Controversial Twitter account poses potential threat to college reputation

A boy jumping from a roof into a crowd of people, a slip and slide in a dorm hallway, a boy sipping beer in a classroom – these are just a few of the many activities photographed and posted on the Twitter account SUNYPartyStories (@SUNYPartyStory). Each weekend the account receives submissions of outrageous party pictures from students at State University of New York schools and holds a contest for the one that people find to be the best entertainment. On Sundays, SUNY students can submit photos by tweeting them at the SUNYPartyStories Twitter account. Followers of the account vote for the best submission, and the school where the photo was taken is identified on the post. Photos from Geneseo have been featured previously by the account.

The account was started in April 2013 and is managed anonymously by a SUNY student.

“I took the initiative and created this platform for a way for SUNY students to boast about their social lives, vote for who is the best, and create competition among the most popular endeavor in college,” the account operator said.

The operator of SUNYPartyStories said he chooses to remain anonymous so that people will not assume that he is biased toward his own school in the competition. He also said he wants to keep his identity separate from the account for personal reasons.

“I am a student comedian whose career and reputation rides on my image, and since the press tends to write about party stories in a negative manner, I do not want those negative images about me on the web as a develop myself professionally,” he said.

According to the account operator, only about 2,500 people followed the account at the end of the summer, but a huge increase in its popularity began in mid-September. In three months, the number of followers increased to over 45,000. Today, about 48,000 people follow the account.

“The popularity came about because everyone does it,” the account operator said.

Wendi Kinney, the assistant dean of students for fraternal life and off-campus services at Geneseo, has a different theory about why the account has gained popularity.

“It’s a spectacle for people to watch, like reality TV,” she said.

Bryce Wiley is a sophomore economics major at Geneseo. He has submitted a photo to SUNYPartyStories.

“It gives a glimpse into the nightlife at each SUNY school and shows some of the crazy and hilarious things that go on during the weekends,” he said.

Kinney expressed concern about the fact that the people in the photos do not usually submit them.

“People forget how far-reaching social media can be,” she said. “It’s fun in the moment to the people posting and retweeting, but we forget that it’s affecting a real person.”

The account operator expressed that if someone in a photo on the account does not want to be featured, they can request for the photo to be taken down and it immediately will be. This happens regularly.

“I’m not here to deteriorate anyone’s image or get people in trouble, just for good ‘new-fashioned’ fun,” he said.

There has been speculation that the site could damage the image of SUNY schools.

Wiley said, “If people don't like the side of college the Twitter [account] portrays, they don't have to follow it.”

The account operator said people should understand that being associated with a photo on the Twitter account is not meant to have a negative impact on the school’s reputation, but that it is “just a reflection of what the tour guides are forbidden to say.”

Kinney, however, said she believes that the account could affect impressions of Geneseo.

“We project an image, and this could impact what people think of the institution,” she said.