After an online outcry dubbing them toxic, messages of advice on a television in the entrance of the Eastman Living Center were removed last week.
The messages under fire included: “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world” and “Our quality of life is directed by our capacity to take control of our own emotions.”
The online discontent began on Jan. 30, when junior Zophia Dadlez posted pictures of the messages on the UR student Facebook group “Overheard at Rochester.”
One message, “Spoiler Alert: Everyone you meet is a reflection of how you treat them,” bore much of the flak. UR alum Zachary Taylor ‘15 commented, “It ignores everything from serious bigotry to random pettiness and bad moods.”
By noon of Jan. 31, the messages were gone. Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Robert Bones did not tell the Campus Times who was responsible for the messages, but did say that the reaction had been noticed.
“We have heard the concerns of students and took down the messages while we determine the next steps,” Bones wrote in an email.
The TV near the ceiling in the Eastman Living Center on Gibbs street displays a rotation of images — the weather forecast, music icons, and notable quotes, for example. According to students, the messages had been part of the rotation since at least the beginning of the semester.
Dadlez said that the messages “just deflected student complaints and seemed at best unhelpful and at worst veering into […] victim blaming and things that could really affect people who have dealt with trauma.”
Sophomore Sophia Moreira took issue in particular with a message encouraging students to “Avoid saying ‘should,’” and instead opt for more positive phrasing. (Instead of “I should exercise,” the message recommended students think “I like how I feel after exercise.”)
“[It is] completely disregarding mental illness,” Moreira said. She added later that the message seemed to ignore the time crunch and pressure that students are under. “I have no time to be like, ‘I’m going to do this because I like how it makes me feel.’”
For a lot of Eastman students, Moreira said, the thought process is more along the lines of “I have to do this, because if I don’t do it I’m f-cked.”
While most commenters were critical, UR senior Thomas Ledbetter was willing to defend the impulse driving the initiative.
“I feel like there’s at least an intention to try to be helpful and kind and positive here,” Ledbetter wrote. Talking to the Campus Times later, Ledbetter said he was unsettled by what he saw as suspicion of positivity.
“It’s almost like, ‘Oh, these people are being positive? There’s no way this can be real. There has to be some kind of catch,’” Ledbetter said.
But both Moreira and Dadlez described the messages as “mocking.” Moreira — who is enrolled in both Eastman and Arts, Sciences, and Engineering —added that the environment at Eastman is more intense.
“People are always comparing each other and people are always talking about who’s better and who’s not,” Moreira said. “And it’s hard on your mental health. It’s really hard on you.”