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For the past couple months, Malia Obama has been touring elite colleges across the country, including schools such as Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and University of Pennsylvania. Of course, Malia’s college application process has been heavily documented, with the Washington Post and the New York Times keeping tabs of which college the First Daughter seems to be leaning towards (see here and here).
Last Friday night, Malia visited Brown University, and went to a party on the campus. Of course, students at Brown couldn’t contain their excitement, and multiple tweets and snapchat photos of Malia next to a beer pong table began to surface. These photos began circulating, and of course, by Saturday morning, the photos were all over the internet. Earlier this week, Brown University issued an apology to Malia, stating that their students needed to learn what is and is not appropriate to post to social media.
For me, hearing about this story brings up a couple of questions, and even more concerns. Major newspapers have been documenting Malia’s college process for months, yet few major publications have mentioned the “scandal,” despite it having the potential to hinder her chances of getting into Brown University. In simpler terms: where’s the paparazzi?! The college process is stressful, I know, and I cannot even imagine how much worse it is when the whole country watches your every step. Yet, I don’t think it is the good hearted nature of publications like the New York Times to hold off on reporting on this to give Malia a break.
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If that is the case (meaning that major reporters will not/cannot report on the incident) what does that mean for reporters everywhere? That you can mention the good, but definitely not the bad, of the President’s family because you may be restricted? I’m definitely not into politics and I know the bare minimums of US law, but this incident has led me to two conclusions:
a) Many sites decided to cut Malia some slack and do minimum damage…
…or the more likely scenario:
b) When it is the President’s daughter on the line, the First Amendment can be ignored, just a bit.
Just to be clear, I do whole heartedly think that the fact that Malia has gotten so much scrutiny for this whole scandal is a bit ridiculous. There are definitely more news-worthy stories out there, and the fact that Malia cannot get some privacy is unfair. Yet, this sort of behavior from millennials using social media tools like Snapchat and Twitter should be expected. We live in a world where anything can be recorded and documented in a second. Everyone (not just the rich and famous) needs to be careful in social situations, because this sort of thing is so likely. Albeit, none of us may have the same high profile case as Malia, but the rule still applies: watch out for social media. While it is fun to use, your personal and professional life can be affected by a single post.
While I appreciate the gesture of Brown University to issue the apology, I do question their intent. When we don’t give celebrities (even child ones) apologies for hounding their lives, why do we do so for Malia Obama? Emma Watson, actress and current UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, also attended Brown. Yet, never once has she received a public apology from the school, especially not for other students’ actions surrounding her time there. Of course, one could argue that photos of Emma standing by a beer pong table (or doing any other sketchy activity) have never been taken. Even if there were, would Brown University issue a formal apology? Or would they make the students who took the photos do so?
I think what makes this scandal upsetting for me is that Malia is being apologized to for the wrong reasons. Of course it is a mistake to invade her privacy, but what makes this invasion any worse than the others? She is a teenage girl! Of course she is going to go to parties with other teenagers, and of course she may drink with said teenagers. It is not necessary for reliable news agencies to have to censor what they say about this incident as a form of damage control. It is not necessary for an Ivy League to issue an apology for the entire school on the behalf of a few students. If anything, Malia deserves an apology for not being able to go through the college process just like every other high school senior out there.
Hello, Everyone! My name is Sunayana Basa and I am currently a sophomore at Boston University studying business. I am a huge believer of taking risks and at least *attempting* new things, so my risk for this year (in addition to learning how to longboard) is writing for the Verge Chapter at BU! More about me, you say? I am from California (#westcoastbestcoast) and I am a bit of a performance junkie, meaning I love to dance, sing, and perform no matter when. My family is from India, and I love to go back to visit everyone and, of course, eat! I was fortunate enough to grow up near San Francisco and experience different cultures on the daily, so one of my biggest dreams is to have a job where I can travel everywhere and satisfy my wanderlust. Overall, I think my biggest philosophy is to be happy and live without regrets, and to someday take the world by storm.