I was rather shocked to see the Soton Tab post a rather controversial article about the University of Southampton’s creative writing society, the SUSU Scribblers. Who better to write a response than the founder of the society herself?
If you asked me for my honest opinion, I do wish that I’d never created the society. I’ve created a monster. It’s true, the society has become a lot more trouble than it’s worth. A University society is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to make you feel sick, scared, and quite frankly, very uncomfortable. I am disgusted at what I’ve helped create. When I first sent round the emails asking if anyone would be interested in joining a creative writing society, I never thought that THIS would happen.
By THIS, I mean the frequent disputes that clog up all of the members’ notifications. If you’ve ever visited the group’s Facebook page, you’ll see what I mean. There is cyberbullying, there is victimisation. And there’s a lot of unconstructive criticism. It’s not what I’d expect from a group of Russell Group university students. It’s what I’d expect from high school, maybe even sixth form at a push. But not university students.
The SUSU Scribblers is arguably the most infamous society Southampton has ever seen. Just one look at the group’s Facebook page will tell you why. Any post has the potential to kick-start a flame war, and I mean any post. I asked if anyone had any ideas for any activities that they’d like to do next year and was accused of posting it only to gain ideas for my manifesto. I posted a story that I wrote about a young woman suffering from depression, and it recieved a grand total of 85 comments. I am not exaggerating. It’s got to the point where I cannot post anything without someone else having a stab at it.
It all started shortly after the Easter break, when the members were deciding whether or not they should hold an AGM. As the society was still in its infancy, having only been founded at the beginning of Februrary, I wasn’t sure if an AGM was appropriate. Furthermore, we weren’t even affiliated yet.
Unfortunately, my comment wasn’t recieved well. I was called a dictator by lots of people, even some members that have never once contributed to the society. Someone even compared me to Ian Huntley. Of course I was hurt by the comments, but brushed them off in a bid to give the members what they wanted. I set about organising an AGM with help from the society’s Administrator and Secretary.
As mentioned in the Soton Tab article, the SUSU Scribblers has had problems with erotica. During love week (appropriately timed to fit in with Valentine’s Day) several members wrote erotic stories and posted them onto the Facebook page. Other members weren’t happy with this, deeming it awkward. The final straw came when I drunkenly added a sexual poem (a mistake I realised, regretted and quickly deleted) but the damage was done. The Scribblers first intra-society war began, which was sorted by drawing up a set of censoring guidelines which pleased both sides of the arguments.
That dispute was nothing compared to what’s happening now. The society is in turmoil. The slightest comment will set off an argument. It’s got to the point where I had to go and see the head of the English department about all of the online arguments. Needless to say, she was disgusted. I introduced a new rule: any offensive or potentially provoking comment was to be deleted and the culprit warned. If they should do it again, they were to be banned permanately from the group. This, again, sparked off another flame war, and one of the society’s members has had to be deleted due to it.
As I’ve said already, I am horrified at the monster that I created. Like most students at the University of Southampton, I’ve joined a lot of societies. And none of them seem to have the trouble that the SUSU Scribblers has. Whether it’s due to the fact that the society is still in its infancy, or that the fact that creative minds are bound to clash, I don’t know. All I know is that the society has become a very uncomfortable place to be and as its founder, I will accept the full blame for it. I wish that the members spent more time writing stories than writing offensive comments. I wish that the members realised that appointing a new committee is unlikely to solve our current issues. And I wish that I’d never contributed to any of the arguments myself. I have tried to be a good leader, and have failed miserably.
It’s a cliché, but every cloud does have a silver lining. I admit that I’ve made mistakes, but I have most certainly learnt from them. I know how a society shouldn’t be run. I know what doesn’t work, what encourages people to write provoking comments. I know that now, and I’m sure as hell not going to let that happen again. I’m the one that created a monster, and I’m the one that’s going to tame it. Perhaps my fault was inexperience. I am only a first year, after all. I’m used to looking after three younger siblings, not 100 (according to the Facebook group) students.
Semester two is nearly over. With the AGM held this Thursday, a new commitee will be elected. New ideas will be encouraged. I for one certainly have a better idea of how to approach the society, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one. We have all learnt from this. I’m sure that, with time, the society will flourish. I like to think of the Scribblers as a phoenix, soon to rise out of the ashes. Next year, hopefully, we shall no longer be known for our disputes. We shall be known for our work. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the true aim of the SUSU Scribblers.