Like so many other Boise State students, Elizabeth Silva, a junior nursing major, stumbled upon Boise State Confessions last week. The Facebook page was filled with the dirtiest secrets Boise State students could think to share, and like so many others, Silva scrolled through them, laughing, gasping and gagging at other students’ deepest, darkest confessions. Then, Silva saw her own name mentioned in a post written by a secret admirer from one of her classes.
“I was in shock at first,” Silva said. “I though there was no way it could be real. I have absolutely no idea who posted it. I still haven’t found out.”
Boise State Confessions launched on Facebook Wednesday, Jan. 23. By the time it was suddenly disabled on Sunday, Jan. 27, it had garnered nearly 1500 likes and boasted hundreds of student confessions. The page linked students to a third-party survey site, ensuring their submissions remained anonymous. Boise State students took full advantage of that anonymity, dishing dirt on everything from wild parties to sexually transmitted diseases to embarrassing stories to feeling alone and struggling to find friends on campus.
“I think it’s horrible,” said Silva. “It does nothing but embarrass people and make the university look bad. So much of it is about sex, which happens everywhere, but we don’t need to broadcast that for people to see.”
Confession: No one seems to know why Boise State Confessions disappeared
Silva was not alone in being thankful that the page was quickly disabled. As buzz about the site’s disappearance spread through campus, rumors persisted that the site’s instances of R-rated content may have had something to do with its end. According to Rick Moore, communication department chair and professor of media law, some of that content might even have been breaking the law by making false claims about Boise State students.
“There are certain kinds of statements in our culture that can almost always be considered libelous,” Moore said in an email. “Saying that someone is sexually promiscuous is typically considered libelous. Saying that someone has a horrible disease is too. Saying that someone committed a heinous crime fits the bill. Do remember, though, that for a statement to be libelous, it must be false.”
There is no question that some of the claims made on Boise State Confessions were false. One poster confessed to having a camera installed in the women’s showers in the Chaffee Residence Hall that streamed to his or her computer. Representatives from University Housing quickly denied this claim.
Moore went on to question whether a student would be likely to take action against a site like Boise State Confessions, even if a libelous claim were made.
“One of the benefits of a libel suit is getting the “publisher” to cease and desist (take down the site),” he said. “That has already happened in this instance.”
Another possible cause for a page like Boise State Confessions to disappear so suddenly is a violation of Boise State’s trademark. However, according to Rachael Bickerton, director of trademark licensing and enforcement, the university played no part in removing the page, and Leigh Ann Dufurrena, Boise State’s digital communications specialist, said she was not even aware of the site’s existence. Had she discovered it, Dufurrena said, she likely would have reported it for using Boise State’s trademark without permission.
“If something is obviously a parody account, we’ll usually let that slide,” Dufurrena said. “For example, there’s one for Boise State memes that’s obviously not run by the university so we leave it alone.”
However, accounts that use Boise State’s trademark without permission and paint the university in any sort of negative light are immediately reported to the licensing department, where a legal team can work on having the page taken down, said Dufurrena.
Boise State Confessions’ anonymous moderator declined The Arbiter’s request for an interview.
“There is going to be controversy no matter what people post because it’s a public page and everyone has their own opinions,” he or she said in a Facebook message. The moderator could not be reached for comment after the page was removed.
Confession: Boise State Confessions was more than a guilty pleasure
But during its short time online, Boise State Confessions was more than just an outlet for students to air their dirty laundry. It was a place where shy Broncos could reveal their secret loves. It was a rallying point around which students could share in each other’s small failures – the kinds of embarrassing mistakes that are bound to happen in one’s college years. It was a place to relate with others’ “oops” moments and laugh at them in the process. And for one student, it was a place to reach out and make a few new friends.
“It’s a good way for students to get some confessions out there and tell some stories and kind of a way for them to open up to a community where they can get some feedback without having their identity revealed. It’s a good way to vent, I guess,” said sophomore pre-medicine major James Boyette. “But there are some comments on there that made me want to speak up. There were some people who have been posting pretty personal stuff. I commented on those because I wanted to try to give them an outlet.”
Boyette commented on several posts, reaching out to students who confessed to feeling out of place and lonely at Boise State. He felt especially compelled to encourage one student who confessed to cutting himself, and a girl who thought she wasn’t pretty enough to find a date. He said a few of those students added him as a friend and thanked him for his kind words.
“One of the things I’ve been trying to do, on campus and off, is break down those social barriers,” he said. “It was surprising how many people ended up liking what I had to say.”