Students want ‘terrifying’ Yik Yak app banned from campus

Protesters are assembling on the University of Rochester (UR) campus after President Joel Seligman vetoed a resolution Wednesday that would ban students from using Yik Yak on university servers.

During the spring semester of 2015, numerous racially charged comments were posted on the anonymous social networking application, including at least two comments attacking the school’s Douglass Leadership House.

Anonymous Yik Yak users threatened to burn students living in the Douglass House and even suggested raping another.

“So damn entitled it makes me wanna stab them all asap,” one commenter wrote.

UR officials immediately asked Yik Yak to turn over the names and email addresses of the anonymous users but no suspects were identified. The situation was left unresolved until November when students from the Douglass House protested outside the president’s office and presented a list of demands, including the establishment of a $30,000 diversity programming fund and an immediate ban on Yik Yak from all campus servers.

A few days later, Seligman issued a four-page response to the list of demands and promised “to address the broader questions of how [he] best can create an environment that is safe, supportive and welcoming for all.” Seligman then established a Commission on Race and Diversity (CRD) to work with Yik Yak on an investigation. The CRD recently voted to block students from accessing Yik Yak with a vote of 14 to 2.

Seligman, however, disagreed with the vote and said a ban on Yik Yak would violate academic freedom.

“Banning Yik Yak is not merely a symbolic act,” he said. “Academic freedom is also a core value of our university. If I were to ban Yik Yak from using the University’s wi-fi networks, I would begin a new and unbounded process by which my defense of the free expression rights of our faculty members, the student newspaper, speaker selection, faculty hiring would be undercut.”

Students disagreed with Seligman’s decision and organized a second protest on Thursday.

“Yik Yak is not the be-all-end-all,” student Farid Adenuga said during the protest. “We want to change the culture here at this campus. We do understand that Yik Yak is the first step of the whole process.”

Seligman, on the other hand, said a ban would be ineffectual since most students would be able to access the application on their cell phones.

“I know some students have been disappointed in my unwillingness to impose this ban and you will note no one will cut off their right to be heard and communicate. But to ban Yik Yak would in fact cut off hundreds if not thousands of individuals in our community who use it who are not racist; who do not engage in hate speech, who threaten no one,” Seligman said.

Protesters, however, continued to argue that a ban on Yik Yak is a necessary step to ensure minority students feel safe on campus.

“We pay a lot of money for our experience here and this experience has been nothing but terrifying,” Adenuga said.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski