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The Student News Site of Buena Vista University

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The Student News Site of Buena Vista University

The Tack Online

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Yik Yak stirs controversy on campus

Yik+Yak+stirs+controversy+on+campus

Kiley Wellendorf | News Co-Editor

Like the flick of a lighter, Yik Yak has spread like wildfire throughout Buena Vista University’s (BVU) campus throughout this month. Anonymity enabled students to post freely about everything from their thoughts on waking up early for class to what suite was rumored to have a party the following weekend. While posts continued to escalate, the Student Affairs office received a handful of complaints from students who were targeted negatively on campus. BVU has taken action over the application and tried to resolve the mess it created amongst its student body.

Yik Yak, a growing “anonymous” social media app, is currently making its way around every ten-mile radius anyone comes up to. Its freedom allows individuals to post any thought or comment they may have, whilst reinstating the same 140 character rules as Twitter sets for its users. Even though Yik Yak encourages good behavior, a number of posts have skidded past and completed the opposite.

BVU’s Student Affairs office received a number of complaints about ongoing harassing posts users within the ten-mile radius of campus. Dale Scully, Vice-President of Student Affairs, was aware of how Yik Yak was being used on college campuses, but wasn’t aware of how it grew on BVU’s campus.

Scully was informed by various students of Yik Yak’s harsh treatment and was questioned on whether or not Student Affairs was able to do something about it. Upon receiving complaints, Scully asked students to show examples of “yaks” in order to determine what level of harassment was conveyed.

“Honestly, you could tell when they reported it there was just this look of disappointment that they just couldn’t believe that the people they call friends and colleagues and part of the student body would write things this viscous and this hateful,” Scully said.

Sophomore Matt Schulz became aware of the application during homecoming week. Schulz felt that some of the “yaks” were funny, but was shocked once he became a target of the anonymous posts.

“The one that through me for a loop was, ‘That kid with pink hair needs to stop,’ which of course I commented, ‘Yeah… probs not… -Guy with pink hair’ — this specific yak blew up. There were so many positive comments of people defending me, but for what? My existence?” Schulz said.

Senior Megan Long, Student Body President, also paid close attention to Yik Yak during homecoming week. She was happy to see posts encouraging students to attend sporting games and SAB events but was surprised to see some of the negative posts made by BVU students.

“It just seems like some students are taking it over the edge of thinking that it’s a site where they can vent about anything,” Long said.

On Wednesday, Oct. 8th, President Fred Moore and Long addressed BVU’s student body about the university’s expectations concerning online harassment and cyber bullying. The letter applauded those who have come forward to report this behavior and also informed students of the effects harassment has for an individual later down in life.

The letter from Moore and Long warns students to:

…not post anything that may compromise your reputation. People will judge you based on how you appear to them online. They will also give or deny you opportunities (jobs, scholarships, internships) based on these impressions. Your posts may not be anonymous.”

“I think it’s important that we know that this is a unified effort between the president of Student Senate and the president of the university to say that our expectations are higher of our students and the way that they interact with one another,” Scully said.

Long scrolled through Yik Yak’s feed after the email was sent out and felt frustrated once students began creating posts about the staff acting as a parents and principals – limiting the freedom college sets out for students.

“I feel like students need to realize that the only time Student Affairs is going to do something is if it’s brought to their attention by students who are offended by what is being said about them. If it’s to a point where students are getting harassed, or they can’t deal with it on their own and they bring it to the attention of Student Affairs, then we will do something about it,” Long said.

Alongside Scully in the Student Affairs office is Mark Kirkholm, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Campus Security.

“Well, I will tell you straight up that we take harassment, stalking, and those types of issues extremely seriously. I’ve been at this a long time, and I’m acutely aware of the impact it has on an individual and their being targeted – it is devastating,” Kirkholm said.

Although Scully and Kirkholm did not check into Yik Yak before complaints were brought to them, both individuals want to encourage students to be cautious about their actions towards one another.

“We need to treat each other appropriately. Perceived anonymity can sometimes provide very few people an opportunity to try to harass or bully somebody. The good thing is the vast majority of us do not and so it’s just something we shouldn’t tolerate upon each other. We should never tolerate treating each other badly,” Kirkholm said.

“We wanted this to be an encouragement to people to be who they want to be; I don’t think anybody in our community wants to be known as the hate-filled harasser. I just don’t believe that,” Scully said.

Although Long and Schulz believe that Yik Yak has been mostly negative, there are some positive scenarios that have come with using the app on campus.

“One night Yik Yak got really deep, and people started to ask for advice on various things in life, and others, including myself, posted helpful and genuine support and advice,” Schulz said.

Alongside students helping each other out, Long finds it helpful to have students post about upcoming sporting events and events put on by students around the campus.

“I thought it was great when I saw homecoming posts about what events you could go to that night and just seeing events like, ‘Go cheer on the Beavers at the volleyball game,’ because I’m not 100 percent looking at the athletics page every single day to make sure I’m at a soccer, volleyball, tennis, or any event that I could possibly go to on this campus. It was nice because on Yik Yak you just go on there and instantly see that there’s an event,” Long said.

As for the future of Yik Yak, according to Long, the rumors of BVU shutting down Yik Yak on campus will not happen; however, further measurements will be made in order to help out the students who have felt or feel as though they are being targeted and harassed on this application.

“People think a lot of these are anonymous; anonymous is relative to any electronic device, and people need to know that just because somebody says it’s anonymous, doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities or ways for authorities to make a determination,” Kirkholm said.

Photo by Justice Gage

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