As great as all of the official Clemson University social media accounts are, especially for giving a peek into life as a Clemson student, they are, in their own way, a marketing tool, and therefore offer the most photogenic parts of the quintessential ‘Clemson Experience.’ Armed with the knowledge of what these accounts often show, this begs the question: what isn’t shown on these official accounts, and are people documenting the less photogenic parts of the Clemson Experience?
If you ask students, you’ll likely hear a number of them mention social media accounts like Old Row, Barstool and Black Sheep. These accounts have main accounts that include posts from a variety of colleges, but they also have many ‘branch’ accounts for a number of colleges, including Clemson, which are run by students of that respective university. They post content such as “Jokes, hot takes, babes and vintage pics,” reads @oldrowofficial’s Instagram bio. One Instagram post on the Clemson branch of this group (@oldrow_clemson) posted on May 10, however, has raised a lot of questions for students regarding where these groups stand regarding the Clemson University Code of Conduct.
On May 10, Mother’s Day, @oldrow_clemson posted a photo on Instagram with the caption “#changeback,” where the picture included a Clemson-ified Confederate flag. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that aims to combat hate in our society, identifies the Confederate flag, which the flag in the photo bears more than a passing resemblance to, as a hate symbol in their “Hate on Display” database. (Note: The ADL’s database does say that the context of the flag matters). The classification as a hate symbol is shared by a number of students at Clemson. One Clemson student, Jack Lodmell, a rising junior architecture major, said “I was getting fed up w [with] Old Row before but this crosses a line” in a text after seeing the post, and soon commented “Just lost my follow” on the photo. Both @oldrow_clemson and @oldrowofficial declined multiple opportunities to comment on the now-deleted post.
These social media accounts/organizations are known for their postings of college girls in bikinis, memes and photos of alcohol and parties. Their content has always been considered questionable by students and parents alike, but this post’s particular brashness has raised many comments from both detractors and supporters of the content. @paddy_chambro commented “You can still delete this.” @hampton5peace commented “@oldrow_clemson where do we order the flag?” @logan.baskin commented “bunch of sensitive yankees.” The public seems to be all across the board on whether posts like this are appropriate or not and if they represent the student body or not, but another question is: does it violate the Clemson Code of Conduct? If so, can the university do anything about it?
Director of the Office of Ethical and Community Standards (OCES) Kristine Hodge, stated that this post, as it stands, does not meet the standard of conduct violation. Director Hodge also went on to say that some actions, while “offensive and contrary to the University’s Core Values and positions(s)” may be protected by certain constitutional rights and said that the @oldrow_clemson post in question is one of those protected actions. Director Hodge also noted that, as far as the OCES is concerned, if a recognized student organization or an individual student made the same post, it too would be subject to the same protections.
From an OCES standpoint, there is nothing that can be done for posts that are considered offensive but don’t directly break the Code of Conduct. Therefore, as far as standing against offensive conduct, students who wish to do so must take it upon themselves to find some way to do so, as many have, even after the post was deleted. One Clemson student, Sydney Ford, a junior sociology major, took it upon herself to comment on the next post put out by @oldrow_clemson following the deletion of the post that many took offense from. Her comment directly asked how @oldrow_clemson could even think about posting a T-shirt advertisement immediately following their deletion of the post as if the earlier post had never been made. Ford found that, not soon after, her comment was deleted. Soon after that, she assumed that she had been blocked by @oldrow_clemson’s account as she could no longer see the page.
These groups portray themselves as a representation of college life and of college students outside of the photogenic content from Clemson University’s own Instagram accounts. But if their content is not representative of the university’s views and isn’t representative of a wide range of students’ views, what do they represent? Again, @oldrowofficial and @oldrow_clemson couldn’t be reached for comment.