Reaction to Memes Vary Across Peer School Campuses

An explosive trend on Facebook and other social media sites, student-created meme pages have gained a host of enthusiastic college and high school followers but have sparked mixed reactions among the administrations of Andover and its peer schools. A viral Internet phenomenon, a meme is a humorous cartoon or picture overlaid with text that shows what the subject is saying or doing. Andover, Phillips Exeter Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall and Deerfield Academy all have associated Facebook meme pages unsanctioned by school administrations. Since students create and post the memes, which usually contain light-hearted jokes about classes, sports and other activities at their respective schools, there is no formal method of filtering the memes that get posted on the pages. The creators of the original Exeter Memes page took down the page last week after they deemed a series of posts by other users as inappropriate. In an e-mail to The Phillipian, the owner of Exeter Memes declined to comment on whether the Exeter administration was involved. There was no discipline involved in the shut down, according to Daniel Morrissey, Dean of Students at Exeter. Sarah Kim PEA ’12 wrote in a Facebook message to The Phillipian, “Exeter Memes originally shut down because it was targeting individual members of the Academy, therefore considered hazing. I thought it was justified, to be honest, because the school trusts us students to be good citizens on the Internet as well as in person, and some of the ‘memes’ created by the Exonians were offensive.” A new Exeter Memes page was created on Sunday that contains a disclaimer stating, “This is only so the page doesn’t get deleted like before: ‘By liking this page, you consent to memes being made of you which may be slightly harassing. If you dislike a meme which references you, it is your responsibility to contact us to take it down. We will take it down in 24 hours. Overly sexual, violent, or otherwise inappropriate content will be taken down.’” The new Exeter Memes has already garnered 217 “likes” and contained 15 posts as of Wednesday. In a Facebook message to The Phillipian, the owner of the new Exeter Memes page wrote, “I think it shows a lot about the character and class of the Exeter student[s] running the previous page to know when to shut down a page that’s being abused.” In a Facebook message to The Phillipian, TJ Hodges PEA ’14 wrote, “I think this is an appropriate and necessary improvement for the page, and it requires the student to be aware of possible harassment and also prevents any long-lasting offensive memes. It is important that we are recognize the way certain students take different types of jokes.” Kristina Elhauge PEA ’14 wrote, “While the majority [of the memes] were good-natured, a few of the memes I saw were a little racist or offensive to dorms, using their respective negative stereotypes.” Andover Memes was created on February 10. With nearly 200 posts and 967 “likes” as of April 3, Andover Memes is one of the most popular of its peer pages. While its existence hasn’t been threatened, it has attracted the attention of Andover’s administration. Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, said the school administration’s primary concern with the page is the potential for cyber-bullying. However, the administration has no opinion on the page because no faculty member has visited the Andover Memes page. “Our rules about being kind to other people are still important for people to follow. People always have to be concerned about their actions being characterized as bullying. I don’t sense any of this stuff to be happening, nor do I have a sense of this happening at Exeter, but this is one of those things where people can get sloppy and all of a sudden they’re in trouble,” said Murphy. “We’ve asked kids to take things down that they’ve posted, things on YouTube. We’ve had discipline occasions through Facebook, although not in the recent past. So clearly people are figuring out what’s appropriate what’s not, what’s targeting, all that stuff.” Murphy continued, “I think it’s a little beneath us. Just a little. Only because we have enough of things that take our time away from stuff we’re supposed to get done.” Julia Kim ’14 said, “I think [Andover Memes] is hilarious. It provides students with an environment in which they can release stress. It’s not particularly intended to hurt anybody. [The memes are] also, for the most part, true.” Maita Eyzaguirre ’14 said, “I think it’s a valuable skill that we’re actually able to make fun of ourselves and see that maybe our way of doing things isn’t always the right one… [Andover Memes] also builds a sense of community with different people. People who don’t know each other feel connected by these memes. Andover students have also created a “PA Compliments” page, which pays tribute on its wall to several students every few weeks for their admirable actions, personalities or character. The page description says that it is “trying to make the community brighter, one compliment at a time!” Choate Memes was created on February 13. It is no longer open to public posting on its timeline and requires users to submit memes through e-mail. As of April 3, Choate Memes has 621 “likes” and 48 posts. Choate also has a “Choate Compliments” page, similar in function and purpose to PA Compliments. According to a Facebook message from the owner of Choate Memes to The Phillipian, Choate Memes did not alter its submission policy because it faced disciplinary response. The page’s owner wrote, “I changed the submission policy because it was just too demanding for me to keep up. In fact, the Choate Administration hasn’t done anything to try and find out who I am. It’s still a secret around campus.” The owner continued, “The memes posted are often silly and school spirit natured. Choate has a very welcoming community. We aren’t cruel.”