Politics and school: Where do we draw the line?


Isabella Lowery, Reporter

In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to stay on top of current events. With information ready at our fingertips, education has been made available in abundance, and many young adults are taking the initiative and becoming  involved in standing up for what they believe in. 

When Chick-fil-a’s history of monetary ties to homophobic organizations arose, activists called for international boycotts. The same situation was seen when Ben & Jerry’s released an anti-Trump ice cream flavor titled “Pecan Resist”. If you’re active on social media, you may have heard about a similar dispute in Urbana’s very own community. 

For those that don’t know, the Urbaniacs are a group of male seniors tasked with heading school spirit at sporting events, including leading chants and organizing outfit themes. Though they initially started as a club, they’ve now gained total autonomy as an entirely student-led organization. Mrs. Hill, the previous club advisor, defined their original intent as “creat[ing] a student section at athletic events” where the goal was “to have fun cheers and to promote our team in a positive way.” 

The group has a strong presence throughout the community. It’s a well-known tradition for seniors to participate, and they’re widely regarded as the primary supporters of Urbana games. “They do an awesome job at getting everyone pumped up,” one student said. Mr. Cresta, a teacher and football coach at Urbana, had some encouraging words to share as well. “Personally, I love it. They really get behind it, and do a great job at supporting their buddies and friends on the team. It shows that they are supporting the guys and they want us to win.” (Note: Cresta would like to add that he “does not support or condone this 2021 group’s actions, tweets, or opinions,” and this was simply a statement referring to groups prior.)

It’s undeniable that the Urbaniacs receive a lot of praise from the community; however, a recent controversy has arisen surrounding the group, social media, and political involvement. 

If you check their Twitter (Urbaniacs 2021), you’ll find a large amount of posts, with very few actually having to do with school spirit. Most are too explicit to mention in this article, but a few examples include a “hottest teachers list,” name calling Urbana students, and some choice words about FCPS Superintendent Terry Alban. As outrageous as these tweets are, the reason the Urbaniacs first fell victim to such scrutiny (and what consequently drove them to resort to their current content) is found at the bottom of their page: post upon post in support of a specific presidential candidate. 

Regardless of personal beliefs, this raises a question—should groups affiliated with the school be allowed to share political opinions? While the Urbaniacs aren’t technically school-sponsored, many seem to think they are due to their past status as a club. If “Urbana” is in their name and they have a strong community presence, it could be argued that they represent the student body, so are these stances appropriate to post?

Of course, the Urbaniacs aren’t the only guilty party. In terms of school politics, many other organizations have gotten involved. Members of the drama department wore orange while performing in support of gun control, a Trump flag was brought on campus during a football game, and a school-wide walkout was staged in 2018 responding to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. 

When asked why the Urbaniacs were the ones being called out, some students thought it’s their offensive language and radical opinions to blame. “As long as it’s in the right context, like a group peaceful protest, then [it’s okay],” one shared. Another said “everyone has the right to state their own opinions, which is why I think it’s fine if [groups] make political statements. [However], when you do and you’re representing a group, you should express that based on the consensus of the entire group and not just its leaders.” The same student later added that the Urbaniacs page “looks more like a personal Twitter account rather than a group account for sports.”

While the Urbanaics have caused quite an uproar in the community, not everyone is against them. One student argued that “it’s a free country,” saying, “They have every right to share their opinion. It’s freedom of speech—they can post what they want.” Obviously, students, parents, and staff are divided alike. While many may not condone their content, it’s true that they have no official link to the school. Even if the subject matter is viewed as “unseemly” by some, the group hasn’t broken any rules or gone against Twitter’s policies. 

Since the posts gained attention, the school sent out an email via “Urbana HS FindOutFirst” with the subject “Social Media Concern,” which reiterated the school’s lack of relation to the group and asserted that the “posts do not embody UHS’s Core Four Values.”