Yik Yak App Raises Concerns About Malicious Online Posts

Some Colgate students recently started using an app called Yik Yak through which students can post anonymous comments that can be read by anyone in the area who has the app. While the comments on the app may be made by friends just writing jokes about one another, it is in question as to whether some may use this app as an outlet to write offensive comments about other students or about the University itself.

Reports of Yik Yak being used in unintended ways have been written by “CNN” and “USA Today,” with some students in high schools using the app as a way to target others or in colleges as a way to criticize Greek life.

Vice President and Dean of the College Suzy Nelson has not heard of the app but believes that students should not be using social media or any other kind of communication as a way of hurting one another.

“What I can say is that given our values as an educational community that aims to further human understanding and compassion, these types of sites are completely contrary to what Colgate stands for,” Nelson said. “Gossip and hurtful language should never be part of how we communicate with each other, whether we do so in person or online.”

In regard to the administration stepping in, Nelson said that, as far as she knows, the administration does not tend to get involved with these issues. Nelson is not familiar with incidents of this in the past.

“We have found that not responding causes activity to self-correct or subside as people lose interest,” Nelson said. “We encourage students to ignore these posts, and not to forward or comment on them, which only perpetuates additional activity.”

Some users at Colgate have been posting about Greek life.

“Theta Chi has been mentioned in some posts. Having read most of the posts, it’s pretty clear that users are mainly saying light-hearted things,” President of Theta Chi Fraternity

junior Nick Yannopoulos said.

It is questionable what the administration will do if the posts start to become too hurtful. Anonymous comments that contained some offensive statements about either students or Colgate University itself were posted on social media in the past on websites like CollegeACB and Facebook through the Colgate University Confessions page. Yannopoulos points out that it may be more difficult to restrict Yik Yak if it reached the point where the administration felt the need to step in, since it is an app used mostly on mobile devices.

“The Colgate administration manages the server most of us operate on, so I suppose they could restrict access,” Yannopoulos said. “But Yik Yak users mainly use the app on their phones…on their wireless Internet providers.”

Yannopoulos does not think that banning the use of the app on campus is necessary, especially because the comments are seemingly harmless at the moment.

“Even if [the administration were] responsible for the frivolous anonymous posts, of their college students, it would be a nightmare to execute such a ban,” Yannopoulos said. “And I do not believe the administration should be inhibiting how students choose to express themselves, so long as the ‘line’ is not passed.”

First-year student Megan Delaney has similar views. While she does not use the app, she is aware of its use on campus.

“I have not [used the app], but I’ve heard about it,” Delaney said. “If they’re not saying anything offensive about Colgate, I don’t think [the administration] has the right to take it down…but if it starts to become something where Colgate itself is involved in it, then I definitely think Colgate has the right to remove access of the app from Colgate students.”

Similarly, Yannopoulos believes that Colgate students should realize what they are doing and understand that it is them and not the Colgate administration who should be handling these issues.

“If people really want to change Yik Yak, try posting some compliments, or maybe even bring up an issue that has real content,” Yannopoulos said. “It’s not the administration’s responsibility, but all of ours as students of this community.”

Contact Holly Mascolo at [email protected].