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A letter to the editor

January 26, 2024 at 5:00:00 PM

Emily Schoenberger '15

I wanted to reach out about this week's edition of Hustle & Bustle in the Mercersburg News. I was surprised to find myself featured in a section titled "Mburg Ships: Hustle & Bustle Edition." The section appears to be playing off of the Instagram account(s) which have been causing a fair amount of distress in much of our student population recently. As a dorm dean, I have been approached by multiple students over the past few weeks who have felt deeply upset about being featured on these accounts. No other social issue amongst students has caused quite as much distress for my residents as this, at least in my experience as dorm dean so far. I question the choice of that framework for a feature in Hustle & Bustle for two reasons:

1. By parodying the account in the Mercersburg News, you acknowledge the existence of the account and give it attention on a widely distributed platform. Attention is presumably exactly what the account creator wants - if people ignored or did not interact with the account on Instagram, the person behind it would likely stop posting. By calling attention to it (even in a joking way) in the school newspaper, you are potentially contributing to the success of a social media account which is causing pain to many of your fellow students, and which does not live up to our community values.

2. I would argue that by replicating the "humor" of the account, you are legitimizing it. In other words, Hustle & Bustle is suggesting that "shipping" two people on a public platform is funny. Admittedly, it can be - people 'ship' celebrities all the time - but, as evidenced by the many tearful students I have interacted with this week, it can also be upsetting. While I personally am not upset by the suggestion that Ms. O'Connell and I would make a great couple (I agree, we would be iconic), I do want to point out some of the potential implications underlying this particular feature.

Regardless of the nuances of this particular situation on campus right now, I encourage you to carefully consider the ways in which you feature faculty in Hustle & Bustle more broadly. I hope that before you include an image of a member of our adult community taken from some corner of the internet, and use that adult as material for a joke you are making on the page, you consider the ways in which that joke could potentially be received by its subject. From my own experience and the experience of colleagues, it seems that often these features in Hustle & Bustle occur without the adult's knowledge or consent. Because of this, it tends to feel like we are being made fun of, as opposed to being in on the joke. Most of our adult community members have wonderful senses of humor, and I think you intuit that, which is why you include them on the page. I do not mean to suggest that such features come from a place of malice, and this message is not meant to chastise you. But, after thinking it over, I wanted to share my reaction to this particular feature this week, in case it helps inform the way you approach faculty features in the future. Ultimately, I just hope that you always seek to treat faculty with the same respect and dignity with which they seek to treat you, and all students. You hold an important culture-defining and culture-keeping role in your capacity as page editors of the newspaper. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, and please know that I am always open to further conversation.

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