NEW YORK – A brewing controversy at New York University (NYU), one of the largest institutions of higher learning in the world, involves a blog called NYU Secrets, founded and edited by Greek-American Aristo (Aristotelis) Orginos.
The blog provides a forum in which NYU’s 50,000-plus students throughout the world can post anonymously, thereby saying what is really on their mind without fear of repercussion.
But a recent Wall Street journal article reported that Kelly Weill, an NYU student who edits a rival blog, NYU Local, recently exposed Orginos as the editor of NYU Secrets. Up to that point, Orginos remained anonymous.
Weill said, the Journal reported, that the anonymity resulted in some posts being far too out of hand. People could say whatever they wanted, “sexist, racist, transphobic” statements, without fear of accountability, she said.
In an August 19 article on her blog, titled “This is the Man Behind NYU Secrets,” Weill prefaces her criticism by acknowledging that “Orginos does not appear to write hate.” Nonetheless, she says that Orginos “participates in the Men’s Rights Movement,” which she describes as a group that “argues that men are oppressed and disadvantaged by women, a view that lends itself to bitter misogyny in some circles and has led the Southern Poverty Law Center to describe the movement as a hate group.”
Moreover, Weill describes various posts Orginos made on Reddit as “none egregious, but many troubling,” including one about a specific case, in which his post, of which she provides a screenshot, reads: “this woman [the rape victim], probably isn’t lying – this case is very clear-cut. But many people do lie about rape.” Weill also makes reference to other posts by Orginos, referring to some women who posted on “Secrets” as “social justice warriors,” and that “he dismissed the gender wage gap.”
In a related comment, Weill pointed out that the NYU’s Secrets Facebook cover page contains an illustration of evidently all-white students against a purple (NYU’s color) backdrop. Emblematic of the diverse dialogue surrounding these issues, even the illustration produces are rivaling sarcastic quips such as: “so diverse!” countered with “well, let’s just replace all the characters with [a] racially ambiguous human being and call it a day.”
Weill concludes that Orginos’ comments “are difficult to reconcile with NYU’s Secrets’ themes of community and acceptance,” and asks: “if a man makes great contributions to a community, is he justified in disparaging members of that community on a public forum?”
Because “he decides what gets posted, what stays in the inbox; whose voice is heard, and whose is not,” Weill says, she wonders why little is posted about women’s rights, considering that “NYU is a mostly female university with an outspoken feminist community. Nonetheless, Weill’s own blog received critical comments, such as: “is NYU so obnoxiously liberal now that we can no longer have our own opinions? The hypocrisy is unreal. The self-entitlement of this student body is suffocating.”
Perhaps Orginos does post secrets neutrally,” Weill allows, “but the fundamental problem with a college secrets page remains the same: in filtering the voices of a diverse student population through a single anonymous administrator, the results are necessarily limited by what that anonymous administrator (in this case, a white man) chooses to publish.”
Orginos spoke with TNH to give his side of the story. First off, does someone with views contrary to his have as much chance of having a post published on NYU Secrets as does someone who agrees with him? “Consciously, yes,” Orginos begins, qualifying that “I can’t speak of my subconscious.” He says that “in terms of hot-button or political issues, I do everything I can to maintain an equal amount of representation.”
To the extent that views aligned with his own are published on NYU Secrets is more a function of those ideas representing a majority of what is submitted to begin with. “That is, if ten or so people feel one way and only two feel another way, then there will be a distinct tilt to what’s posted. Surely, someone can do the investigating and find any amount of times when this isn’t true, but it’s the philosophy I do my best to abide by. What I can say for certain is that personal feelings do not get in the way of what I post.”
Is he able to remain objective on NYU Secrets even as he is opinionated on Reddit or other fora? Again, resisting an absolutist answer, Orginos beings by saying that “no one can remain completely objective on any issue. We are, after all, all human. I strive for objectivity. I strive for unbiasedness.”
Majoring in English education, Orginos plans to be a teacher, and says that “my personal opinions and feelings will not affect my job, just as they do not now. When I am a teacher, I will treat each child with respect and love and care despite our differences in backgrounds, opinions, whatever.”
Of course, he says, he has personal opinions on the issues. “Who doesn’t have politics? Who doesn’t have opinions? My politics and opinions affect my personal life. They do not affect my professional life. NYU Secrets falls into the latter category.”
Weill speaks of the virtues of diversity, but what about opinions that are contrary to that of the majority of the student body? “I do think there’s something to be said for what constitutes a majority thought and a minority thought at this school,” Orginos says. “There are times when right-leaning or even moderate thought can be met with hostility. NYU is a very liberal school. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. And I think there is value in showing both sides.
“My goal with NYU Secrets is to show that there is a community at NYU. For all of those who have ever felt isolated, I want to do my part to make them feel a little bit more at home. In terms of diversity of political thought, I do think it’s important to remind people that there is a wide range at this school despite what the narrative often seems to be.
I’d like to be clear that, in saying this, I make no claim about my own politics. I think they are irrelevant.” As for his own views versus Weill’s, Orginos says “surely there are things that she and I disagree about. But I think she’d find that our politics are not too dissimilar.”
Orginos says the representation of him being involved with the Men’s Rights Movement is absolutely untrue. Just because he may have posted in their forum does not mean he is a part of them. In fact, Orginos invites readers to read his lengthy response to Weill’s piece at the following link: https://medium.com/@aristoNYC/this-is-actually-the-man-behind-nyu-secrets-26aa551f0b6a.
What about the “all white” cover page photo? Orginos himself would not fit that “white” description as commonly perceived, considering he is the son of an immigrant – his father, from Korthi on the Greek island of Andros. Orginos told TNH that he chose the cover photo among others in an informal competition “because it was far and away the best one in terms of quality. It had nothing to do with the races depicted. He admittedly overlooked the lack of racial diversity in the photo and it is “something I have already resolved to think harder about next time. It was certainly not a political statement to intentionally choose a seemingly all-white cast.”
Despite all the controversy, life goes on at NYU Secrets. “For whatever it’s worth,” Orginos says, “I still post things I disagree with. All the time.”