An article posted in the popular Facebook group “Frannies Talk to Each Other” led to the chat being archived and launched many questions from the students to the administration as well as each other.
The post, originally published on the evening of Oct. 9, 2018, was an article written by a Franciscan University alumna titled “Franciscan University vows to stop sexual assault, but victims need convincing” about the university’s mishandling of sexual abuse on campus.
The article included several female students’ stories in graphic detail and sparked an angry and proactive response. This came out in harsh online conversations as well as a petition to remove the assistant vice president of student life.
The group, public since 2013, was created to address student questions and promote the Franciscan community’s online presence. It consisted of current students, alumni, faculty and potential students, and it required a few entrance questions to ensure authenticity of members and continue its mission of serving the community.
After the debatable post, many members became enraged at employee Catherine Heck, assistant vice president of student life, who was referenced to in the article as being incapable of performing her job to the satisfaction of sexual assault victims. The conversation focused around whether the author of the article was credible, whether the story should have been written in the first place and whether the university is doing enough to handle Title IX abuses.
By the time the post reached 46 comments that night, admins became concerned at the abusive language and controversy it was creating. They turned off the comments.
Administrator Rachael Alexander posted on Oct. 10 at 1:14 a.m. that the admins “turned off comments temporarily on the original post because we felt that the attitude of some of the comments was nasty, combative, or argumentative.” She further explained that the admins would be meeting the following day to discuss the issue further.
This led to posts from students, such as: “I thought that this was called Frannies Talk To Each Other, not Frannies Shut Conversations Down.”
On Oct. 10, before the admins were able to meet, the group was archived by former admin and graduate student Joe Antoniello, and all posting was disabled.
The admins have since decided to leave it archived indefinitely. Rachael Alexander said, “There’s other places people can go to talk about this issue. The issue addressed … needs to be discussed, but maybe Frannies Talk to Each Other, or Facebook in general, isn’t the best place to talk about it. Off of Facebook people are less likely to insult each other.”
Since the archiving of “Frannies Talk to Each Other,” many groups have sprung up, ranging from “Frannies Talk about Frannies Talk to Each Other,” to “Frannies Talk 4 Each Other.” Most popular of these so far is “Frannies Talk Two” with 230 members, created on Oct. 10.
The tag line for the new page is, “You want freedom. You have freedom. Try not to be rude, but that’s up to you. Nothing posted here reflects the views of the admin(s). Every person’s comments and posts are their own responsibility.”
A Facebook profile with the name Bob Anderson, a member of this group, began a petition against Heck on Oct. 11, 2018. Within the first three days, it had received over 1,000 signatures. It stood at 1,100 as of Monday, Oct. 15.
Fliers appeared on campus the same day, branded “To Heck with Heck,” which were taken down by members of the university faculty and staff within a few hours. Several professors and faculty members called it “verging on harassment,” and students continued to post about lack of freedom of speech.
According to university administration, the signs violated the qualification from the Student Handbook that signs be “consistent with the University’s identity and mission as a Catholic Franciscan institution” because they publicly degraded one individual. They also did not contain the full name of the sponsoring group, as required by the handbook.
Notably absent in Bob Anderson’s profile, as pointed out by multiple posts and questions in the group, is anything to identify him. He maintains no profile picture, friends or association with the university. It is assumed he has adopted this identity in order to remain anonymous.
Anderson posted on “Frannies Talk Two”: “In order to clear up any misunderstanding, the point of the petition is to not hate on Cathy Heck. … Please do not hate on her, but in the end things need to change and replacing her is just a step in the right direction.”
The next day, students began to voice concerns about who Anderson is and where the petition is going when Anderson is finished. Group administrator Joseph Patrick commented on Anderson’s most recent post, “Bob, when are you going to deliver the petition? To whom?”
Several group admins then privately messaged Anderson, asking him to clarify exactly what he would do with the petition.
Marilynn Marie, a group admin who graduated in 2015, said on Oct. 13 that Anderson messaged her the following: “An online petition is a useful tool in bringing things to light in hopes of changing the problem of corruption within the administration … That’s why the petition was made, so as more people sign it the hope is that more people will come to the school (administration). No further action is necessary.”
However, on the following day, Oct. 14, Anderson updated the petition description to indicate that the petition will in fact seek to remove Heck, as well as “call … for added measures to better educate the student body as to make campus a safer place for everyone.” He further wrote: “We want to make it clear we are not trying to destroy Franciscan, we are trying to uphold the virtues it was founded on.”
Anderson confirmed this with the Troubadour in a message, saying, “We have recently reached out to the university and are waiting for a response.”
The Franciscan administration, when asked by the Troubadour, pointed students to the Policy on Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct on the university website that covers all aspects of sexual misconduct, including unwanted advances, dating violence, consent, and a detailed list of reporting options and resources.
In a letter sent out to all students in April 2018 and updated in August 2018, as well as an article published in the Franciscan magazine entitled “A Safe Home,” administration clarified that over the past seven years, the University “has reviewed all existing policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct, strengthening or clarifying them when needed.” Since then, almost two dozen new programs have gone into effect at Franciscan to educate and ensure the safety of students.
One example is the Dignity Project, which is an ongoing effort to prevent sexual assault on campus. The project is hosting ALIVE, the local Sexual Violence Advocacy Center, on campus with an information table and workshops the week of Oct. 15-19, including educational seminars and a self-defense class.
The online controversy has sparked discussion, and Franciscan students are seeking resolution and a way to prevent sexual abuses in order to build up the community. Yet the bigger question from most students is what their own and their peers’ roles are in that goal.
While it remains to be seen what the university’s response will be to Anderson’s petition, students hope there will be an adequate platform for them to respectfully engage in dialogue. Whether that will be on Facebook’s “Frannies Talk Two” remains to be seen.
Full disclosure. I’m not a student but married to someone who has two Masters degrees from Franciscan and we live in town in an area heavily populated with student rental houses.
We have seen a lot since we moved here about ten years ago. A lot of loud parties with students arriving at the parties so intoxicated they were barely able to walk. Domestic abuse that I had to intervene or the young woman might have been beaten to death. I stood by our door with a phone and called the police and told the guy to get lost. I think him knowing he was being watched was a deterrent but he came back. Cops called again. She thanked me. We called Student Life… We thought that would help but based on what’s come to light it probably made things worse.
The neighborhood here is a release valve for the oppressive scrutiny that the students are under. I get that part. However the binge drinking parties are obviously situations were sexual assaults can take place.
The suppression of dialogue at Franciscan. Several Easters ago I posted a comment responding to a video that claimed that depression was not only sinful but a DEADLY SIN. This video had Franciscan’s watermark and endorsement on it and ran on the official Facebook page. This is not in line with Catholic Teaching on depression or mental illness.
My comments were deleted. Then when I commented about the deletion I was suspended from commenting on the Facebook page
It took about a month to straighten the thing out.
Our family has spent a lot of money on my wife’s education at Franciscan and I was in the right on this one. Another example of Franciscan so worried about its rep that it would let a distortion of the Truth abide and silence one who had the temerity to point that out.
In the late 90s two Franciscan students were kidnapped, tortured and murdered. To me that was the time to bring off campus living to a trickle or to eliminate it altogether.
I went to a Protestant Christian University in the 80s that was very similar to Franciscan in many respects. The student bodies are about the same… about 2,000 in the 80s and about 3,000 now.
My school strongly discouraged off campus life. About ten non-local/non-commuter students lived off campus… perhaps less than ten.
Many students live on blocks where there are drive by shootings from time to time. That people don’t seem to care how wrong this is is disturbing.
Recently our part of our neighborhood became a Conservation District. No new rental housing will be allowed. This was put to the local homeowners to decide. It passed and it was largely because of the all night parties, the parking problems, ten students living in one house… a feeling that the students feel that they are better than the locals. The classic “Town and Gown” conflict.
I was disappointed that Frannies Talk To Each Other was suppressed. Another sign that students should toe the line and that “Image is everything” at Franciscan.
We have mixed feelings about the Conservation District. We worry about the potential downsides.
All students are not trouble makers. But the out of control parties are rife for bad things to happen.
I asked one guy if he carded his guests. He didn’t card his party guests. When there are 200 people there you can’t keep track of it all unless you ask for ID showing you are 21. In the State of Ohio if you serve alcohol, especially to a minor, and that person kills someone via DUI you can be charged just as if you were the driver.
The age of sexual consent in Ohio is 16. I wonder how many parents know that. You have students who are 17 year old Feeshman. That’s less protection for their daughters who are 17 year old Freshman.
I do wish the students well. I blame Franciscan for not protecting them as they should. They turn a blind eye to the off campus drinking problem. And also a blind eye to sexual assault.
We have also witnessed co-Ed (men and women living in the same house) rentals. This is clearly against policy.
The U could be more involved. Could cooperate with the authorities and create a legitimate board of student conduct.
They won’t because they would have to admit there is a problem.