Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hoyas Anonymous Sharing Secrets, Changing Campus Culture

AMANDA SODERLUND FOR THE HOYA Hoyas Anonymous seeks to create a culture on campus where students feel comfortable sharing secrets.
Hoyas Anonymous seeks to create a culture on campus where students feel comfortable sharing secrets.

At times, the testimonials are carefree — “I’m really happy we’re friends”  — but with posts like, “College has destroyed my confidence,” Hoyas Anonymous has a more weighty set of stories to share.

Three years after its launch, the website gives students an anonymous outlet for thoughts ranging from relationship struggles to the fear of graduating, body and social image concerns to suicide.

Hoyas Anonymous finds its roots in a 2008 School of Nursing and Health Studies class project. Today, project leaders said it gets about 1,500 hits daily, always evolving as a resource for Georgetown students seeking emotional support.

“The point of Hoyas Anonymous is for people to have an opportunity and venue to say secrets about themselves and realize that all people at Georgetown are coming from a similar base of experience,” Kylie Sago (COL ’13), co-president of Hoyas Anonymous, said.

Co-President Kelley Kidd (SFS ’13) said the website also hopes to challenge the stereotype of a flawless, high-achieving Georgetown student.

“Ideally, we want it to be a place where people can realize that not everyone is living the idealized Jack and Jane Hoya lifestyle,” she said. “I love the idea of creating a culture at Georgetown where people realize it’s OK not to be perfect.”

And on Hoyas Anonymous, posters share experiences they may not otherwise expose to their peers.

“I have bipolar disorder and I wish I could tell someone here about it without them thinking I’m a freak and leaving. Just one person. Please?”

Pleas for help like this stand alongside frank admissions from students: “I spent most of my last hookup thinking about someone else,” one poster said, just as another a few entries down reflected on the meaning of friendship and family in life.

Students are able to give a voice to oft-stifled thoughts by dropping unsigned Post-it notes in one of the Hoyas Anonymous boxes at The Midnight Mug or Uncommon Grounds.

“I don’t really notice it,” Alex Mark (MSB ’12), director of Midnight Mug, said. “But I think people would want to be discreet about it.”

Students are also welcome to email in messages or respond to others’ posts on the website.

For Sago, these responses are one of the most valuable components of the website.

“A lot of those comments are of gratitude — somebody gets it,” Sago said. “If students want to help, they can post their own secrets or they can comment and respond with advice.”

Carol Day, director of Health Education Services and an adviser for the website, said that a shared sense of experience that makes the site appealing to students.

“It’s a way to put yourself out there without being on your Facebook page — of saying ‘We’re all sort of struggling with these things,'” Day said. “You think you are the only person that has this kind of thought and then you can see other people respond to it — they’re empathetic, they can relate to it, they’re supportive.”

Website reader Erica Hanichak (SFS ’14) agreed that Hoyas Anonymous brings students together.

“It’s a forum in which students may unite over their humanity, a constant reminder of our shared experiences at Georgetown. We find that even the secrets we guard most jealously are not as outlandish as we first may have thought,” she said.

Now that is has gained ground with its note boxes, Hoyas Anonymous hopes to increase awareness of the resources available by tabling in Red Square and initiating a poster campaign.

“We’re still fairly small and working on visibility as a long-term project,” Kidd said.

In 2008, Brigitte Granger (NHS ’10) proposed the site as a project for her Health Promotion and Disease Prevention class, modeling the format after the popular website PostSecret. Hoyas Anonymous works today in conjunction with Georgetown’s Health Education Services, and refers the website’s visitors to campus resources for combating depression, eating disorders and various other issues.

Granger said she hoped to create an easily accessible support network for students with her initiative.

“There is a lot of pressure [here],” she said. “A lot of people just aren’t being asked or they don’t want to tell you, but they need an outlet.”

Some students find outlets in posting anonymous gossip, a habit Granger said she hoped to combat.

“I saw we were going in the wrong direction and putting people down because we don’t know who they are,” Granger said. “Instead, anonymity can be used to connect with people.”

The site will not post derogatory or signed comments, and its leadership is working on a protocol to respond to possible emergencies.

In the case that a comment is a cause for concern, the website requires that contributors provide their email address. Kidd said that her team has not had to follow up on any posts to date.

Some students, however, worry about the feasibility for the submissions to generate long-term solutions, given the lack of follow-up with respondents due to anonymity.

“I’m worried that it would be hard to connect with someone in a way that’s meaningful,” Chloe Coughlin-Schulte (SFS ’14) said.

While the site administrators have considered facilitating deeper connections among contributors, Kidd said maintaining anonymity is the first priority.

“I understand that concern and it’s something we’ve thought a lot about, because a lot of people earlier this year said they wished they could meet each other,” she said. “But that’s just a limitation of the design of the site, because we just can’t breach anonymity in any way.”

Ultimately, the goal is to spur a change in campus culture, according to Kidd.

“If we could make Georgetown a more open culture where people see they’re in an environment where it’s OK to go through what they’re going through, that would be fantastic.”

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