By Zainab Iqbal
Published: February 27th, 2019
BC in the Know 2 is a private Facebook group where Brooklyn College students and faculty go to express their concerns about campus, job/internship opportunities, and news related to the college. Last week, the NY Post published a story about Bernie Sanders, a candidate running for president in 2020. The story said Sanders might be coming to Brooklyn College to start his campaign.
Like what any campus reporter would do, I posted it on the page. To note, posts have to be approved. Three hours later, I check the page and another student’s Sanders’ post was approved. And then, so was mine. This is fine because often, there are multiple posts of the same topic.
Anyway, students commented on that post. But after a while, when sexism was pointed out, comments were turned off, only turned back on a few hours later after moderators were asked why.
One student said, “Don’t you dare steal from my friend, you twerp.” Brooklyn College chapter president of Young Progressives of America Corrinne Greene, replied and said, “Spread the Bernie love.”
A while later, the student responded, “I wasn’t talking to you, darling. I’m talking about he stole my friends post especially when it’s already shared.”
Greene called him out on his condescending comment, saying, “’Darling’? Sexism is alive and well.”
To note, “darling” is a condescending remark when it is used in that context. It is patronizing and it is arrogant. When it is used by random men, it is used to make woman feel “less than” them.
“Not only is the original comment both inappropriate because the man is a stranger to the woman, but because he clearly does not feel any affection for her, just derision,” Simone Kolysh, BC adjunct professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, told the Excelsior. “His friend’s comment was then both uncalled for and only proved the point of sexism when he used quotation marks around the words ‘sexist’ and ‘condescending.’ The men in question do not get to inform the woman affected by the original use of the word ‘darling’ how to feel and are grossly misinformed about their place in this conversation or their expertise on how to communicate.”
The student asks her if “ma’am is OK,” and then asks Greene to point out where he was sexist. I then called him out, to which another student replied with a comment that was even more condescending than the first.
“Ladies, I don’t think he meant that in a ‘sexist’ or ‘condescending’ way. If it bothers you, then you either say ‘please don’t call me that’ or just ignore it. Don’t try to ‘make a point’ with that and move on,” he said. But there was more. The student included a screenshot of the definition of the word “darling.” Four people, including one of BC in the Know 2’s moderators Danielle Kogan, liked his condescending comment.
“I disagree that [his] comment defended sexism,” she told the Excelsior. “He articulated his opinion well, and answered the thread in a way that seemed open to discussion. I appreciate that energy because it goes a long way, so I liked it.”
“We have to have patience with each other if we want to learn to speak more consciously, and at least [he] actively tried to start a discussion,” she said. When asked if she thinks she defended sexism by liking a sexist comment, she said, “I do not believe I defended sexism.”
Kogan, a reporter and news director of the campus radio WBCR that also does newsletters and online news stories, is a moderator on a page where other reporters from other campus outlets go to get their stories out. She essentially has the power to approve posts and to disable comments.
To note, there are also members of the CLAS student government that are moderators, such as David Schykerynec, and some from Greek clubs on campus. All of them have the power to censor and approve posts they so choose.
When I asked Kogan if she thinks that is fair, she asked me if I asked members of CLAS or Greek organizations moderating the page if they also thought it was fair. I did.
“For a Facebook page, I feel it is as fair as it can possibly be at this moment,” she said. “There’s obviously no hard government system the way there is with clubs on campus. The people currently managing the page without a doubt work actively to establish an open space for students to speak freely.”
But if that were the case, why were comments disabled after sexism was called out? Why weren’t there any implications for the students that were sexist and defended sexism?
“I wouldn’t say nothing happened. It’s likely a message has been sent if he hasn’t been removed,” she said. It is to note, that neither occurred right away.
When Kogan was asked why she turned off the comments for the Sanders’ post, she said, “… the [moderators] were overwhelmed monitoring the same discussion in multiple threads. Shutting comments off was supposed to allow the discussion to continue in the earlier thread.”
Schykerynec agreed. He said it wasn’t about silencing the students. “Mods were moderating essentially the same discussion in separate threads. It was too much so someone tried to limit the conversation to a single thread.”
He noted that it “probably wasn’t the best idea and it was discussed after the fact.”
When asked what he would do if he saw a sexist comment, he said, “it depends on the context of the comment.”
“Microaggressions vs belligerent vs outright incitement of violence. It’s not black and white so there’s not gonna be a single answer of what I would always do in that situation,” he said.
“I’m not personally gonna kick someone out for, say example, an insensitive joke they shouldn’t have made,” he added when I asked him what he would do if someone made a racist, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic comment. “That’s different from saying x people are good/bad at y or x people love/hate y. And that’s different from saying we should do x to y people.”
According to Noam Swisa, an administrator of the Facebook group, sexist comments are not tolerated.
“We obviously don’t support sexist comments but as of right now, we acknowledge that we have not yet thought of a way to ensure people who make said comments don’t continue to do so,” Swisa said. “A lot of things are done on a case by case basis – our only “rule” as of right now is that users will be banned for inciting violence, but we have absolutely in the past banned people for trolling or making racist or sexist comments.”
“We do rely very heavily on members tagging us or reporting the comment though in order to enforce that. We are working on a more comprehensive set of rules which will include definitions for what is and isn’t a ban-able offense, what warrants a warning, etc.”
*Correction: The original article referred to Danielle Kogan as a reporter at WBCR. She is a reporter and the news director. *