“I was at a party where they were serving champagne, and I realized that one of the many bottles emptied costs more than what my father earns in two weeks,” reads a post on the Cornell University Class Confessions Facebook page. “Needless to say, I was uncomfortable drinking it.”
The Cornell University Class Confessions Facebook page posts anonymous, student-submitted confessions related to socioeconomic status and first generation issues. Launched nearly four months ago, it now boasts almost 1,000 likes and over 100 posts.
The page, which is entirely student-run, is an initiative launched by students who took Education 2610: The Intergroup Dialogue Project. Aaron Ong ’16, who founded the page, sorts through the confessions submitted and determines which ones will be posted. On a typical day, the page receives 10 to 15 anonymous submissions, according to Amber George, a program coordinator for the Intergroup Dialogue Project.
As a freshman, Ong said he noted the lack of outreach to first-generation Cornell students, so in the spring of his freshman year, he decided to enroll in a class offered by the Intergroup Dialogue Project. His experience in a class with open dialogue inspired him to create the page, he said.
“I saw for the first time, the full range of socioeconomic status on campus,” Ong said. “I feel like people don’t really talk about it on campus.”
Before launching the Cornell page, Ong reached out to the Columbia University Class Confessions Facebook page, which has over 6,000 likes, and received input on how the page ought to be created.
Today, to show solidarity, many of these pages, including Cornell’s, have begun to add “#classconfessions” to the end of their posts, according to Ong.
The page aims to foster civil discussions and to create a digital space where students can share their experiences of being either a first-generation Cornell student or low socioeconomic status, according to Ong.
George said she believes there are not enough spaces that serve as outlets for students to express their concerns.
Ong said he wanted to foster open discussions on the Facebook page, similar to the dialogue-centered approach featured in the Intergroup Dialogue Project classes he took. For the most part, this mission of the page has gone smoothly, he said.
However, Ong said he sometimes receives criticism through the anonymous submission system that students can use to submit posts to the page. Additionally, some anonymous confessions name specific people, something Ong said he has to edit out. For the most part, however, reception to the page has been overwhelmingly positive, evidenced by the page’s over 12,000 weekly reaches and nearly 1,000 likes.
“The very first, big step, is to raise awareness and let people know there really are peers out there who are struggling to even feed themselves, and as a Cornell community, we have to watch out for these people and see if they’re doing ok, and stretch out a helping hand,” Ong said.
He said he hopes the Facebook page will stimulate awareness and conversation about socioeconomic status and first-generation issues.
“We’re hoping the conversations from the page will translate into conversations outside of Facebook,” George said.
Given the success of the page, George said Cornell University Class Confessions hopes to expand to Twitter and launch a photo campaign soon.
Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project, which is housed at 626 Thurston Ave., is one of three such organizations in the Ivy League. The Project aims to to foster dialogue between persons of varying race, gender, socioeconomic status and level of ability by offering courses and hosting events.