Rob Sherron, Contributing Writer
Joe Flynn is a young man who plans to attend the University of Dallas this fall.
His reason for choosing UD might surprise you.
“The Unofficial page helped me to see the real UD student, giving me insight on the day-to-day UD politics from the Groundhog statue to the possible fraternity and allowing me to be a part of the student body all the way from California,” Flynn said.
“It showed me the Rome program through the eyes of an actual student, rather than what the University of Dallas has told me through their countless letters and emails. So after about one hour of ‘Facebook stalking’ the Unofficial page, I knew where I wanted to be.”
UD Unofficial was a student-run Facebook page known to hundreds of students and alumni and preferred by many to the Official page because of its unofficial, student-run character.
Created last summerafter a few beers by a few students who wanted to share all the great and unique things about UD, the page quickly grew to attract hundreds of hits a day.
It became a hub for lively conversation about everything from the official UD seal to the proposed fraternity, from smoking zones to the senior class gift.
After months of pictures and posts routinely earning 75 or more likes – and sometimes as many as 300, as in the case of the now infamous “Baby-Making Party” – the page suddenly disappeared from Facebook about a week ago with one final cryptic post, much to the chagrin of its visitors.
“Terrible news,” one student commented.
“You just ruined my day,” 2010 alumnus Matt Hull added.
Since then, rumors have abounded as to what happened to the page and why. Over the last week, two main narratives have emerged, one from the administrators of the Unofficial page, another from Student Affairs.
The administrators claim the page was shut down because a post they thought to be satirical was misinterpreted by the administration.
“Of all the ridiculous things we posted, one of those things unexpectedly caught the eye of the administration,” page administrators said. “The post alluded to breaking the school’s alcohol policy.”
The post was an advertisement for flasks made by some university students. The students had asked Unofficial to advertise the flasks, and Unofficial had agreed, noting whom to contact for flasks and commenting that they might be used to smuggle alcohol into Groundhog.
“It did not document any actual wrongdoing or rule-breaking,” page administrators said.
According to the farewell status posted by Unofficial, individuals “with offices in Haggar” had pressured Unofficial to shut down because of this post.
Administrators of the Unofficial page said they decided to shut down the page as “a proactive step for those students.”
“As much as everyone loved the Facebook page, it wasn’t worth people possibly not going to Groundhog to keep it going.”
“Because we knew that if that post had been misinterpreted so badly, that they would never see our side of things; we had to take it down,” the page administrators said. “So there you have it, Unofficial is gone because one person didn’t get the joke and took it out on two innocent students.”
Dr. John Plotts, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs, said that, to the best of his knowledge, no one in Student Life, or the administration in general, or any other administrative part of UD “pressured” Unofficial to shut down.
“It is possible that someone did pressure these students and it is not known to me, but I would find that to be highly unlikely,” Plotts said.
Plotts said that he would be “very disappointed” if anyone in “an official capacity at the school” pressured the administrators to shut the page down.
“I read the Facebook ‘University of Dallas (unofficial)’ page, and saw the comments about the administration ‘who offices in Haggar’ that was ‘shutting them down,’” Plotts said.
“This is not the case. Neither Mrs. Phillips nor anyone in the administration has requested or placed pressure on students to abandon the site.”
“No one from the administration requested that action [the deletion of the webpage] to be taken,” wrote Denise Phillips, director of Student Life, in an email correspondence.
When asked again, Phillips emphasized, “I am simply saying that I did not ask that the Unofficial webpage be dismantled. That is all I am saying.”
“Now the students may have felt pressure to do so because Mrs. Phillips wanted to meet with them, but the reason for the meeting was to clarify the rules for Groundhog, not to pressure the students to abandon the site,” Plotts added.
As Plotts explains, the scuffle with the Facebook page began with two students promoting the purchase of a “Groundhog flask” on Facebook for the purpose of “sneaking hard alcohol” into the park during Groundhog.
After that, Denise Phillips, interim director of Student Life, met with the students promoting the sale of the flasks and told them that promoting the “smuggling” of hard liquor into Groundhog was forbidden, Plotts said.
The two students were threatened with being banned from Groundhog, but only if they attempted to smuggle alcohol into the park, not because of their posts on the Facebook page or the existence of the page in general, Plotts said.
“The banning ‘threat’ related to bringing alcohol to Groundhog. It had nothing to do with the Facebook page and was not because of the posting itself,” Plotts said.
“At no time was there a threat to ban any student from Groundhog if they continued to operate the Facebook page,” Plotts said.
The two students said that bringing alcohol into the park was not their intent; rather, they were simply coming up with a fund-raising idea. They further claimed that it was the students who manage the Facebook site who added that intent, according to Plotts.
Neither of the students is banned from Groundhog, Plotts said.
Phillips then requested a meeting with the student administrators, but they refused, and since their identity is protected by Facebook privacy policies, the issue was dropped, Plotts said.
Some time later, the page disappeared and has not reappeared since. The administrators have given no indication of relaunching the page.
Louis Hannegan contributed to the reporting and writing of this article.