Last month,a nonprofit dedicated to women’s equality, reproductive health and non-violence, the Feminist Majority Foundation, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education of Civil Rights. In it, they argued universities that follow Title IX restrictions should allow Yik Yak, an app that allows users to anonymously post messages within a certain location.
The decision follows a letter from several coalitions to the U.S. Department of Education suggesting the app be banned on university campuses.
Temple is required to follow Title IX regulations—but despite the growing controversy about the social media app, university officials do not believe Yik Yak will have to be banned here.
Sandra Foehl, the director of Equal Opportunity Compliance and the university’s Title IX coordinator, said the university has fielded complaints about cyber bullying, but she has not heard of any direct complaints about Yik Yak itself.
“I am certainly aware that there have been instances of cyberbullying on other media, and the university responds to concerns from students,” Foehl said.
At other universities, the use of Yik Yak has led to sexual and racial harassment of professors and students alike: at Clemson University, a group of students called for banning it after they felt threatened due to racial comments posted on the app, the Huffington Post reported.
On Main Campus, Yik Yak has been more positive than anything else, said Temple Student Government’s Deputy Communications Director Nicole Handel.
“When looking at the Yik Yak feed I saw more positive things that people are saying than negative,” Handel said.
The app can be beneficial because it helps people who have never been to Temple learn about the university, Handel added. The anonymity of the app can also be used to seek advice if users are too embarrassed to ask questions in person, she said.
“[Yik Yak] promotes organizations and different things to do around campus,” Handel said.
Despite the positive benefits, the anonymity is also where problems arise at the other universities because the lack of accountability leads users to feel free to say anything.
Both Handel and Foehl said banning the app would not solve anything in the long term. Foehl believes banning Yik Yak would just temporarily solve the problem.
“I’m not sure that shutting it down will help,” she said. “It will just pop up somewhere else.”
She added when Peter Liacouras was president of Temple, he combatted hate speech with more speech. It was a policy that stuck with her, Foehl added.
“Years ago, President Liacouras responded to concerns about hateful speech in the community and said at any university, the appropriate response to hate speech is more speech, responsible speech, measured speech and informed speech,” she said.
Foehl added if Yik Yak was banned on campus, there would be a lot of debate and conversation about the decision.
“A hallmark of this university’s campus is encouraging the exchange of ideas, encouraging debate and encouraging a back and forth and I think the university would be reluctant to shut that down,” she said. “I think the university would look for other alternatives.”
Jonathan Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jonnygilbs96
CORRECTION: In a version of this article that appeared in print, the Electronic Frontier Foundation was incorrectly attributed as the organization that sent the letter to the U.S. Department of Education of Civil Rights on banning Yik Yak. The Temple News regrets the error.