Taylor University Wikipedia Vandalism
May 06, 2011
As part of a recent project to better understand the culture of the university that I'm studying and working at, I decided to look at the instances of anonymous Wikipedia vandalism coming from school-owned IP addresses. While a lot of the vandalism was simply boring and offensive, there were a number of interesting themes which emerged.
Residence Life Focus
Taylor University is known among Christian colleges for its strong focus on residence life. This comes across clearly in student vandalism on Wikipedia. Well over half of all the intelligible vandalism had something to do with residence halls.
Many of the campus dorm stereotypes also emerged. Wengatz Hall often gets a bad rap for being overly preppy. This showed up quite directly, but was also evident in more subtle ways. One revert of vandalism stated that "most of campus doesn't care about a Wengatz open house".
Ironically, a fair amount of the vandalism also appeared to come from residents of Wengatz hall stating their superiority. This included one comment which regarded Wengatz as "the main male dormitory on campus." There were also numerous attempts to publicize and hype up a Wengatz event.
The women's halls were not left out, as Olson Hall was labelled the dorm with "the girls you date", Bergwall was noted for housing "the girls you study with", and it was suggested that "the girls you marry" come from English.
Life Together Covenant
The Life Together Covenant (LTC) is the community life agreement that Taylor students are required to adhere to. Students are given a copy of the LTC at the beginning of each year and are asked to sign it. There is a good deal of misunderstanding surrounding the LTC. It was created to provide shared standards to facilitate Christian community on campus, but many students view it simply as a list of rules. This came across in much of the vandalism about rules and discipline on the Wikipedia page.
One student mentioned that there are certain punishments for "those found to be in violation of the LTC". This clearly exemplifies the feeling that this document represents a set of boundaries which must not be crossed. The phrasing makes it sound more like a regulation coming from the EPA than a document designed to create a positive sense of community.
This viewpoint is further supported by students who come out of the discipline process feeling let down. One former student indicated what sounds like a complete failure of the intended process:
I didn't know I was doing anything wrong. No one confronted me about it and after three and a half years and nearly eighty thousand dollars in debt, I was removed from school. The Dean of Students told me that many students had been reporting to him about my unChristian behaviors for that past three and a half years, and he was trying to give me a opportunity change. I was really confused. Taylor seemed so strongly behind Biblical principles that I expected to be confronted before a beauracracy was notified. I guess I'll just have to work two jobs now.
The bell tower on the campus is one of the structural icons which symbolizes the university. It's twin towers represent the goal of integrating student learning with with the Christian faith. However, it is not universally admired. At least one individual felt that the tower was a negative part of the campus:
The term "bell tower" is a misnomer, as the tower does not contain any actual bells. The structure, which in reality is actually quite ugly, instead contains loudspeakers in a cage-like structure near the top of the towers which sound every 15 minutes. Many students wish that it was demolished and replaced by a more classic-looking bell tower that contains some actual bells.
Several students also voiced their support for the academic faculty via the Wikipedia page. Most notably, the entire page was replaced by the phrase, "Jeff Cramer Rocks!" more than once.
There was also some commentary on the change to the new university tagline, "beyond the mind", including one individual who remarked that, "it sucks if you ask me, but what can you do?"
While Wikipedia is not generally a good source of scholarly information, it can shed light on voices which are not otherwise heard. By examining vandalism on Wikipedia, several important aspects of the campus rose to the surface. Examining what students and others do to deface a Wikipedia article provides a unique way of looking at the institutional ethos.
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