On Nov. 5, members of ASUCR postponed voting on a resolution that sought to ban the campuswide use of Yik Yak, the social media app which allows users to anonymously develop and view posts within a 1.5-mile-radius.
Delivered by President of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) Daniel Engels, the resolution calls for a joint IFC and ASUCR letter to be sent to Yik Yak, requesting that they grant UCR a geofence, a virtual perimeter to prevent the use of the application within a predetermined area. Yik Yak currently only offers this service to elementary, middle and high schools, but Engels feels that the hate speech, cyberbullying and impersonations that can run rampant on the app create a hostile learning environment that “should be removed from the direct proximity of the classroom.”
The resolution was met with overwhelming opposition from various members of ASUCR, who held concerns that the application could still be useful for students who do not abuse it. Vice President of External Affairs Abraham Galvan described it as being “extremely beneficial” for communication between students and to “provide an anonymous source of information.” Senator Summer Shafer and Marketing and Promotions Director Ravin Rathod agreed, citing the anonymous aspect of the app as a means for students to, in Rathod’s words, ask “basic questions” that they won’t have to feel judged for asking.
However, no senator denied the harmful nature of cyberbullying that can occur on Yik Yak. “I think (hate speech) is definitely an issue we should address, but putting any across-the-board restrictions on it is really problematic,” said Galvan.
Other senators echoed this sentiment, including Rathod, who believed that “there is a problem with hate speech,” but that the real issue is campus climate and culture. He expressed that targeting the sentiments behind students thinking that “it’s okay to talk about someone anonymously in a hateful manner” would be more helpful than an outright ban on a single application.
Senators also felt that telling adult students what they aren’t allowed to do is an inappropriate measure for a university to take. “We’re not here to be parents,” said President Pro Tempore Devin Plazo. “We’re a public university.”
In a 12-2-1 vote, the wording of the resolution was amended to exclude the geofence, but to instead promote mental health and “a better campus climate by having a positivity campaign run by the Vice President of External Affairs.” However, a subsequent 10-3-2 vote postponed voting on the resolution indefinitely until different campus groups, including the diversity council, could have a chance to work on it more closely.
Although there may exist doubt over the efficacy of such a resolution, IFC representative Alex Mastache advocated for its importance in an interview with the Highlander. “All we can do is be the driving force behind cleaning up the social networking on our campus,” said Mastache. “The point we want to get across is that we wish to maintain a positive learning environment for the students of UCR, but we have to start somewhere.”
Contributions made by Daniel Kelley