The University of Connecticut’s “Buy or Sell” page, a Facebook group made up of students, ostensibly in order to buy and sell tickets, textbooks and other items, has long been a peculiar phenomenon, an organism unto itself. If used a certain way, it could also be a positive source of political consciousness for the student population.
In the past, the page has provided such memorable viral occurrences as the videos capturing “Mac & Cheese Kid,” the “Soop Doop” Student Union employee and “Nickel,” a dark, comedic rendering of Huskies Bar’s infamous Nickel Night. These sorts of posts in Buy or Sell garner hundreds if not thousands of likes, and inevitably work to unite the student population under a common knowledge of what’s happening at their school. It’s not uncommon to hear, “Did you see what’s going on in Buy or Sell,” during casual conversation.
The controversy of Buy or Sell lies in its political debates, usually having something to do with white privilege and the denial of it by white students at the university, as well as the instances of public shame showered down upon cheating boyfriends and ignorant Letter-to-the-Editor-authors the page has spawned.
I admit that putting an individual on blast in a Facebook group with more than 31,000 members runs a risky ethical line, but I maintain that such action is, more often than not, empowering and oftentimes deserved. For example, a student named Luke Bradley (which could be a fake account) who belonged to the group, had a habit of private messaging students he disagreed with and disparaging them, sometimes with racist language. A post about this individual, titled “Expose Luke Bradley,” began a testy exchange among Buy or Sell members, some saying this type of deed was actually detrimental to the cause of the poster, and that people shouldn’t be criticized for holding a disparate opinion, others arguing that if the opinion is not based in fact or is rooted in racism, its espouser deserves to be held accountable.
In this way, Buy or Sell has become a microcosm for the modern political dialogue of the United States.
Conservatives, and, more specifically, Donald voters, hold that any condemnation of their beliefs is a liberal affront to free speech. Yet, isn’t discussion and debate the epitome of free speech? And, let’s suppose, you put your opinion in a public domain, like a student newspaper, or social media: doesn’t that entitle onlookers to do the same in response? Further, conservatives denigrate any form of protest (which is predictable, since recently the demonstrations have been directed against the ugly orange thing they voted for), with the dominant line of thought being: “That’s the wrong way to go about it.” But Trevor Noah put it best when he asked Tomi Lahren, “Okay, then what’s the right way to demand basic human rights?”
She was speechless.
In Buy or Sell, our great American disagreement has taken hold. Many people play at neutrality and refuse to take a side, falsely equating liberals and conservatives. This attitude is manifested in the students who sarcastically comment, “Interested in the tickets you’re selling!” as if they didn’t already know what Buy or Sell really is: a digital battleground of differing opinions.
Most encouraging, to me at least, regarding the recent Buy or Sell renaissance sparked by Trump, which brought racists out of the woodwork not only in Storrs, but all over the country, is the minority students who have used the group as a platform to speak out against xenophobia and bigotry. I recognize that this is not as valiant as an in-person confrontation, but for students who have had racial slurs slung at them on Facebook and Yik Yak (not to mention in real life), using your voice is a brave thing to do. Especially now, with some of the students most vocal about issues like Trump and his oppressive policies/rhetoric being undocumented, their bravery cannot be understated.
The page has assumed the position of public university forum for the ideas of the day, whether you’re buying or selling.
Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.