JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- East Tennessee State University is investigating who is running a Twitter feed using the school's trademarked logo without the school's permission.
The feed - @ETSUconfessions - allows users to post a variety of comments related to everything from bathroom habits to gossip to questions about sex. School spokesman Joe Smith told The Johnson City Press the feed is not affiliated with the university and using the logo could land the operator in legal hot water.
Some of the posts include comments such as: "I use towels at frat parties when they don't have any toliet (sic) paper. Sorry bout (sic) it."
Some of the anonymous posts, however, name real people in potentially reputation-ruining situations. One Twitter user demanded the source of the information of one post and bemoaned his resulting relationship complications, after he was accused of "hooking up" with another girl while his girlfriend was away.
Still another student received a public apology from the Twitter feed's owner, who remains anonymous and did not respond to messages seeking comment, after a student was repeatedly made the butt of several posts questioning his sexual orientation.
Jeff Howard, ETSU's associate dean of students, said the public shaming is unfortunate, but there's little the college can do about it unless the posts turn to physical threats.
"We really can't do anything if it does not violate our code of conduct," Howard said. "There are still issues of free speech in the electronic world. It would have to cross over into a violation of our code or of legal entities for the university to get involved."
Online threats of violence against and harassment of students are taken very seriously by the university, he said, and investigated to the fullest extent possible.
For more than a year, trending confessions sites have been thorns in the sides of universities and high schools.
Some have been successful in battling them legally, only to see a new one spring back up in its place. Others' claims to have them shut down have been rejected as attempts to stifle protected speech.
The operator of (at)ETSUconfessions, takes posts submitted through ask.fm, a site that allows text to be submitted to the Twitter feed's owner. The administrator can then copy and paste the text directly into tweets without identifying information.
ETSU student Kristen Galloway said confessions sites can be funny if moderated correctly to keep out identifying information.
"I think that, as long as people don't tweet people directly, I don't see a problem with it," she said. "Most likely, no one is ever going to know who the tweets are about. I do think that there is definitely a potential for bullying, because I have seen people put names in tweets and it's really rude and mean. But the admin of the page should be responsible and respectful enough to not post those things as well."
Information from: Johnson City Press, http://www.johnsoncitypress.com