“[Snitching] can subvert important, well-considered, established procedures of accountability the University certainly has,” DeCosse says. And a tattling Instagram account is likely not listed in said procedures. There are other ways to get those in violation of protocols to start observing health protocols, instead of feeling backed into a corner by snitches and public humiliation.
Talk to people directly, DeCosse suggests. Tell them how their actions affect you. Or, if that doesn’t feel safe, submit what you’ve seen via the anonymous hotline EthicsPoint, a reporting tool used by many corporations and institutions of higher education that allows users to hold workplaces accountable for misconduct that handles everything anonymously and without public scrutiny.
“There are much healthier ways of helping students follow guidelines than shaming them on Instagram,” SCU Public Health adjunct lecturer Michele Parker agrees. “Shame is not an effective way to encourage behavior change.”
Bronco Health Ambassadors, a group of students that helped promote county guidelines and encourage gathering safely last year, are a good example of one alternative to @snitchscu, she says. Born out of one of Parker’s public health classes, not only did the ambassadors help students schedule vaccine appointments and get tested, they also passed out free swag like masks and hand sanitizer. It was the manifestation of changing behavior and keeping Santa Clara safe, done through encouragement, not shame. And the road to normalcy, Parker says, is paved with those three things: vaccinations, frequent testing, and safe socializing.
Perhaps @snitchscu started out with similar good intentions. Regardless, it ultimately drove a wedge between students, and Bronco Health Ambassadors were an attempt to stitch the student body back together.
“The key to protecting the health of any community is to encourage the community to work together,” Parker says. It’s not public embarrassment that Broncos needed, but actionable guidelines on how to stay safe. “Snitching is never done to help people. I don’t think you can use that word and say you’re promoting health.”
“I regret snitching as a mode of accountability,” DeCosse says, because snitching takes away from the life-or-death nature of this pandemic and, as Parker notes, the real need to adapt our behavior to best protect each other. “We need to move forward in a positive way and support each other,” she says. If DeCosse and Parker agree with @snitchscu on one thing, it’s that partying like it’s 2019 at the peak of a pandemic was wrong, no question.
Until the rate of infection began to consistently flatten, the account would serve as the campus’s barking watchdog. When Santa Clara County’s fully-vaccinated rate hit 52%, @snitchscu admins decided to close the account.
The caption of the final post, instead of reveling in their shaming practices, reminds the SCU student body to look out for each other: “None of [this] would have ever been possible without everyone that played a hand in holding your peers accountable…There are good people who care at this school, and the majority of you did the right thing, and you should be proud.”