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Discourse erupts on Unmasked

March 10, 2018

The diversity of community responses to the Wood incident was most visible on the Unmasked Project, an anonymous virtual forum. While the app was intended as a platform for students to discuss their mental health anonymously and find direction to necessary resources, following the Wood incident and Mandel’s initial email, it became a breeding ground for discourse that grew vitriolic at times. The dialogue on the app centered largely around the perceived privilege of student-athletes and the potential reevaluation of the role of athletics on campus, though some posts also called for others to stop directing anger at student-athletes.

While the co-presidents of the Unmasked Project at Williams, Cailin Stollar ’21.5, Katie Nath ’23, and Claudia Ianneli ’23, closed the Unmasked forum relatively quickly after the fierce dialogue appeared, many students saw the discussion posts before the page was taken down. For students who did not get the opportunity to see it live, screenshots were quickly spread among teams and other student communities. 

Many student-athletes felt targeted by the posts on Unmasked. “I was extremely disappointed with some people’s immediate reaction to target athletes as the sole perpetrator,” JP Wong ’24, a first-year on the men’s baseball team, wrote to the Record. “Judging by the broad insults and sweeping accusations, it seemed like these comments were not based on actual evidence and rather just a way for people to point blame.”

Marit Hoyem ’24, a first-year on the women’s volleyball team, said she was not surprised by the responses. “I can understand why people are hurt and upset, especially when the consequences would affect the entire campus,” she said. 

Hoyem added, however, that the anonymity of the app likely accentuated feelings of hurt. “People are going to say stuff that they don’t necessarily mean or can ever say to your face when it’s an anonymous, online conversation,” she said. “So it’s also hard to differentiate what’s someone messing around … or actually expressing how they feel.”

While the anonymity of the app amplified frustrations during a period of heightened emotions, both student-athletes and non-athletes agreed that the discourse reflects a campuswide tension. “[I have] definitely seen a lot of anger and people upset on both sides,” Sam Holmes ’22, a junior on the men’s crew team, said. “This is just another example of how the divide is maybe growing in our school.”

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