On 13th December 2023, a picture showing an act of vandalism mocking Palestine, currently under an armed invasion from Israel, was posted on X (formerly Twitter) by Insha Husain (UG25). It came at a time when conversations condemning the genocide of Palestinian people by the Israeli State were at a peak. In her post, the student indicted the Ashokan student body for its “self-absorbed and selfish” insensitivity.
The vandalism was met with outrage on campus, with several other students also taking to online and in-person platforms to condemn the act. “There is no word other than horrific and despicable,” a student of UG25, who wishes to remain anonymous, says concerning the vandalism, “It’s appalling to think that students could stoop this low.” When asked about the thought process behind the tweet, Insha echoes similar sentiments, “I had to speak up somewhere.”
The outrage was not restricted to the Ashokan Community. The post started doing rounds on X, garnering over 200 thousand views and two thousand likes as of December 30th. “I had a very small number of followers at the time, and wasn’t very active either,” Insha recalls, “yet I didn’t make much of it.” The post was picked up by a few popular Instagram handles and Reddit pages too. Prominent among them included Prof. Ravikant Kisana, who runs the Buffalo Intellectual page online.
The following day, Insha says, she received a call from the University administration requesting to see her. The forty-minute meeting that followed was extremely civil and polite, Insha recalls. At the meeting, the administration reportedly assured her that steps would be taken to identify the perpetrators of the vandalism and the matter would be escalated.
The Edict has reached out to the Offices of Student Affairs, Student Life, Residence Life, and the Registrar, seeking clarification on this matter. Comments are awaited from all the aforementioned parties.
There was no direct conversation about taking the tweet down. Insha says, however, that the administration might have nudged her towards the same. “I knew what they were hinting at. I knew the underpinnings of it. Later I learned that they had gone to my room before that and spoken to my roommate too.”
“I’m definitely more careful about what I post now,” Insha says.
This is not the only instance of interference of the University Administration in student posts on social media, on X in particular. Earlier this year, another student from the Undergraduate cohort, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported a similar experience. Having reached the interview round in the selection of Student Life Activity Board (SLAB) mentors by the Student Life Office, they say they were rejected “on the grounds that [their] tweets are not in line with the University’s ethos and values.”