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Julianne Fenn '11: Too much information, not enough context

Due to a production error, an outdated version of this column ran in Friday's print edition. The correct version of the column is below.

My name is Julianne Fenn '11. I have to start with that because next year, when I am applying for jobs, that is what will be googled*. And I would hate for The Herald's article ("Taking dance to the next level," Nov. 16) to stand as the sole representation of my college career in the Brown Daily Herald online.

So my name is Julianne Fenn, and as the article said, yes, I am president of the Poler Bears, the Ivy League's first pole dancing group. And yes, "it is a great conversation starter." Unfortunately, it isn't so great when it is the fourth item that comes up when you search me on Google. It is great here at Brown, but it isn't so great in the real world.
Part of the reason that Brown students are the number one happiest according to the Princeton Review is because here in Providence, on College Hill, we live in the Brown bubble. We pride ourselves on our lack of requirements, lax rules and above all, our freedom of expression. The Poler Bears' Herald debut focused on the sexual aspect of what we do. Yes, we can be sexy, but what the article fails to highlight is that we are multi-dimensional.

Pole dancing, at least for us, is not about sexy, racy stereotypes. Despite quotes to the contrary, we have never seriously considered going to a strip club, and while some costumes come from Victoria's Secret, the majority are spandex shorts and tank tops. We do gymnastics and more than anything else, acrobatics. Pole dancing has become the latest workout craze for a reason. We have fun and we joke about dollar bills, but there are no lap dances. This is exercise, and skill, and it's fun. Most, if apparently not all, of the Brown campus understands that.

Unfortunately, though I'm really proud of what the Poler Bears have accomplished during my time here at Brown — breaking a lot of negative stereotypes associated with pole dancing, getting a workout and having a lot of fun — this is one club that can't have a place on my resume. It doesn't translate well outside of the Brown bubble. It is hard to explain how it's different here. Yet, the sad truth of the matter is, as much as we want to idealize the Brown bubble, even here, things get twisted around, misunderstood and misconstrued. And that's okay sometimes — I laugh when my friends ask if I got those one dollar bills pole dancing. But the joke barely translates in print, and online, without context, it can cause problems.

When real life and professional and personal relations outside of College Hill come into play, the joke gets lost. It is a shame that I have to hide something from the real world that has been so much fun here at Brown. But Google doesn't forget, and unfortunately, there is nothing to protect the freedom of expression that Brown espouses.
As a Brown student, I certainly appreciate The Herald's freedom of the press and aspirations of journalistic integrity. But I had hoped that good taste would be shown in reporting sensitive subjects and privacy rights would be taken into account when reporting information, especially when it does not fall into the category of investigative, hard-hitting journalism.

In this age of technology, we should consider more than ever the implications of reporting with a spin, without the easy opportunity for correction or rebuttal. The Internet retains news forever in an unsecured, easily retrievable repository. It offers information that is not necessarily being sought, and this ease of access when the specific article or subject matter is offered to a web searcher who likely isn't searching for it, is the problem at hand. This changes the game of journalism, and perhaps it should change the rules as well.

So I understand, or at least accept temporarily, that Julianne Fenn, pole dancer, will be there to read on Google when my name is searched. But while to The Herald, this is just another article, to me, this is far more than that. I have much more to show for my time at Brown. I'm also a Meiklejohn Peer Advisor. I work for Brown Dining Services. I file applications at the Brown Admissions Office. I am an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for an Intermediate French class.

Potential employers might not ever get the chance to find that out, because Julianne Fenn, pole dancer, is what comes up first, and that could be enough to end the search. And so, as long as I'm given the chance, I'd just like to say that there's more to the story than that.

Julianne Fenn '11 is a literary arts concentrator from Connecticut. She can be reached at julianne_fenn-at-brown.edu.

 




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