EDITORIAL: Fizz Continues to Assert Control
A couple months ago, on the front page of my very first issue of the Tech as Editor-in-Chief, I ran an article titled ‘Fizz Asserts Control’. This was meant to be a hilarious callback to previous years’ “April Fools” issues of the Tech. In 2019 there was ‘Joe Shepherd Asserts Control’, featuring an archetypical antagonistic administrator’s face superimposed on the iconic Tiananmen Square ‘Tank Man’ photograph. Then 2020 brought us ‘Coronavirus Asserts Control’, insidious and inimical, yet irritatingly intangible.
But then 2023 came to Caltech, and with it Teddy Solomon and Ashton Coefer, entrepreneurial wunderkinds, Stanford dropouts, and brainfathers to the latest Hot New Social Media App “tackling the problems of disconnect and inauthenticity on college campuses head-on,” according to several Fizz employees’ LinkedIn posts.
TechCrunch even called Teddy Solomon “the next Mark Zuckerberg?”, a prestigious title reserved for only the most empty-eyed, lizard-like of college dropouts who devise the most brain-melting, volition-arresting, paradigm-shifting, civilization-shattering business models.
As much as I hate that we’ve now published THREE “articles” about this “platform” in as many months, I really feel the need to make a statement on behalf of my fellow students about how Fizz has impacted the Caltech community. Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not denying that some of their stuff is funny as shit. It works for the same reason that the old Caltech Confessions F*cebook group worked: it’s one of the few places the whole student body can live, laugh, love, alive, ahaha, fuck around and find out, complain about core, clown on admin, share anonymous advice and anxieties and affirmations and antagonisms, and generally reach a much wider audience than would be possible through word of mouth. Oh, and most importantly, it’s the perfect place to debate the morality of pissing in the sink.
The major difference, though, is that Caltech Confessions was run by us — the students and alumni — but Fizz is quite frankly (I gotta say it) an Impostor Among Us. As far as I know, they consulted no one at Caltech before sending a “Marketing Analyst” or two to campus on the first day of Winter Term 2023 to put physical flyers on the door of every student’s room.
I assume they won’t consult anyone before doing the same thing at the 1,000+ other institutions they plan to launch at by the end of 2023, according to the TechCrunch article.
Now, this would just be a personal vendetta if the content on Fizz wasn’t actively harmful to the community. Let me explain.
Because Fizz users can only see posts from other people at the same school, they employ students at each institute to serve as moderators. These moderators are given a cursory 30-minute online training that can be easily skipped through, then let loose. I don’t know how many active moderators they have, but everyone I talked to who was involved with Fizz at one point has since quit. It makes me wonder if there are even any Caltech students on the moderation team anymore. Some of the posts that are allowed to remain up are pretty shocking.
Ricketts Hovse President Meg Robertson (GPS ‘24) told me she has seen “several people [that] have been actively bullied” on Fizz.
“I don’t know how they’re, like, OK,” she told me.
Some of the harshest, most ruthless attacks have been on the houses themselves (though a few in particular have apparently been singled out by the Fizz demographic). This has caused issues especially relating to Rotation rules, since prefrosh now can access to the platform, having received their access.caltech credentials recently.
The Interhouse Committee (IHC) attempted to reach out to Fizz to work out a solution to this, but their calls and messages were ignored. Instead, Fizz continued actively marketing the platform to incoming frosh in the Class of 2027, creating an instagram account (@caltechfizz27) and following prefrosh. This account’s most recent post is a meme insinuating that seniors of a certain house are sexual predators. Attempts to report the account and ask Fizz to remove it went unanswered.
As a last-ditch effort to block prefrosh’s access to Fizz, IMSS offered to block Fizz’s registration confirmation emails to members of the Class of 2027 until Rotation was over. However, according to Meg, VPSA Kevin Gilmartin told them he needed to “clear this with his legal team” before IMSS took action. Gilmartin is evidently still checking with his legal team today, almost a month later. And by now the time of action has passed.
This situation raises a broader discussion about Rotation rules and the honor code. Usually, the IHC is able to enforce Rotation rules within the houses, but this anonymous and third-party platform totally sidesteps them. The argument can and should be made that it is the responsibility of upperclassmen to refrain from posting Rotation violations where prefrosh can see them, or else that prefrosh should opt not to seek out Rotation violations in the first place. But are either of these things likely to happen?
Fizz did not respond to a request for comment.