A smartphone app that permits users to post messages anonymously is causing some colleges to ban it from their schools’ wireless networks because some racist comments have been posted.
Yik Yak provides a local bulletin board that enables students to vent their feelings without leaving their names attached to their post. Just in the last week, Yik Yak received the Fastest Rising Startup award at the 8th annual TechCrunch Crunchies. Last year, Yik Yak licensed GPS intel for 100,599 public schools across the country and almost 30,000 private schools.
Utica College in New York and Norwich University in Vermont banned Yik Yak last fall, but Clemson refused to ban the app. North Carolina State and Duke University have said they won’t block the app, saying a ban would restrict free speech. Duke Student Affairs Vice President Larry Moneta said, “On this campus and I think on most, what we tell students is freedom of expression, even offensive freedom expression, is what we cherish.” He added, “Our position has always been every student has the right to avoid it simply stop looking at it, and in time, it will fade into oblivion as every predecessor has done.”
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the situation has not been resolved. Ashley Winkfield, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, has kept tabs on the remarks she found offensive, including some that followed the “Black Lives Matter” protests on campus last fall. One post read: “I really hate blacks, I’m going home where there aren’t any,” another read, “the way blacks are acting right now kind of justify a slavery.”
UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Winston Crisp favors banning the app; he said, “I think it adds little to no value to our community and creates more problems for our students than it will ever be worth. We want Carolina to be a place where people feel comfortable talking about race and other issues, and we are working hard to create opportunities for them to do that in a constructive and respectful way.”
Banning the app could prove pointless, as some say that students could use their phone’s data to reach the app anyway.