On Yik Yak

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Below are letters we have received regarding the resolution proposed to the SGA to ban Yik Yak from campus Wi-Fi.

If you want your voice heard about this or any other issue, send your letter to managingeditor@thepointnews.com.

Pieces will be judged on quality of writing, not perspective.


 

When we agree to become members of a campus community, we relinquish some of the rights that we bear in the “real world”, in the interest of keeping our community safe. Firearms, knives, and candles are all objects that any member of St. Mary’s can purchase in their own right. However, the College has mandated that we prohibit these items from our campus in the interest of student safety and security. Every student who signs the contract to live on campus agrees to abide by these policies – seemingly without question – because it makes sense for campus safety to take precedence over an individual’s perceived or real right to possess these items.

I fail to see how this resolution would be any different. It would be the College’s way of saying that students’ general emotional and mental wellbeing is a greater priority than an individual’s perceived or real right to access the app through the school server. If an individual chooses to access the app with their personal data connection, then the College is no longer endorsing that right by providing a means for it.

Candles have the potential to hurt people if misused. Most of us have had pleasant experiences with candles, but people have been burned. Objects have caught fire, and there is a very real threat of danger if things get out of hand. Yet we don’t protest in ResLife saying, “I’ve only ever had positive experiences with scented candles!! I should be allowed to burn them in my room!” We value the collective health and wellness of our community enough to let it go. Why can’t we do the same where this app is concerned?

I posted something on Facebook the night of the SGA meeting that I’ll share below; because I still don’t understand why we are entertaining an argument to keep an anonymous app when we are watching people express the ways in which the misuse of the app has impeded on their ability to thrive in the community.

“The deep, intimate, searing pain that some of us feel is nothing more than an entertaining debate topic, or a philosophical question of legality. People are hurting, and those in power are appealing to logic. Human beings are hurting, and those in power are leaning on their own understanding. Fellow community members are hurting, and we are trying to brush over their pain with the rose colored glasses of idealism, and the veil of ignorance.

How did the human condition become so wretched that the pain of our friends is insignificant in comparison to our personal experience? Why doesn’t the pain of our friends drive and directly influence our personal experience? How cold are we?”

As a student leader and campus advocate, I’m still struggling to understand why we need to gather the opinions of those who are unaffected when there are human beings who are deeply hurting. It’s not a question of free speech; it’s about freedom from harm. It’s not about legality anymore; it’s about liability and the responsibility we have to our students. The app may very well be dead; but if getting rid of it served as nothing more than posthumous retribution for those who have been hurt by it in the past, I would still consider it worthwhile.

Vera Damanka

Student Trustee
MAPP Coordinator
Vice President, Black Student Union


 

Banning Yik Yak is the right thing to do. No one should have to live in a community where he or she feels threatened. It’s unfortunate that Yik Yak has been continually used for negative messages instead of positive ones. 

Sincerely,

Kathleen Carmean


 

Thank you for taking the time to read over all opinions, even those you may not agree with. I can personally attest to the importance of surrounding yourself with opposing viewpoints. If I had not had that opportunity last Monday, my outlook on the world, and this microcosm of it, would still be as narrow it was in the previous nineteen years. Altering a mindset in a three hour period is a tall order, but that is the power of open and free conversation. In part, I would like to use this platform to express my beliefs on the importances of observation and educating oneself through listening; but also to explain my position which I have very recently been convinced of – to ban Yik Yak from the SMCM online networks.

I feel obligated as a journalist to set the scene. On Tuesday, the fourth of October, our student government assembled. The first motion was called to amend the agenda so that the guest speakers could address those in attendance prior to the “student speakout.” The SGA leadership knew their section where they allow students to voice their opinions on matters important to them, was going to take longer than usual. The proposed resolution of removing Yik Yak from the school’s server had attracted many community members in order to share their views. Students one by one stood up to make their perspective known and put on record.

As I sat in the Schaefer Lecture Hall, I contemplated my thoughts. Why would we ban Yik Yak? What harm could an app possibly do? Isn’t this breaching the first amendment? Surely there was no way this resolution would pass. My argument was airtight, or so I thought. Initially my logic was that: The vocal group who opposed Yik Yak were so small in numbers that the resolution would be ignored by the vast majority. Those people in the majority who are not harmed by its existence directly. In retrospect I see the idiocy of this privileged statement, but at the time it seemed logical. I thought that this was a slippery slope we were perched upon. The vote may not pass, but it would nudge us towards an uncontrollable tumble towards the depths of total censorship. Freedom of speech is a principle that the United States is based on. I thought that any act which limited the outlets a person has available was an attack on the basis on America.

The first few people who spoke that evening seemed to affirm my original train of thought. As I stated before: Yik Yak does not negatively affect me, and I did not comprehend how an application could make someone so upset. However, as the accounts continued to be shared, I began to realize that I was the minority in the room. The majority of those present supported the ban. This made me feel small, insignificant and uncomfortable. Then one student pointed out that that feeling is how it feels to be be the minority in a much larger context. I realized that the oppression I felt as someone who opposed the ban is exactly why we should have the ban.

On our small campus, we live in a fairly homogenous society. Statistically, most of us identify as white and middle class. I check both of those boxes. It is quite rare that I am in a room and I see no one who is in agreement with me, no one who thinks in the same way. Just like when the professor at the “Time to Pause” meeting told me to sit down based on my race, gender identity, and sexuality, I got a rare taste of how it feels to be marginalized based on something I can not control. This made it very obvious to me that this feeling is disgusting. It felt horrendous and I only was in said situation for a short amount of time before I returned to my privileged position. As a member of the minority, my case had to be extremely strong in order to carry any merit. While the Yik Yak conversation continued I realized the lack of substance behind my position. Every time my opinion was countered, I would try and find a justification for keeping that opinion. Until eventually I realized I didn’t have any reason to feel how I did, besides my dignity in being right the first time. This was completely unfair.

More time has passed since that revelation, and now I see the flaws in the rest of my initial argument as well. If we have any human empathy at all, which we all claim we do, it should not matter if the sample size affected is only one person. No one should have to feel unwanted in our campus society. The greater good should be taken into account, but the inconvenience of many is negated, in my opinion, by the extreme circumstances of individuals. Lives are being literally ruined by this application. People have been called words so powerful that they fear daily that their classmate is the same anonymous user using language reminiscent of slavery. Yik Yak’s anonymous nature make it so that no one knows who is suggesting, via derogatory language, that their classmates do not deserve respect, and basic human decency. In the meeting, students stated that they wanted to leave the campus, because of how Yik Yak was making them feel unaccepted. Is that not severe enough to warrant action? I think that it shows this action is long overdue.

This resolution is not final. The college’s administration has the final call; the potential legal result is one to be determined by professional attorneys, not us. Our job as the student body is to determine if we want to sit ideally in the eye of injustice, or attempt to do something about it. Ultimately, if the ban passes through the SGA and the administration, those who want to use Yik Yak still have the full right to do so; the school will just no longer facilitate that right. This action will symbolize our distaste for bigotry, racism, homophobia, anti-semitism and sexism. We have the opportunity to send a powerful message to those affected, the community, and the rest of higher education, that St. Mary’s students will not stand idly while these injustices occur. This is not simply an opportunity, but our duty. Those in positions of privilege must realize that this can not be done by any one portion of the community, but all of us in our entirety. We must feel empathetic to those situations we cannot understand, and be advocates of equality for all.

Ultimately, racism is based on a lack of understanding of another culture, or set of ideas. A world where we speak less, and hear more is one where we can maybe, possibly, start to become decent human beings.

Yours Truly,

Scott Zimmerman

Managing Editor of The Point News
Cross Country Captain
Class of 2018

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