OP-ED: The Other Petrels, Six Months After
By: Jasmine Martin, Staff Writer
Last July, the Instagram page known as @theotherpetrels was created.
There were a few things running through my mind when this page had been sent to my personal DM.
As an incoming student, I was intrigued. What were people going to say? How does Oglethorpe, the school I had just committed to, really treat their students? Am I going to the wrong school?
As a woman, I was afraid of the responses of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination there had been. Am I safe on this campus? How are these things happening and why is no one doing anything about it? Then, as a black woman? I didn’t want to put two and two together.
Yet, as the months passed, more and more posts accumulated. It became known that people really needed to get these things off their chest. Looking into the mission of this account, it had, for a short moment, become a safe space. A digital firepit that you could write your confession into and it would be launched onto that page where it would live on. People could see your story and it could be acknowledged by the student body, the administration, everyone in the Oglethorpe community.
This is not an inherently bad thing. Knowing that marginalized students need places to be able to share their grievances in any environment not created for them, it seems like such a page would be a good idea. The page has many pros and cons and the effects have been noticed throughout our campus.
Yet, the ultimate question still remains: Did the @theotherpetrels do what they said they would do?
In an interview with the owner(s) of the page, they stated, “Absolutely. Just take a look at the changes made to positions of power at Oglethorpe.” It’s true. After many of the experiences were told, Amy Palder stepped down from her position.
That is definitely a huge change already and I’ve even met the new Dean of Students who is genuinely excited to work with our student body.
So, there have been things that have been done. It’s given students a place to share their experiences and it’s held people accountable for their actions. Amy Palder is not the only administrator or person in power to step down as a result of the page.
Yet, as much as this has helped to make drastic changes, the page also had its faults too.
There have been a few issues with the authenticity of these posts. Although we know to believe and support all people who share their stories, how do we know which ones to trust? How can we confirm that people aren’t using this page for malicious intent? We don’t.
The page has addressed the skepticism that many readers shared. Yet, the Instagram page also doesn’t take full responsibility for its purpose. It’s similar to how a singer/actor might be in heavy criticism by the public and they are considered a role model to children. They didn’t ask to become a role model, but they did, unintentionally. It became an outlet but did not respond or take on the responsibilities of ensuring integrity or not even addressing the external effects that the page may have. This is really negligent on their part. You can’t claim you want to share these stories and not take the precautions to ensure that space is ensured. That can easily put the people who are submitting these experiences at risk.
The Other Petrels is an account that has definitely shown us that our school needs to take a closer look at the accessibility issues and overall mistreatment of all marginalized communities, past to present. This account has also brought a lot of concerns for activism and responsibility that should also be acknowledged when there are holes or issues in a campaign.
So, what is the verdict? It’s up to the consumer. The reader.
There are many issues in our community, just as much as any other college or university, but at Oglethorpe, the student body does have an amazing power that many others do not. We care. We care about others and the well-being of our community. We can see that in all the organizations and efforts that so many people put into making our community great.