Held December 11, 2015
Paul Burgett: The hour has struck, it’s 3 o’clock and I think we should get the show moving. I want first of all to thank everyone for taking time out of a very busy schedule – it’s a very busy and hectic time of the academic year – to join us for this important meeting. This meeting which is designed to address the issue of the moment which is a very controversial issue associated with Yik Yak and its availability to students. The Presidential commission wanted to do this in an effort to hear from all sides.
So, what we are going to do is hear from 4 people – we’re going to hear from 4 people with different points of view. They’re going to offer some crisp commentary, including Gail (Norris) who is the general counsel and (supervises) the timeline about the university’s involvement with Yik Yak. We’re going to hear from (Andreas) who is with the debate team, we’re going to hear from Professor Jim Johnson who is in the Political Science Department and is the liaison person with (DLH) and Simone Johnson, who is going to offer some of her own personal comments.
Once we have heard from the four people, we’re going to open the floor up to enable our audience in the time remaining; we want to devote most of our time to hearing more comments and your points of view. This afternoon’s events will be – we’re taping it and the tape will be transcribed and it will be uploaded to the presidential commission website. I should also point out that due to the sensitive nature of this, there are maybe some of you who would look to publicly express your point of view.
Emily – where’s Emily? – is here and she has cards. You’re welcome to put your point of view on these cards so that the commission can see what your points of view are and at the same time we can preserve your anonymity and confidentiality as well.
Without further ado, let me turn it over to Gail Norris, our university counsel who will provide us – then we will go with Andreas, then Professor Johnson, then Simone and finally with comments.
II. OPENING STATEMENT – GAIL NORRIS
Norris: I’m not here to given an opinion; I’m here to state the facts. Because there has been a series of posts on Yik Yak and conversation that’s going on for pretty close to a year now, I wanted to just make sure everyone was on the same page of what the university can do and what the university did do with respect to the posts that have at least been brought to the Office of Counsel’s attention.
About a year ago – I guess it was shortly after the beginning of the spring semester last year – we were made aware of three separate Yik Yak posts that were concerning to the Office of Counsel. When we get those kinds of posts, there are two things we can do in most cases.
One, we can call Yik Yak – as anybody can- and notify them of the offending post and ask them to take it down, which we did. The other thing we can do if we believe the posts are potential criminal activity, we can call the DA’s office. Those are the limits of our options and we pursued both of those tacks.
We had an ongoing series of conversations with Yik Yak lasting into the middle of March; it ended in an actual conformance to us that the user of one of the three posts was – had their privileges taken away, and they were continuing to follow up on the other two posts and it was very possible that the same result would happen. They wouldn’t comment any further on that.
The DA’s office did issue a subpoena from those three posts; it was allowed to lapse – I’m sure it’s because the DA’s office got busy doing other things; we have asked them to re-issue the subpoena, which they have done, and in some ways, during the course of the last year, maybe the result for the subpoena is going to be a little different now because Yik Yak is under a lot of pressure.
We have been told by the DA’s office that because it is a subpoena for a grand jury investigation, that it’s confidential because it’s an active criminal investigation. They can’t tell us anything other than they did say that Yik Yak was cooperating.
That’s the timeline. We did receive an additional notice of a post that came through at the end of November that was concerning. Our Department of Public Safety has been in contact with the DA’s office and we don’t have specific confirmation of what’s going on with that other than it’s being pursued as well.
We have been closely following Yik Yak and the pressure on it across the nation at college campuses; I would say that Yik Yak’s attitude about their willingness to hear about complaints is changing rapidly because of the pressure they’re under. There was an article in the newspaper yesterday about a situation in Washington State – I think it was Western Washington University – where a student made a threatening comment and within a very short period of time, less than a day, the identity of the user was known through cooperation between police and Yik Yak. The student was identified, suspended from school, and facing some criminal charges.
I’m sure it’s none of the people here but for those who think Yik Yak is anonymous, I would say based on what I’ve seen about Yik Yak’s cooperation at other campuses across the country, that is no longer something that should be relied on.
I can take questions if there are any, but I’d rather make sure we get to the discussion so at this point I’m going to turn it over.
Burgett: Yes, questions will come up. I’m going to suggest if you can hold those until we finish with the four folks that would be helpful.
Norris: There was one other thing I was responsible for reporting although it’s not legal. I wanted to make sure everyone understood technically what would happen if we “banned” Yik Yak, so that nobody is under any illusions about how far we can go.
The action the university could take would be to stop the Yik Yak app from going through our servers, which would mean it wouldn’t go through our wi-fi network. It would not create any kind of geo-fencing or other attribute that would prevent Yik Yak from still being communicated directly through cell phone plans onto cell phones. It would just be a block from using the wi-fi at the university and anyone that’s got cell phone data plans would still get the same dings with the apps the same way.
Burgett: I should also point out that (Lori Packer) is here – where’s (Lori)? – from Communications and she’s our electronic guru. As questions come up, if (Lori) feels she can add something too, I trust that you will do that? Without further ado, let’s ask Professor (Johnson) to join us.
III. STATEMENT: FREE SPEECH WITHOUT CLICHE – PROFESSOR JAMES JOHNSON
Johnson: Can you hear me? Yes? So I’m a political theorists; I want to thank you for coming and I want to talk about what it means to think about freedom of speech. In this kind of a setting what almost automatically happens is someone says ‘Free speech, there’s a violation’ and as it turns out, it’s not quite as easy as that. The title of the comments is ‘Free Speech Without Cliché’. What I want to get you to see is that having reasons for thinking about free speech rather than just using it as a mantra, is important.
It’s not that free speech is not important- I’ll get to that in a second; no one is against free speech any more than any one is for racism. This is not an issue about racism versus free speech – it’s about what we might mean by free speech and how might it affect kinds of views about what we might do as we proceed. Okay?
So, I guess I want to ask is what’s the point of free speech anyway? I want to start with the 1st Amendment – some of you might have seen this. It says ‘Congress shall make no law’ – notice, Congress shall make no law’. We also know that lots of legal entities restrict free speech all the time.
For example, last spring when a particular young African-American woman was specifically threatened on Yik Yak on this campus, that was illegal. That’s not an infringement on free speech; that’s to say it was against the law. Hence the subpoena.
It’s not that free speech allows you to say anything you want, and that leaves us with the question about how do we balance free speech in a community meant to be about intellectual inquiry, academic freedom and all of that kind of stuff? This is a comment from President Seligman from 2013; I’m just going to leave it up there for a minute.
What he talks about is the need to be able to balance issues of freedom of speech and security and so on and so forth, on campus. That’s where we are. And what I want to say is, regardless of your views about free speech, that’s where you’re left. It doesn’t provide a trump for thinking about what we’re allowed to say and not allowed to say – it puts that on the agenda for us.
I’m going to come back to the part that’s grayed out at the bottom because I think that’s important. Here’s Owen Fisk; he’s a Yale law professor and he says there’s a libertarian view of free speech, and it says you can say whatever you want because it’s expressing your inner convictions or thoughts or wishes, and then he says that’s funny because it leaves us in a position of not considering the interests or thoughts or convictions of the people who whom we’re speaking. So there’s a balance right there that’s weighted on a libertarian view.
I have some sympathies for libertarian view; I think these kinds of objections are really important. If you have sympathies for a libertarian view, you need to think about it a little bit, and one of the other sides needs to think about it as well. Here’s his view: ‘We value free speech because it contributes to self-determination and democratic politics.’
Similarly by analogy on this campus we value free speech because it contributes to open inquiry. Not because it allows us to express our inner convictions but because it allows us to get to the bottom of things – to find out the facts, to think about alternative arguments, to figure out what might be knowledge and how to disseminate and clarify it. So we have a kind of consequentialist view; we value free speech because it provides good things for us, not because of some inner commitments we have that are so valuable we can say whatever we’d like.
There’s his whole statement. Part of the problem is that there are smart libertarians – Jason Brennan who teaches down at Georgetown and is a young guy wrote this book, the subtitle is ‘What Everyone Needs to Know’ after Libertarianism, and I say ‘not much’ but that’s just teasing; we’re friends. He here says ‘Look, we’re interested in free speech because of its consequences. Because historically societies that allow free speech are nicer places to live. ‘
But notice what he’s doing; he’s saying it’s about consequences, so he’s agreeing with Fisk, and notice what he says here: it’s an empirical question. There’s a judgment to be made. He leaves us right where President Seligman brought us in his statement, which is we have a balancing act to undertake; how do we best do that while recognizing the importance of free speech for the things we’re here to do, which is learn and research and teach and so forth?
So here’s the end of President Seligman’s comment. The top part is what was up here before; the bottom part says ‘When someone says something offense, talk back and talk back frankly.’ That’s what I do. Many of my colleagues don’t like that, and that’s too bad, but that’s what Charlisa and the other students last Friday – or the Friday before – were doing. They were talking back frankly. They were saying ‘We don’t like this and we want you all to do something about it. ‘
That’s not against free speech; that’s exercise free speech. That’s asking for more free speech. That’s asking you to reply if you think they’re wrong. That’s what we should be doing here this afternoon. Thanks.
Burgett: Professor Johnson has raised this in his class and I’m sure that’s raised questions that we’ll leave it there for you to engage with him. But Selena Johnson – Simone, I’m sorry – has some comments to make, so let’s here from Simone.
IV. STATEMENT: YIK YAK & FREE SPEECH – SIMONE JOHNSON
Johnson: I’m going to be reading some yaks and some of them have profanity in them; I know this is going to be recorded. Is that okay?
Burgett: That’s fine.
Johnson: Okay. Before I begin, I would just like to read 4 yaks that stood out to me in particular, throughout my three years here. This one is the most recent one. ‘Fuck blacks, fuck Hispanics, fuck everybody that’s not white.’
‘Black people are so damn self-entitled it makes me want to stop them all.’
‘Blacks are the worst. Fuck blacks.’
‘Let’s go burn some niggers.’
Some people still choose to see this as a DLH versus the University of Rochester issue; however, it is clear that is a black versus white situation. Back in 2013, a student made racist comments about slavery through social media. However, we had a picture, we had a name, and we had a face. Minority students were aware of the identity of the student that believed blacks were less than. With Yik Yak, it’s different. There is no face, there is no name, only death threats made against people and a house that looks like a population on this campus.
You sit in class and go to the Pit and go to a party and it could literally be anyone. Bigotry is not something we wear openly these days anymore; it’s in our minds and behind a screen. Yik Yak can cause paranoia, anxiety, depression, and grief and for the past three years that’s what I’ve gotten out of this social application that so many people love and support.
Then, when people write ‘Nigger’ on your house or come to your house and say things that were reflected on Yik Yak, it makes you think about your standing and how much the university values you as a student here. We spoke about free speech and I remember one of my friends, she said at the protest, ‘Is free speech valid when threatening the lives of others?’
The University of Rochester says yes. That struck me because it does – it’s not just – we’re not using it properly. I understand if that’s what people are here to fight for, but we’ve abused that. It’s clear that it’s hurting individuals here so it’s not so much defending this application but defending it for other students at this point.
That’s all I have to say for now.
V. STATEMENT: BANNING YIK YAK – (ANDRES)
Burgett: And finally, last but not least, (Andres) who is a member of our very own debate team.
(Andres): First let me start by saying I am only here presenting some arguments of why banning Yik Yak would be beneficial and this does not represent my personal views.
First, let’s think about what banning Yik Yak will do. It will show first support for those being attacked and it will show the repugnance of those attacks and meetings against it. It will also reduce availability of these (offending posts) and the effect they may have on our community.
But let’s remember that the problem might not be what these people are writing, what these people are saying, what they are expressing but rather the mentality – what are they thinking about? Simply restricting their views, restricting what they’re saying will not change their mentality, will not eradicate (resistance) from the university or our community; it will simply hide it. It will sweep the problem under the rug and stop us from actually addressing the problem – their mentality. The problem comes from their mentality and their views.
Now, we talk about the positive sides of Yik Yak, of how people can use it as a tool for good things. For example, in the University of Michigan and William and Mary, in which people that were contemplating suicide posted these things and were convinced by the community in those forums to go and seek help. And in the case of the University of Michigan, it led to a movement to raise awareness about mental illness.
Also, let’s think about the University of Florida in which the student newspaper worked with Yik Yak to discuss things like the Black Lives Matter movement and the refugee movement.
Now I want to think about how to use it as not hate speech but anti-hate speech – how for example in the University of Florida when they were discussing this Black Lives Matter movement, how people that were also using threatening (acts), other students were discussing the issue. Let’s think about it; the people that are here are most likely not the attackers – those who aren’t willing to go and say aloud, go and say with their faces and their name these issues; they resort to these apps because it provides anonymity. They’re unwilling to discuss this issue and Yik Yak provides a resource for people to actively discuss it.
For the universities, it’s easy to (shield) learning – not only learning that but also learning how to teach the student, but how to address those people that are racist, those people that won’t be affected by this discussion or by this forum because they simply will not come here and would not like to talk about that.
Now, Yik Yak provides a resource for that. It provides a resource for us to discuss this and to raise the positive – to produce anti-hate speech. They might be restricted here at the university but later on they will get out of the university and go on into the world in which now in the political spectrum we see so much resistance against not only Hispanic but every single one of those minorities and those restricted groups.
If we actually try to change and address their problem, which is their mentality, and the way we could do that is through Yik Yak. Those attackers are using Yik Yak, we know where they are and we can actually have a way to convince them. For example, at the University of Florida, when people started talking to those students who opposed the Black Lives Matter movement, those students could have been affected and could have changed their mentalities, which is a way to eradicate the problem.
Simply sweeping the problem under the rug will not eliminate it – we’ll have to deal with this problem over and over again and it will set not ( ) but actual physical harm from the physical threats and things those represent. If we could eradicate the problem, one day we had Yik Yak without those posts, then we know racism is diminishing – maybe we’re losing an opportunity to make a change, to actually go ahead and address the problem which is racism and the mentality of certain people that think that because they’re different from them or because they’re not the majority are less, or are valued less.
Once again, I’d like to remind you that I’m simply discussing some arguments of why this might be beneficial and this does not represent my view. We’re only here to enrich the discussion and discuss why this might be good and for what else we might use Yik Yak and not discussing my personal views or opinion. Thank you.
VI. OPEN DISCUSSION – ENTIRE GROUP
Burgett: We thought we would begin by having people offer their thoughts and we’ve heard from the legal perspective, we’re heard from the political and philosophical perspective, we’ve heard from the deeply personal perspective, and we’ve heard a balanced perspective of pro and con thinking. That’s – we decided to do that in order to warm the circuits of discussion for you because the rest of today’s program is yours.
Let me just say that what happens today and what you offer is terribly important to us and it’s terribly important to the president. We’re not here to make a decision today; our responsibility is to gather information and provide that information to the president, whose responsibility it is to make these decisions. But your input in this is terribly important.
I would ask us all, as you have things to say, we have microphones by our student leadership to amplify voices; I would ask that we keep in mind respect that everyone deserves in the comments we made and make sure your comments are crisp and to the point.
With that, by way of introducing and opening the floor to the audience, who’s going to be the first brave one to offer a comment? Right here.
Hardy: Hello, everyone. My name is Alana Hardy, I’m a junior; I am the treasurer of the Douglas Leadership House.
Burgett: Would you like to stand so we can see you?
Hardy: I’ve been waiting for this day for a while. TO those of you who are aware – which I assume everyone is – I challenged those with positions of power, aka administration, aka whomever has their own letter seal, their own stamp that says University of Rochester and those who have an office in this room with a gold nameplate, I challenge you to think upon how do you think it’s right to know when people don’t feel safe going to sleep in their rooms? To know that they don’t feel safe going to class? To know that there are ways legally to enact immediate change and do nothing about that?
Or throw us a committee we don’t have much say in, but pardon me, give us half-assed attempts at giving us what we deserve because we deserve to feel safe. We deserve to feel like other students, aka we deserve to be like the majority students, aka white students. We deserve to feel safe.
For the past few years we haven’t been; that’s why it’s still happening. I’m confused. I have friends at universities where this is banned. Granted, they can use their data and get on the app, but to allow it to exist on the wi-fi is to say that U of R supports this. And when they say ‘Fuck niggers’ that means U of R supports that. You have to understand why we’re very confused as to why U of R is still supporting this; maybe you guys have opinions or people in positions of power can give another perspective as to why they think it’s okay.
[finger snaps continue]
At the University of Albany, if a girl threatens to commit suicide, they get to her within that night because they’re able to track it, right? But we don’t want to infringe upon the 1st Amendment right of freedom of speech, even though you commit acts of hate speech or say that you’re trying to kill someone or harm them, that’s still – in the University of Rochester’s perspective, that’s still protected under freedom of speech. To what point does U of R say they crossed the line here?
You mentioned yourself how an African-American female was attacked directly, but what moves were made to respond to that, really? There was an acknowledgment of that but there wasn’t any movement, except on our behalf – we’re students, we’re trying to graduate, we don’t have time to do this.
I’m looking at these freshmen over here in the corner; they don’t have to deal with this – we came in as freshmen and had to deal with the Confederate flag thing; we don’t deserve that. It is 2015 and the U of R stands for diversity, it’s all over the website.
I’m tired of making moves and just us being the ones that do it. We have great advisors like (Sasha), like OMSA, but at a certain point, we can’t keep on doing this by ourselves and to say that we’re making a committee, a commission, we get our 2 representatives and hopefully things will get better… No. Because you guys have the power to do stuff and I’m looking at the students. You guys have the power to do stuff; I apologize for being disrespectful but I’m tired of living in fear, I’m tired of going to bed scared and I’m tired of hearing people curse outside my house and I’m not the only one. These facts are not new and they’re not changing any time soon.
[finger snaps continue]
I’m looking to see who in positions of power – you know who you are – what your decisions and what your thoughts are and if you’re going to make any direct decisions as a result of this or you just want to hear what we’re thinking about. I want to know – do you really hear us? We can shake it up more if you guys want; we’re not afraid. We do this as a hobby – it’s our lifestyle. It’s what we’ve got to do. We can do it if you all want, but let us know.
[applause / cheering]
Bilun: Hi, everyone. I’m sorry if I shake because I’m not good with public speaking.
Burgett: You’re doing just fine.
Bilun: My name is (Bilun); I’m a senior, although I was class of 2014 when I came here. I will go back to that. I’m from Turkey. I’m a Muslim and the first time I came here was 2010. I really wanted to study medicine; I had this thing in my head and then I met my hall mates. They were really, really awful people who made fun of me, a lot.
There was this guy with a Confederate flag on his door – don’t quote me just yet because I’m going to post the whole thing. There was a Confederate flag on his door and he would bang on my door the whole night – I’m just saying that because you say that you guys are scared at night, I was scared at night. My roommate wasn’t there all the time and when she was, she would shoo him away.
The other ones, when another guy who was Muslim but an American citizen, they would joke about how they would make me a maid but they would not pay me, and how do we have music in Turkey? Do we have roads, cars or color? It’s funny at first but then you’re like, really? This went on and on and on until my junior – I got better friends, but I hated this school my first year. My grades went down and med school was out of the way, so I started hating the school.
My second year, I got better friends but everyone, every single person heard that I was from Turkey said ‘Do you ride camels?’ No we don’t but you can’t tell them that. Anyway. My third year, I took a break because I had to. Mentally, I was not okay and I didn’t feel loved at all, liked at all. I didn’t do anything but I was just Muslim from Turkey.
I came back much stronger and my first year, I wrote a letter to my hall mates and they stopped after that and the Confederate flag guy, there was a bad confrontation and he ended up moving out. I didn’t let the administration know; I should have but I didn’t. When I came back I was fine. I still get those comments but it doesn’t bother me – I grew up. I was 18 back then and now I’m 23.
I told you guys to let you I know that I know exactly how you feel. I have called the school suicide hotline – the emergency UCC to say that I can’t stop crying, can you help me, after that guy said ‘If it was up to me, I’d burn down the Koran in the table’. Yik Yak, though, I don’t think that it should be banned. I respect your opinions and I get why you want to ban it, but there are so many parameters that you have to think about.
Anyone can post on the U of R herd even if they’re off campus, even someone from Florida. I really don’t think you should punish – it’s not a form of punishment, it’s not the end of the world, but I don’t think everyone should be punished. When you look at it, there are people who feel so bad, they feel like dying, and there are people helping them. Also there are people defending people like me, because I comment there too.
I say I’m Muslim and someone says really bad stuff – I don’t want to mention it – and then people come to my rescue. It’s just there are more people than respect you guys than those – I like to call them ‘parasites’ because they are. I don’t think Yik Yak is the way to go. I’m all for finding those people and punishing them, even kicking them out of school because they deserve that. They can’t understand you because they’re not minorities.
So I’m against the whole banning thing. I don’t agree that the University of Rochester supports the bad stuff on there; they can’t honestly control it. I just don’t feel like – I feel like it’s going to come back to us with even more aggression because it’s banned. That’s why I don’t think people should be punished for that.
(Adenuga): Good afternoon, everyone. My name is (Farid Adenuga), I’m the president of the minority student advisory board and thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I just want to point out one big difference between Yik Yak and your situation – you knew who was doing those things to you. You knew of the student who was doing those heinous acts to you. I’m so glad she wrote the letter and you actually set action against them. But in the case of Yik Yak, many of these students, you don’t know who these people are, we don’t know if these people are in here right now.
The psychological thing is what’s really hurting us. I’m a mechanical engineer. In my class, there are 4 minorities out of 45-50 kids. I’ve thought about it sometimes when I’m taking tests, when I’m studying sometimes, if the person sitting next to me is the person who sent the message to ‘fuck niggers’. I’ve thought about that because I don’t know – just that sense of insecurity burdens us, has an impact on us.
I wanted to bring up the issue what you were saying is that the University of Rochester doesn’t support it. We would like to think that, but this has been over 2 or 3 years now that we brought this case to them; we told them numerous times that this is a big burden to us. The first time we brought this up we didn’t say ban Yik Yak, destroy it, but just ‘Could you please find out who’s doing this? Would you support us?’ That’s what we came to them for.
But, after seeing the lack of support, the lack of action that University of Rochester took, enough is enough. I understand you’re saying a lot of people aren’t banning, aren’t putting the hate speech out there, they’re helping each other out, and I see that sometimes too, but whenever they say something specifically about the black and Hispanic cultures here at the University of Rochester, they get 50 up-votes. For people who don’t know up-votes, that means somebody is agreeing with you. I’m pretty sure people down-vote it too – I’m sure not everybody here is a criminal, but when you get 50 people to endorse it – and you can’t see the entire group of people that endorse it; there could be 100 people endorsing it and 50 people not liking it, so you get 50. I’m just saying…
To bring up one more thing before I give up the mic because I don’t want to talk too long, you said about how there can be people saying they’re against this, anti-racist things, but where has this been at this whole time? Yik Yak has been going for 3 strong years at the University of Rochester and there have been numerous accounts of racial things – I have the screen shots; ask me and I’ll email it to you.
I’ve seen a couple people saying ‘This is not right’ but overwhelmingly the majority go along with it. Come on – this is a higher educational center; we get to increase our knowledge and grow as individuals and frankly, I’ve been scared numerous times. Every time – I have a late shift at the library and every time, I have to look around just to make sure. I’m from Brooklyn, New York; I grew up in the ‘hood and I feel safer in the ‘hood than I do here.
That is saying a lot – I’m friends with the gangsters, I’m friends with the drug dealers, I’m friends with all of them, but when I come here, I have no idea what’s going to happen to me; I have no idea if the next step I take is going to be my last. That’s saying a lot. I hope you guys just understand that.
Burgett: Thank you.
Bilun: Can I add something really quick?
Burgett: Let’s – we’ll get to you but I want to get more people –
Bilun: About his comment about the up-votes. I forgot to mention it, people comment on my religion and on my people do and I just shut it down and don’t look at it.
Burgett: Great. Let’s go here. We’ll get to it. Thank you.
Female: Can we get the notes so we can begin writing, just in case we don’t get to speak?
Burgett: Yes, yes.
Caleb: Is this on? I can’t hear it. Hi, I’m Caleb and I’m president of the (D’lion) organization and one of our most important aspects of this organization is that we do care about diversity and inclusion and I’m tired of sitting here and ignoring it.
I came from the South and people down there, they are not – they don’t hide it. They blatantly display the flag as they’re driving around in their trucks and they just fly it around. When I came here, I had no idea about the past of this university. I’m only a sophomore, and I was taught inclusion – that was our communal principle for this past year and I thought I was getting away from it all, and then I get on Yik Yak later. When DLH, one of the biggest moments about DLH being renewed and everything and you had to see those awful things posted against you and violent things against you. I was disgusted by this university.
I was taught inclusion and I didn’t see that.
I see how you are responding right now and I feel like if this was more of a – if this was directed at white people, I feel like we wouldn’t have this conversation right now. They would’ve already been banned from the servers and I do not agree with the stance that we’re taking right now; I think it needs to be banned from the server.
I see the freshmen – I talk to them and sit in the lounge and talk about what they’re seeing on campus. They’re talking about how they saw this thing on Yik Yak and it was so funny, and then I remembered my freshman year when I saw those tings. I just know they are being influenced by those things too and they are seeing this and they will continue it.
I want it to stop. Thank you.
Josh: Hi, I’m Josh. So I think when we have this discussion, it’s really important to think about what we’re doing but also why we’re doing it. It’s important to consider nuance and at the very least, two different ways. On the one hand, I think before we even have to think very long at all, it’s very clear that if we are trying to create a safe space, something needs to change because the space is no longer safe for everyone on the campus. And when you get to that point, it doesn’t even really matter about the rest of the logistics because if we believe it is our job as administrative people and people who care about this campus to make everyone feel safe, then this is an action that’s needed.
Banning Yik Yak, the things that people feel in the community are important and need to be acted upon. But on the other hand, I think it’s important to know that when we do this – and if we do this – the actions we take only go so far and we have to be aware of the purpose they serve. Racism is an institutional problem, it’s a systematic issue and it needs to be combatted on an enormous scale in every community. And when we take this action, we know it’s for the purpose of creating a safe space and that’s good. Perhaps that’s very much needed.
[finger snaps / applause]
But we shouldn’t lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that we are taking a step in combatting racism because that still needs to happen and this isn’t going to solve it – we aren’t going to say ‘We’re fine now. We’re good.’ Censorship causes blindness and we can’t turn a cold shoulder to an issue that’s not going to go away on this campus because racist comments are made by racist people and those attitudes aren’t going away.
When we do this we have to know we’re creating a safe space but that we have all the work ahead of us and we can’t just stop and ignore it.
I think that’s important to remember.
(Aguila): Hi, everybody. My name is (Edwin Aguila). I am the web coordinator of the Douglas Leadership House and I would like to say that when it comes to Yik Yak, we can all say actions speak louder than words so we can say ‘Okay, as long as they’re not doing anything, these words are harmless’ but you have to understand that words are powerful and words can impact the mental health of minorities such as myself and the people in the Douglas Leadership House.
There are people crying who feel unsafe at night and there are people talking about actually burning a cross in our front yard; if anybody knows what that means, that’s a sign of the Ku Klux Klan. I want to bring notice to fact that everybody brings up the free speech thing or the 1st Amendment – fighting words, if anybody knows what fighting words are, they’re words which would likely make the person to whom they are address commit and act of violence.
So, burning a cross, burning some niggers – fighting words are a category of speech that is unprotected by the 1st Amendment. And if anybody understands that, this means it is unacceptable and I go to a university that doesn’t really care about something like this. They say that they do but they don’t.
People say that DLH doesn’t do anything on this campus. I present the question: Have you even been to the Douglas Leadership House?
That’s all I want to say.
Moody: My name is (Delvin Moody) and I want to preface my comments by saying this is not a DLH against university problem. I also want to begin by saying all those in favor of keeping Yik Yak on campus is that it’s just a matter of time until they start talking about you and you want to be in this room saying ‘Let’s ban Yik Yak’.
Now I’m the one that organized ‘Take Back Yik Yak’ last year. I’ll tell you why I organized that. I knew that it would not be a huge thing and I knew that one day we would be in this room having this conversation about banning it and that people would say ‘We have to address the culture. Banning Yik Yak, it would just come in a different fashion.’
Well, I did ‘Take Back Yik Yak’ last year to let you all know that we tried to address culture, ICC sponsored a dialogue that was poorly attended, so we talked – we tried to have the conversation and address the culture. Now we need to take action to ban Yik Yak. And if it does appear in another fashion, whether it’s called Yak Yak, Yik Yik or something else, we’re going to try to ban that too.
Because Yik Yak does one simple thing; it identifies that we have a racist culture on this campus that cannot be pushed under the rug. And like the gentleman said racist comments are made by racist people. I think the notion here is to what extent do those comments identify or become a prelude to an action? If they’re talking about ‘we hate blacks’, if they’re talking about ‘let’s kill blacks’, to what extent does that mean that may materialize into action?
As many of you know, there was a young man that came in front of DLH, dragged the property of DLH, said inflammatory things against us – that’s an action and that was only the beginning. So if we don’t address Yik Yak, which is only the beginning, if we don’t address this application and ban it to let people know this university does not stand behind racism and racist comments, then we will start seeing action.
I’m going to tell you one thing, when you say nothing, when you do not speak and you have silence, you silently affirm the actions of racist people.
Griffiths: Hello, my name is (Aleem Griffiths). The fact that we have this dialogue and the school is able to ban it, is stupid to me. At this point, we said that if we want ( ) 4G network and do that, but the fact that the school can’t even do this – this is a simple support of its students, it’s so sad.
We’re not asking you – the president to retire, we’re not asking for a black president or anything like that, but the fact that you can’t just say ‘Oh, we support our black students and ban Yik Yak’ is just ridiculous. Anyone who thinks keeping Yik Yak on this campus is good doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s just stupid. That’s it.
(Delinois): Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Justin (Delinois) and I’m a freshman here at the university and also a Rochester native. Very important to me, I’m a part of the Rochester Latino Theater Company and last year we did a program called “Stand Against Racism” with University of Rochester partnership. One thing that’s very sad to me is that I had no idea this was going on.
I’ve lived in Rochester 18 years and whenever we see commercials about the university, it’s about all inclusiveness and everything so happy, so when it came time to decide to go to college, I said ‘I’m going to the U of R. It’s a great place, it’s a happy place. I feel like my voice will be heard.’ And that’s not what’s happening. I’m so ashamed at this moment that I decided to go here, because I could’ve gone somewhere else where I felt proud, I could be a proud person and wake up and feel safe and so happy.
And not only that, but I have to go home to break and tell people who live here in Rochester, when they ask me how I enjoy U of R, I can’t lie to them. Do you expect me to lie? I have to go and tell them now that the place that employs the majority of people in your city does not support you?
Does not support you, people of color? You employ a large majority of people of color and I know this because I’m a Rochester native, and you expect me to go and tell them that the person who signs their checks does not love you at all?
So when it comes to the decision of deciding to ban Yik Yak, you must because it simply is showing that you love your people and if you want your people to continue to work for you and continue to support them, and if you want more students from Rochester – you’ve just acquired a high school here in Rochester. If you want those kids to come here and feel safe, you’ve got to let them know you love them. Right now we feel no love at all.
Gonzalez: Hey, everyone. David Gonzalez from Mexico. I get your point about living here. My uncle, my brother and my nephew were almost kidnapped; the brother of a friend was actually murdered by police, so trust me, I know what it means to live in fear.
When people are saying they live in fear here because of Yik Yak, I just have one single concern. This is a dangerous, slippery slope to me because you ban Yik Yak. If you decide to go to (Fortune) and you see racist comments, hate speech, or something like that, are you also going to ban that? What about Tumblr? What about Facebook? Sure they have a name there and they take care of that, but just ban the entire Internet while we’re at it. You start with one, where are you going to stop?
I get it; it’s a racist problem, but where I come from, we have our own problems as well. If you say the wrong thing, you’re killed. Here, at least you have the chance to defend yourself. With Yik Yak, you can report it, people have been arrested. It might take a while, but people get arrested. The DA’s not going to tell you what’s going on because it’s an internal procedure, so just – it is the way it is, unfortunately. You have to work the culture.
You cannot ban something because you’re going to ban everything in time and that’s not the right thing to do. That’s what I believe.
(Cruz): Hi, everyone. My name is (Delia Cruz) and I’m a junior here at the University of Rochester. I’m also the housing coordinator at the Douglas Leadership House. I would like to start my remarks by saying that the only and one man who can change the situation is not here. Another remark that I would like to make is that everyone who is in favor of keeping Yik Yak seems to think that it is about them.
It’s not about you. It’s about a community that we’re trying to build and if you support the people who are here who are saying they should ban Yik Yak, then that’s you saying you want that community as well.
I would also like to say that people who are defending free speech within Yik Yak, saying people burning a T in front of ( ) is free speech, then I’m guessing that peeing in front of my house, inside my house, egging things, is also free speech.
Another comment I would like to make is that although we have been understanding that banning Yik Yak is only the beginning of something larger, as it should be, I feel like the university things we’re saying ‘Accommodate to us’. Apparently because we’re having this, it’s not only black people or DLH, it’s also because of the value that it would give if you say we do not support this.
If you ban Yik Yak, that’s the University of Rochester administration, who we have been coming to for three years now saying ‘We don’t advocate this, we don’t support this and we don’t want this year.’ It’s really sad that it’s been 3 years and nothing has been done. We’re still having this town hall meeting which I think is a joke because what are we debating?
There is nothing to debate. There are students here who do not feel safe. The University of Rochester is challenging, it’s mentally draining and there aren’t the outlets to support us in the first place, so –
I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation again, but I would like to say right now thank you to my house for speaking the truth.
Female: Hey, guys. I won’t speak too long. I’m usually a listener in these kinds of forums for a good reason. I do want to say in general I do agree that yeah, banning Yik Yak is a good idea, not only because there have been racist remarks and things we don’t agree with but because I think your university should stand for – wear your name on your back and own what you say.
We’re an intellectual campus and if we think we’re so intellectual and so smart – I think it’s really hard to articulate but I think you know what I mean.
I have a question because I don’t understand; I know it’s more of a cultural problem – it’s not just Yik Yak. Yik Yak is just externalizing that. It’s an issue on our campus. I know people say they feel unsafe, and I’m fortunate enough not to have felt that, but what other things on campus are you seeing and experiencing that make you feel unsafe? That’s really troubling to me and I’d really like to hear some of those experiences and I think that’s really important to hear too.
Burgett: Would anybody like to respond to that question here?
Male: To respond to what we mean by we don’t feel safe, a lot of people mentioned that Yik Yak is only the beginning. I think a lot of people are thinking we only want to attack and address Yik Yak. Yik Yak is a very small component about it – I know you don’t, but that is a majority view. Yik Yak is a small component of this. It’s the forum where all these racist ideas and things are showing, but when we’re walking down the halls and we get those micro-aggressions from our classmates, when we’re going to our classes and we don’t see enough people that represent us. When we do to a different events and we don’t feel included – we don’t feel like we’re well represented. That’s a huge case.
I can speak from my own perspective; I can’t speak for everyone else. As a mechanical engineer, I do not see that at all – no representation of people of color. I came in for graduation in 2016, but I’m going to graduate in 2017. Only 20 people of color are graduating from the mechanical engineering department, including me – out of, I believe, 400 and something. It’s an overwhelming number when you think about it.
So what I’m thinking when I turn in my paper to my white professor with my white classmates and all these different things that are going on in the back of my head, it really takes a toll on me. There are numerous times I’ve thought I’m not good enough to succeed at this college; there are numerous times I’ve thought ‘Why am I here? I could go back to Brooklyn and Brooklyn College where I can see everybody else that looks like me, where I can feel comfortable, where I can feel happy.’
There are a lot of things going on and Yik Yak is a little part of it. There’s a huge problem. Just this whole campus climate at the University of Rochester and we’re not being fully supported. I could care less about Yik Yak in my personal opinion, but I want to see something change within this university. Yik Yak is one thing, but at the University of Rochester, we have the power to change that. That’s what I want to see done.
It’s going to be a long battle; it’s just the beginning. And like you said, specific examples, just the micro-aggressions that we take, the racist incidents – like I walk down the hall and see people shift out of my way here at the University of Rochester, and I’m wearing a college shirt, I’m wearing slacks and I’ve just come from an interview and someone does this. I’m like ‘What’s going on?’ And then I realize it’s because I’m black.
I didn’t do anything to this person, I didn’t – I’m just walking on my way to my room to study or walking to get some food, but yet people feel threatened by me, so I internalize that. I think maybe there’s something wrong with me. There’s a lot of micro-aggressions. Even people who blatantly say things.
There are a lot of black women in here and they’re like ‘Can I touch your hair? Can I play with it?’ Come on, we’re not a museum where you can touch us and feel us – we’re people too.
In my freshman hall I remember this quote – they put up little stickers and everybody was all ‘I love this about you, I love your smile’ – guess what mine was? ‘I love your skin color.’ Can’t you say you love my smile or you think I’m funny? Nobody else got that but me and I was the only black person in my hall. I wonder why.
Burgett: I want to offer some perspective here if I might; it’s one of the reasons I’ve been up front here. I’ve been around for a long, long, long, long, long time. Just so you know. I sat in police cars and prison cells. That may seem strange.
I can tell an unmarked car 5 miles before it gets to me. When the policeman says ‘Nigger, whose violin is that?’ And I say ‘Officer, that’s my violin.’ And he says ‘Nigger, can you prove it?’ I say, ‘Sir, it’s winter, I could take it out and play it but it wouldn’t be good.’ I go back to 1964, when we had conversations about these issues, and as a student at the University of Rochester, I’m honest.
In 1969 when we took over the (faculty club) and my sister was here as a student at the time too, saying many of the same things. In 1999, when I was the dean of students and students (Shawn Varlek and Melvaline Berry, Damien Politte) addressed many of the same issues that you so eloquently articulated. This is a struggle that’s hundreds of years old.
You all are pioneers – yes, you are. I’d like to live forever but I’m going to be 70 years old next year; I know I’m pretty…
And so you all are going to pick up and you already have picked up the burden. The burden – the black man’s burden, the yellow man’s burden, the Turkish woman’s burden. I’ve been to Turkey twice – real cuisine. It isn’t that we haven’t addressed the Yik Yak issue, maybe not successfully. We went right to the DA’s office, we used legal means to try to address it and it hasn’t been successful.
That’s one indication of how deep the struggle is. Your comment about you could care less about Yik Yak, it’s more about a culture. We have a lot to do. I don’t know if Jonathan (Burdick) is still here, but this culture we continue to work on, racism deeply rooted because people of color, what we have to struggle with is that somehow we’re something less than human.
And something less than human, don’t forget it because once upon a time, legally we were, something less than human – three-fifths, thank you very much.
[finger snaps / applause]
I’m really moved by what I’m hearing but I want to say you all are pioneers too. This struggle goes on. There’s going to come a day when I’m going to take up residence on the other side of Campus Drive where the apartments go down, not up. And you’re all going to come to me and say ‘We’re still working on this thing.’
(Starling): Hi, I’m Ezekiel Starling; I’m a senior and the captain of Indulgence. I also work in admissions so I want to offer another perspective that I think is important here. A few weeks ago, I gave a tour to some kids from south central LA – that’s Compton, the ghetto and everything they’re afraid of. I’m also from California and I felt sympathy and I wanted to guide them and I wanted to tell them this is the place they want to go, but there was a point where they were asking me questions that – it was hard to give a straight answer.
They asked me about the environment of the school and I had to tell them honestly ‘You guys have to believe in yourselves because as minorities, I know you’re used being told or feeling that you’re less than your fellow students or other people applying to college and all the garbage that’s going on with Affirmative Action.
These kinds of things don’t go away and when it comes to the prospect of banning Yik Yak, I think what’s more important is how we want our school to be. I came a long way to be here – I know a lot of people came from all over the country, all over the world and I know that whenever my mom calls, I want to tell her I’m proud of where I go. I want to be able to graduate from here and look back and tell my son or daughter this is where I went, this is where we took a stand, this is where important things happened, this is where I became who I wanted to be.
It’s really hard to do that when you wake up and you’re worrying about what kind of culture the school is creating. When I have to give tours to students about coming here and I’m waiting for the moment that fades away; I know that one day they’re going to open up their eyes and see this isn’t what they thought it would be, which happens at a lot of colleges but specifically for minority students, it’s the realization that you assume when you go to higher education – when you come to a place like Rochester – you think that things will be better, for whatever reason.
You think this school is intelligent, this school is top tier, this environment has been created so we will feel comfortable. And the realization that you come here and it may not be that. Like one student said, there is no love. That may be a superficial thing but we feel that. When you’re studying for exams and you can’t focus because you feel like no matter what you do, you’ll never be good enough – we feel that.
You know, I also play trumpet and just the culture of being around other talented people and feeling lesser, for whatever reason. You’re going to feel that, and I don’t know how to fight that. That shouldn’t be my job; that shouldn’t be our job. My mom had to deal with that, my grandma had to deal with that, Dean Burgett had to deal with that – the question isn’t whether or not banning an app will change anything; it’s a very, very small thing.
The question should be, when you wake up and look at this school, when you look back in 10 years at this school, when you tell your kids or students coming to look at this school about the environment they’ll be in, what do you want to be able to tell them? What do you want to be able to know that you accomplished? Everyone in this room has more power and pull than you think – with the protests, with the demands, the fact that this meeting is even happening. It’s a small step but I want everyone to consider that the environment we’re in is the environment we’re creating and we have the power to create another environment.
It’s not fair; we didn’t ask for this but we’re doing it because we believe it can be better, and we know this place where we live where we should love, can be better. I just want to offer that perspective.
(Thousand): My name is Bonni (Thousand) and I am an undergrad student at the U of R and I’m also an employee at the university. I’ve seen a lot of what you’re talking about on campus and I’ve felt the micro-aggression some of you have felt. I’m wondering if there are some long-term situations that we can look into, best practices from other schools that have been successful in addressing the issues that are being raised today.
I wonder if there’s some kind of change that can be made or possible included in freshman orientation that talks about cultural diversity and inclusion. You have people coming from all over the world and the country with different views and beliefs, and I think it’s really important that everybody understand and be on the same page.
I also notice that people tend to tiptoe around the issue of race relations in the classroom and I think it would be great if we could incorporate that somehow into our classroom and open up the discussion so you don’t have things like Yik Yak. I can’t say that would be completely avoided, but at least it opens up the dialogue and creates an understanding and an education which can help to eradicate some of the ignorant views people have at the university. Make it a better place for all of us.
Burgett: If I may offer a light moment, your offer about changing the orientation of freshman and new students, for example, we have – that indeed I think is going to happen, and now that we have the Paul Jay Burgett Intercultural Center, there’s a strong incentive.
(Jensen): Hi, my name is Keith (Jensen); I’m a senior political science student here. I just want to bring up the legality aspects of what’s going on because if this were happening outside of the university server, they would most likely be criminal – they would be being pursued through criminal acts by police. We’ve seen this at other universities.
But, because this is a private university with a private server, it’s protecting the anonymity of these people even though it’s a criminal act. It has nothing to do with protecting free speech or anything like that; it has to do with finding a criminal that otherwise probably been pursued – I’m just using all of the other universities where people were deliberately targeted and the safety of their lives were threatened, there has been criminal action taken. I’m not sure if it’s due to the nature of the university’s server or what is impeding the university from taking more measures, but it’s not just an issue for DLH – it’s an issue of safety.
Say all students get targeted; if it’s within this university’s server’s domain, are we all going to still be saying we can’t find the perpetrator? And if not, why is this so special that we can’t find the perpetrator of what’s happening.
Burgett: Let’s ask our legal counsel.
Norris: Yes, it doesn’t have anything to do with our servers. The way we get the identity of the individual is by issuing a subpoena to Yik Yak, who gives you an ISP address. Then you have to go to the ISP provider to find out who that person is – that’s true no matter where. In different communities across the country there have been different threats that have made the District Attorney’s offices and Yik Yak respond faster or slower to that information, but it doesn’t have anything to do with how Yik Yak is delivered to the servers.
(Jensen): So if there’s a threat made to the entire university on Yik Yak’s server tonight, there could still be no action taken with this amount of time? That seems like all of our safety is at stake at that point.
Norris: No, I think the more focused the threat is, the faster Yik Yak and the prosecution system in the US works – the criminal justice system works. When it’s a specific threat against one person or a group of people that says a bomb’s going to go off at a certain hour or they’re going to bring a gun to this class, that’s got immediate action. The more generalized they are, the less quickly people react because they don’t see the threat as imminent.
(Pierce): Hi, everyone. I’m Nicholas (Pierce). I’m a freshman here. First, I want to thank you for expressing your fears and the things you’ve witnessed because of racism and because of the environment at the school because I understand what that’s like. What people may not understand is that they live in depression and in fear; we’ve all witnessed that. But when you fear getting out of your bed in the morning or you always have this skepticism about your friends because they could be the people who post those things on Yik Yak, you don’t really understand what it’s like to live in this type of environment and to have these – to have these fears and understand the real severity of it.
One thing I’ve always thought about as I’m growing up – you can see that I’m very tall and African-American and one thing have always told me is that people fear me because of that. Do you understand what that sounds like? I don’t know what there is to fear about me. I’m very sarcastic, but I don’t know what there is to fear about me besides my skin color and maybe my height.
One of my most uncomfortable classes here is orchestra. I’m a classical pianist and have been playing for 11 years. I don’t do music programs because I want to make friends – I do it for the music. But never have I in my life, not once before in music, have I walked into that class and people just stare at me. People don’t say anything to me; they just stare at me. And let me also tell you that I’m the only African-American person in that class out of 110 people.
I also am an econ major, a data science major, and I understand what it feels like to be one of the only minorities in that class. It feels very, very intimidating. People make these off-hand comments like ‘We’re rich white Jewish people and African-Americans suffer under capitalism because’ – I know it sounds ridiculous but that’s what I hear every day.
My point is that there is this mutual fear. People like us fearing our lives – think about that; we’re actually fearing for our lives, not just our education, our future, but our lives, our existence. Sometimes I’m just scared because I’m on a college campus and someone’s going to be like ‘Hey, you’re black. I’m going to shoot you now.’ That’s legit. That’s not fate – it’s so absolutely real.
There’s that part and then there’s the part that people don’t want to talk to me or they fear that I’m going to cuss them out or shank them because I’m black. I’m not – come on; once again, what about me? Oh, it’s the hat? I should’ve known.
Burgett: I know because I’m a 6 foot 4 violinist and you’re a 6 foot 4 pianist –
(Pierce): 6. It’s true.
Burgett: Right? We need to get together and do a Beethoven sonata sometime.
(Pierce): That sounds good.
Burgett: I think Lori our IT person has – when she has her hand up, let’s grab her while we can. And then (Charlisa) after that.
(Packer): I just wanted to make a small, quick technological point. As Dean Burgett calls me ‘guru’ – I’ll take it but I’ve been using Yik Yak actively for over a year as part of my job; I’m a social media community manager in the communications office and my house is within the university Yak so yeah me, I get to see things from home and here.
I do want to say that I completely understand – I know I’m coming to Yik Yak from a position of someone who hasn’t felt the fear that’s been expressed in this room today. I don’t know if this is comforting or useful or interesting but I want to point out that Yik Yak as an app is really easy to game – it’s really easy for a very small group of people to over-inflate or over-influence what’s happening and make it feel like there are hundreds or thousands of people.
I know that psychology is real and just because these fears are happening in your head doesn’t make them not real, but I think that the people who are using this technological gizmo to institute that fear can do it very – just maliciously, but I also feel that is a very small number of people and maybe their power feels exaggerated because of some of the features of the app. I didn’t know if that was something people were aware of.
You can do experiments like just figure out up-votes and down-votes and get into little battles with things that make it look like there’s a lot of activity around a topic but there’s really a small group of people having an out-sized effect on things. I just wanted to put that out there, and I want to thank everyone for sharing today.
(Goodlet): Hi, everyone. I’m (Charlisa Goodlet) and I’m studying political science and African-American studies. I’m also the president of the Douglas Leadership House. First, my notes are jumbled – I had to take time to write my response, so I’m just going to go ahead.
First, would like us to stop using diversity as a cover-up for race; we need to specifically talk about race and including racism. We had a program called ‘One Community’ that was supposed to focus on race, but when we got to diversity everything got diluted. When we end up talking about diversity – and yes, these issues are important; I’m not saying that they’re not – our real problems are racism and race on this campus. We lose our messages sometimes when we go too broad and I believe the University of Rochester needs to start focusing.
Now, to my personal views. First things first. I shouldn’t have to feel like a prisoner within my own city and within my own home. I consider the Douglas Leadership House my home and I’m also a student, a part of the ward. I don’t think I should have to worry about a person urinating on my home, flipping over tables, with no tracks or no name being given to us so we can know who the perpetrator is, who’s being rude to our organization and the place we lay our heads. These are the things I find unacceptable.
Two things that come to my mind is my mother always taught me that your silence upholds the oppression and your actions speak louder than words. This includes the lack of communication from our university, understanding from our student body, and people who assume that being in the ward, they don’t want to cross the bridge because it’s a bad place and they’re associating those bad people who are supposedly across the bridge with the Douglas Leadership House.
Another thing that I want to point out is that those who do support Yik Yak and say that anybody can post things there, I just find it strange that after the Douglas Leadership House was given three more years and after the protest, specifically everybody had all this information about scholarships and about how students needed to – were disrespectful to Eastman, who was a racist, okay? We want to call it like it is; know your history.
Eastman was a racist who didn’t want black women on the (frat) quad. He didn’t respect the feminist movement, but for me to upload or put up feminist yaks that shows representation of our student body and the things that they’re saying, I’m in the fault for it.
Moving along, I don’t understand how people can end up supporting an app that is in complete violation of all our communal principles – there is no argument with that. Specifically, why would you defend an app that violates our communal principles and specifically focusing on sexual assault? How direct can you get? Referring to last year when a member of the Douglas Leadership House was called out to be sexually assaulted, I thought it was on us.
These are things I don’t understand why we’re not taking charge and facing them at the university. In regards to statements that we want to talk about social media and how people can post different things on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter – the reason why people post on Yik Yak is because they know it’s anonymous and they’re not getting caught for it.
I’d like to call them Yik Yak thugs. These are things we should take into light.
I say this out of – I say this out of experience in being a student here for three years, even though Yik Yak is a small part of what we’re facing, we’re trying to break the system and any part of the system that’s belittling or small needs to be broken. As far as I’m concerned, Yik Yak needs to go and I’m not going to hold back my emotions or my feelings towards the app. It needs to go.
I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation because if it was another group of students who were facing this issue, it would’ve already been done. With that being said, I’ll just pass the mic on to whoever else needs to speak.
Burgett: Thank you.
Nick: Hello, my name is Nick and I’m an undergraduate freshman. My first question is, why are we even having this conversation? It should’ve just been taken care of a while ago. When I first got to the university, I didn’t even know what it was, but within the first week, students in my hall were different things they’d seen, funny jokes, and I was looking at them like ‘This is not funny; this is something that is inherently wrong. It’s morally wrong.’ We said there are many people who use this but only one person can inspire many or act on it.
I don’t understand why there’s this thing where there are so many people who are for, but there’s only a minority of people who are Yik Yak thugs. But if there’s one Yik Yak thug, that one Yik Yak thug can gain enough support to act on it or act on it without support. I’m sorry – I’m a little impassioned about this because I think it’s ridiculous that we have to go through this bureaucratic system to even see a change when that list of demands should’ve gone straight to the table and there’s something that should’ve been done.
Burgett: We have about 5 minutes left of our scheduled time….
Cruz: Hi, everyone. I’m (Kiara Cruz), I’m the president of the Spanish and Latino Students Association. I just want to say because I think we can’t change the world and the guy that said this is the world we live in and it’s sad and we have to deal with it, how much do we have to sacrifice our grades, our anxiety, our depression, our health for you to have your freedom of speech? I think that’s a little problem.
Also, I think it’s not going to be a good idea where one of us gets shot or we get burned or something; then what are you going to say? Are you going to say ‘Oh man, we should abandon it now because something happened?’ I think we should take what’s happening in the world right now and learn from our history – we learn so we can be proactive, not the word that’s backwards in history.
I think even having this conversation and the fact that people even think it should be here is a problem. There are students saying ‘I feel scared. I’m scared, guys.’ That’s not okay. If one student is saying ‘I do not feel safe here’ then the whole university should say ‘this is a problem’. And there aren’t a lot of us here; let me just say, we don’t have a lot of money to make us even bigger. I’m pretty sure if we had a lot of money and our skin color was different and our parents were CEOs and donate to the school – unfortunately they can’t, but if they were, I’m pretty sure we would not be in this room right now because our parents would have handled it for us.
They have these words they always bring up to me, when I’m just like ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.’ I’m having conversations with people and all I want to say is let’s make it better. I’m tired of having to explain to people we – I’m scared of being here. Does one of us have to die for you to get it? I’m being honest. Does one of us have to do or do many of us have to die?
I’m planning to go to graduate school and I’m just constantly thinking ‘How do I write this essay when I’m having to attend these meetings about people wanting to tell me all this stuff the school has?’ I’m just like, why. I understand it but we shouldn’t be having this conversation; my thing is, what are you going to do about it? Do we have to die tomorrow for you to do something? What’s it going to take?
Everything is on the table for you. What are you going to do with it? The evidence is already there, so what are you going to do? That’s my question. I just think that having these constant conversations is not enough; the ball is in your court and I just mean the cards are on the table, so do something about it.
Jonah: Hi. Hey guys, my name is Jonah and I just wanted to say that I think that whether or not we ban Yik Yak – and I don’t think we should – that’s not going to fix the problem. I understand that people are frustrated, that the talking is endless and that their words are not being heard; for those people, I do empathize. I’ve been in that position before and I’d like to suggest possibly a new solution.
I don’t think this issue is going to change if we push it on a macro level, if we try to get the school to change and ban this or ban that; I think it really has to happen person to person .I don’t remember who brought it up but multiple people brought up micro-aggressions. Call me optimistic, but I think if someone is – I’m not sure what the verb is, but if someone is micro-aggressing against you, I honestly believe that –
I honestly believe they don’t mean to and I think it will go a long way to talk to them and be like ‘Hey, I didn’t appreciate what you did.’ I’m pretty sure they’ll be like ‘Hey, I didn’t know what I did. Sorry.’ And if they don’t have that opinion, then I think you ought to just ignore them. A lot of people have been talking about being afraid and people who have extreme opinions, they want you to be afraid. Obviously it’s easier said than done but don’t be afraid because you’re just giving in.
If there are people whose minds can’t be changed then just ignore them and focus on the people whose minds can change. Thank you.
(Torres): Hi, everyone. My name is Haydi (Torres) – I’m a freshman and I come from Honduras, one of the most dangerous countries in the world. I’ve been here in this country for the past three years and I’ve been learning about this culture and people organizing and being active and do things; I know what you mean when you say ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be scared’ – I’ve been scared all my life because my family was almost killed before we came to this country.
The point is that what I’ve heard so far is that I’m ashamed of my people, I’m ashamed of the people in Honduras because we don’t take action; we just be very passive. We just complain about things on social media and do things like that. I’m so happy to see all these people say that they want change.
My first day of orientation at the University of Rochester, someone said to another girl ‘Oh, she probably just got here because of affirmative action.’ That stuck with me. I felt like coming to college would be a different experience – that I shouldn’t be listening to this, that I should be around people who are open-minded about diversity and racism.
My point is that yes, Yik Yak is funny – I wanted to know more about the application after we had the march and yeah, it’s funny and we can see so many comments. But the point is, after for reading for half an hour many of the comments I want to start a club because there are so many people saying ‘I don’t have any friends. It’s so hard to make friends.’ I know what you mean because I’m also an introvert and it’s hard for me to make friends.
But I do things; I explore. What if we have a club that targets those students who have a hard time making friends? And that those people – I’m a student who has a struggle with mental health since I am a teenager so right now, I think we should be more aggressive when it comes to mental health at the University of Rochester and people say ‘I feel so much pressure to be sexually active’.
I see what’s going on – we are college students; it’s so sad to see so many students complaining about these things. When I was reading all these comments, I was saying ‘This could be my journal’. Yeah, I support that we should ban Yik Yak because of the simple reason that it’s good we have seen the problems, but let’s be proactive to these issues. It’s really sad to see so many comments of people who are struggling in this school,
Are you getting support? I will tell you right now, you can post there and get support from the students or from strangers, but you’re not getting the action that you need. You can post right now that it’s so hard for you in this class, that you’re failing the class, but what actions are you taking? You’re just commenting on those things. When you change your profile picture on Facebook, you’re not doing anything. You’re not solving anything with that. Thank you.
Burgett: We’ll get to you next, I promise.
Mike: Hello. My name is Mike and I’m a freshman here. For any of you that are still on the fence about whether to ban Yik Yak, I’d like to put it in a way that’s made me see it as the right thing to do. Look at right now; it is not banned and how many people are so emphatically pushing for it to be banned. Now, imagine if it was already banned; would there be the same number of people as passionately fighting to get it back?
If you honestly think so, then fine, but to me it seems clear – and I know I can’t know until it actually happens but I’m pretty confident in the prediction that there would not be this many people arguing to get it back. If your goal is to better the community as a whole, to make the most people the happiest, then it should be clear to ban it. Thank you.
Hernandez: Hello, everyone. My name is Claudia Hernandez and I work in the Office of Minority Student Affairs.
Thank you. I want to address a few things. The young man who is from Mexico and the young women who is from Honduras, I think we get into a sketchy situation when we start comparing realities. I’m from where you came from and I understand that was your reality at that point, but here in this situation these students do feel that they are in danger.
To the young woman who asked what instances have happened where you feel unsafe or in danger, I think plenty of students and faculty or staff of color can give you examples of when they have, but I think the answer to that is every day. Not even on this campus but in life, on Facebook, social media, and in the news, all people who identify as people of color say we feel in danger because it can get to that point.
The young man who was from Mexico who said that in Mexico, you could say something and you could die, the same is here. The same thing could happen here.
I also want to say that it seems like they don’t feel that support from administration and I think that it’s sad that we have one office that supports our students of about 800 students, and we have 4 counselors for those 800 students, and most of those students don’t even know they are OMSA, and that is a problem.
I think just because you have come in through the program of ECO or HEOP does not mean you are disadvantaged in any way or that you came here on a free ride; those students are the people who are the strongest leaders and who make a difference in the community and bring other students who feel these needs of support, and I think we need to do better as a university to have more resources for offices that do support our students of color.
The last thing I will say is that I am in agreement that we should ban Yik Yak for the mere fact that we understand it won’t completely eliminate the use of Yik Yak, but it will be a symbolic gesture and a win for our students. I think they need to feel they’ve accomplished something while they’ve been here and that it sets the standard moving forward. Thank you.
(O’Dougall): Hi, everyone. My name is Susan (O’Dougall). I’m a junior here studying (international) relations and public health. Here’s how I feel. Yik Yak enables tolerance. Now do what you say, be what you say – do what you say you’re going to do. If you’re saying you want to improve race relations, if you’re saying you want to make a difference, why would you allow people to continue to express a negative attitude towards the people on this campus? It doesn’t make sense.
Colleges existed before Yik Yak and colleges are going to existence after Yik Yak, whether or not we ban it but it will probably exist in a better atmosphere for everybody without Yik Yak. I’m really nervous; bear with me. Don’t enable cowards.
I think another piece of this is we’re at a critical moment. A lot of other websites, a lot of other forums, they’ve been around for years and years, but Yik Yak has only been here for 2 or 3 years and for you to not do anything about Yik Yak when you see that it’s encouraging these negative attitudes. It doesn’t make sense. It’s being lazy and it’s literally saying ‘We don’t care’ because you haven’t done anything.
Yes, I feel like it’s irresponsible to continue to allow Yik Yak to remain on this campus when you see the damage that it’s done and you are in a position to put an end to it. That’s irresponsible.
Burgett: We’ll take one more question or one more comment and I think we’re at the end of our time.
(Jerome): Hello, everyone. My name is (Jerome). We all clearly want fewer bigoted actions; I think as a society that is what we stand for as a majority. What I fear from this action and the trend that it might set is that we will be separating the most bigoted members of our society from social reform.
Social reform has very few opportunities to act; as such I think that it’s very easy to just preach to a choir or to act as people that are somewhat bigoted but the most bigoted people, if we sweep our actions under the rug, if we take down opportunities that Yik Yak provides for social reform to act on the most bigoted people, then their mindsets will never change and our problems will never change.
I’m not sure, after listening to all of the stories that have been told here, the fear, the frustration and the extreme negativity that has come from Yik Yak, that Yik Yak indeed is the correct way to access bigoted people, but we need to be mindful of the fact that we need to access these people not just continue along a trend of what I would say, sweeping it under the rug. I don’t we’ll find a solution that way and I just want people to be mindful of that in our future interactions. Thank you.
Burgett: We’ve heard a great deal this afternoon and I want to applaud and thank all of you for, first of all, coming and spending your very valuable time. Someone made the comment earlier about the president not being here and I just want to make a comment about that. We have taped and videotaped and audio-taped this entire event – he will see it all.
Given the schedule the president has, he has said to me directly ‘I want to get to as many town hall meetings as I possibly can’. This one being set up as quickly as it was came at a time when he’s trying to raise scholarship dollars for students out – he’s in Florida, as a matter of fact. But I wanted to let you know that his ambition to come to as many town hall meetings as he possibly can and he will see everything that went on here today.
So let me thank all of you for coming; I think this was a very, very important moment for us – an opportunity for people to express their points of view and we heard a great deal here. With that in mind, exam time is here; it’s time for everybody to go and study, study, study.
Thank you. Have a great holiday.
End of Recorded Session.