“Yik-Yak” is a smart-phone app where students on campus can post anonymous statements, similarly to Twitter with its character count restrictions but without the requirement of an account being created. Most of the comments are light-hearted, discussing the gossip that goes around campus. There are often well-known phrases that go around the internet that are posted there and students can either “upvote” or “downvote” these various comments depending on how they feel about them.
Recently, the app has caught the attention of the College’s administration whenever there were statements that did not fit with the College’s ideology according to some students. There were racist and sexist comments in the beginning, which made the administration worry for their students and how they saw each other. This is not the first time that such an event has occurred with this particular app. According to WDAM, the local news station, at the University of Southern Mississippi, a student posted a comment that suggested that he was going to hurt students in one of the academic halls. This quickly led to his arrest for posting a computer threat to cause injury.
Already the app creators, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, have been attempting to keep the app safe within the best grounds that they have. They have already “geofenced” middle and high schools across America, which means that if a student is within a certain vicinity of a middle or high school then they will not be granted access. Droll and Buffington stated that they wanted to app to be for college students and that it would not be appropriate for younger teens.
On the campus, Dean Kemp recently gave a presentation to SGA about Yik-Yak and how it has affected the community and how it could continue to be a learning tool for students. This year, a new program has been started called “STEP-UP!” which calls students to better bystander behavior in various situations. Considering the app’s feature of downvotes and upvotes, the app presents a unique opportunity for students to send a clear message.
“Those who post negative comments will not be able to hide behind anonymity,” Kemp said.
SGA’s response to this presentation was quick and from the information given by Kemp at the presentation, they see both sides of the debate.
“SGA believes that Yik-Yak can be a positive social media tool for Maryville College.” Ariana Hansen, the Public Relations Officer for SGA stated. “But it will depend on the students.”