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Students gather in response to Yik Yak decision

February 4, 2016
students gather on library steps as one reads a statementBlack Students' Union president Sequoia Kemp reads a statement as students assemble in front of Rush Rhees Library just before noon after staging a walkout to protest University President Joel Seligman's decision to not ban the social media app Yik Yak. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

On Thursday, Feb. 4, about 30 students gathered on the steps of Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus—some walking out of class—to address University President and CEO Joel Seligman’s recent response to an interim report issued by the University’s Presidential Commission on Race and Diversity.

The main focus of the gathering was the president’s decision not to ban the social media app Yik Yak from the University’s servers.

“Freedom of expression must not be confused with hate speech,” said Sequoia Kemp ‘16, president of the Black Students’ Union, in response to Seligman’s statement that banning Yik Yak from the University’s WiFi networks would undercut the rights of both students and faculty.

During the 20-minute gathering, Simone Johnson ’17, vice president of the Black Students’ Union, read aloud the student’s previous list of demands in connection with Seligman’s subsequent responses. “Not all of our demands have been addressed,” said Johnson, who told the group that they are currently drafting an official response to the report.

The meeting ended with students taking a moment of silence to reflect on how far they have come on this issue, and how far they have yet to go.

The Presidential Commission on Race and Diversity was established this past November by Seligman in response to a three-page petition and list of demands students felt addressed the racial climate on campus. One of the main topics of concern was the use of Yik Yak where people previously posted threatening and racist comments.

Seligman believes a ban would reduce the University’s ability to hold individuals “personally accountable for their hateful messages.”

In his statement that went out to the campus community on Feb. 3, Seligman accepted several of the Commission’s initial recommendations and stated that further recommendations will be made in a final report once all faculty, staff, and student surveys are completed.

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Category: Student Life