Universities consider blocking controversial app

Posted February 5, 2015

— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is considering banning a smartphone app that some say encourages hate speech, but other schools say free speech among students needs to be promoted.

Yik Yak allows users post anonymously to a local bulletin board, and those posts can be seen only by people in a certain geographic area.

"People have been saying some very racist, very hurtful things," said Ashley Winkfield, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill who has kept a running tab of "yaks" that she finds troubling.

During the height of the "Black Lives Matter" protests on campus last fall, for example, one person posted, "I really hate blacks, I'm going home where there aren't any."

Another poster said, "the way blacks are acting right now kind of justify a slavery."

Winkfield said the anonymous posts scare her and are making her increasingly distrustful.

"These are people we are going to class with, people who we see every day, and they might have some type of ill will toward us," she said.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Winston Crisp said UNC-Chapel Hill officials are examining options for dealing with Yik Yak.

"I think it adds little to no value to our community and creates more problems for our students than it will ever be worth," Crisp said in a statement. "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.”

Utica College in New York and Norwich University in Vermont banned the app last fall by blocking it from their schools' wireless networks. Clemson University considered a ban before deciding against it.

Duke University and North Carolina State University said they have no plans to block students from posting on Yik Yak.

"On this campus and I think on most, what we tell students is freedom of expression, even offensive freedom expression, is what we cherish," Duke Student Affairs Vice President Larry Moneta said.

Yik Yak representatives couldn't be reached Thursday for comment.

Winkfield said she would like to see UNC-Chapel Hill stop the yaks on campus.

"As a social media platform, it has the potential to be a place where people can really speak about their feelings anonymously, but that also means they are not accountable for what they’re saying," she said. "People have taken the liberty of anonymity and have gone completely off the deep end."

Experts say banning Yik Yak is merely symbolic because students can continue to access the app through their phone's data.

Moneta said students would be better off just tuning the app out.

"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," he said.


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  • shallottemustang Feb 7, 2015

    It is what it is...banning some app that is simply the messenger changes nothing.

    Racism is and will always be part of America. You can reduce it's effect, but you will never completely get rid of it no matter what anyone says.

    As long as you have organizations like the NAACP and others in existence purely for the color of someone's skin and laying blame due to the same you will never reduce its effects either.

  • djXciZe Feb 6, 2015

    View quoted thread

    technically speaking, the quote is grammatically correct

  • Wayne R. Douglas Feb 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Thank you offended people, for turning me on to Yik Yak. Until you people pretended to be offended, I, along with countless others, was clueless about this app. It's pretty darn funny. If you don't like what you read, don't read. How hard is that? It is not my problem that you are soft. You people call me things like "honk ey", "whiteie" and other various racial terms, but you don't see me trying to shut anything down.

  • heard-it-all-before Feb 6, 2015

    i don't have the app, but i'm 150% certain the racists comments only make up .0001% of all the comments, and i'm 10,000% certain there are just as many racists white jokes on there (that i, a white guy, would probably laugh hysterically at). everyone takes things so personally. why? you're so self-centered, self-absorbed, the world MUST revolve around you and only you. you crave so badly for the .0001% to apply to you. "pick me! pick me!" grow up and get real.

    and kudos to wral again for only reporting on the black racist comments. somebody check the app and confirm all the white jokes you see. i guarantee it.

  • Objective Scientist Feb 6, 2015

    Agree with TIMEWILLTELL, but will add this: Even if Winkfield stops tabulting "troubling" (to her) online comments, she is destined for a life of being isolated and ineffectiveness in whatever line of work she may pursue if she remains so sensitive to verbal or written comments that are hurtful or offensive. I know well an adult lady (white woman) who, even with a college degree, has never been able to support herself b/c she could not hold a job. In any setting if someone even gives her a "critical look" it causes a negative reaction that makes her essentially non-productive and ineffective... even more so if the criticism were to be verbal! Her life has not been "pretty" b/c of her inability to "shrug-off" even the slightest negative action and/or comment. Additionally, I'd like to know if Winkfield thought and realistically expected that when she stepped on a college campus that she would be in an environment in which societal "ills" such as racism would not exist?

  • officebox Feb 6, 2015

    I agree with you Objective Scientist. This statement I have yet to see one, but there should be some that focus on "What is it like being WHITE" in America"?)

    The real problem is so much emphasis is spent on understanding black ppl. They need to learn about white, brown and yellow ppl. They have no empathy for what we go through. They only see things through their own experience. If they would take the time to look around they would see we all go through the same things. Followed in a store? Harassed at a traffic stop? Charges leveled up? Being treated rudely? Guess what - it happens to everyone regardless of color. That is the reality. If ppl are truly interested in understanding, it would be a dialog instead of a monologue.

  • TimeWillTell Feb 6, 2015

    ""People have been saying some very racist, very hurtful things," said Ashley Winkfield, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill who has kept a running tab of "yaks" that she finds troubling."

    Congratulations, Ms. Winkfield, your obsessive insecurity may have just put you on an employment blacklist. After the web crawlers run, your name may well be indefinitely associated with this comment. Any prospective employer who sees it is quite likely to think "No, I don't need a whiney little girl who keeps track of online noise she does not like."

  • Objective Scientist Feb 6, 2015

    Racism does indeed continue in America... White on Black racism indeed continues to exist and very few would disagree with that, albeit at much lower level than 50-60 years ago. Almost all Blacks would likely acknowledge that as well as most Whites. However, Black on White racism exists... yet virtually all Blacks refuse to acknowledge that such racism exists... even believing it to be "impossible"! The anonymous racism exhibited via this "app" is White on Black... if it were Black on White... would the University be seeking to ban the app? Likely not! We all must realize that racism exists... both ways! Unfortunately, that is likely to continue for generations to come... perhaps forever. Look at the middle east... in the name of religion - of all things - there are groups of people who unequivocally HATE each other! All that said... UNC-CH is being hypocritical to espouse "openness, tolerance, and free speech"... yet consider banning an app of this type!

  • Objective Scientist Feb 6, 2015

    So much, so many comments to which I could react, so little time to do so. Some thoughts: Real world reality! All of us have, all of us will encounter people who will make statements directed at us - personally - that are "hurtful" and/or make statements with which we disagree... and those statements may be made face-to-face and/or anonymously! That is part of life in this world today... even more so with the anonymity afforded us in "cyberspace". Get over it! Learn to deal with it! Learn to avoid it! That is LIFE! I've seen and experiences a lot in my life... my high school and college years were when the USA transitioned from a segregated society to an integrated society. I am a "white guy", but I experienced the throes and convulsions of the process of integration. (Many documentary type programs have focused on "What is it like being Black in America"?. I have yet to see one, but there should be some that focus on "What is it like being WHITE" in America"?) Continued..

  • jenjengirl89 Feb 6, 2015

    Holy Chocolate Covered Jumpin' Jeebers On a Stick!

    Where'd the first amendment go?

    In other news, Universities consider outlawing cans of spray paint to prevent anyone's feelings from being hurt if sociopaths use them to write bad things somewhere.