective Custody.” It’s about how a Public Safety officer found a drunk student in the Dimple. When the officer tried to escort the student back to his room, the student bolted, running until the officer caught him near Slype, handcuffed him, and took him away.
From a 2013 perspective, the article reads like something out of The Onion; it seems ridiculous that The Wire paid so much attention to a single drunk student running through the Dimple. It is also notable in that it quotes the Public Safety officer, who is very reasonable in the context of the article. It’s not so much that PS officers aren’t reasonable; it’s that we don’t often see them in print.
In the time of Wheaton Confessions, the way students learn about events like that and respond to them has changed. Namely, it’s gotten a lot briefer and a lot more student-driven. While the editor who wrote the Wire story must have gathered most of her information from Public Safety, now someone might post about it anonymously before the paper gets a chance to come out.
As of last year, the school has a functional platform where people can post anonymously about issues they have, in addition to love notes and sex things (a student posted last year that he or she masturbates with pizza from Chase. That one is a confirmed joke.). The platform is highly opinionated, and sometimes pretty stupid as a result; most upperclassmen will tell you that complaining about the food at Wheaton is old news.
That being said, the page is an unprecedented way to reach students at a school as small as this one. Wheaton Confess, which is the second incarnation of the Wheaton Confessions page (the first one was shut down last year and quickly restarted somewhere else), has over 1000 friends on Facebook, meaning that a single post can reach a majority of the student population at any time.
Functionally, the page is currently limited to students. As a result, the best productive use of it is to draw attention to issues students themselves can work on or even correct. SGA Senate and Class Council initiatives should be high on this list; the student government sees Wheaton Confess.
Although “starting a conversation” (a term the administration loves to use) about social or academic issues that should be addressed by the student body is one use of the page, it also showcases an interestingly intimate portrayal of student life. Loves and losses are chronicled, questions are asked, and tiny stories are shared. A recent post: “I can still taste you on my lips”. (A comment on that post: “Brush your teeth.”)
Any journalist should be able to talk at length about the dangers of anonymity. That being said, anonymity is also a way to hear voices that previously would not have spoken out. For that ability, it’s worth it to deal with a few more conversations about how the felt is coming off of the pool cues in Meadows.