Phi Beta Cons

Augustana College Bans Yakety-Yak on Yik Yak

Yik Yak is an app that’s popular with college students and young people. It allows them to communicate anonymously with peers in their vicinity. If you download the app and post a comment, anyone else with the app who’s within 10 miles of you will see it. A friend of mine downloaded it recently just to see what all of the hullabaloo was about, and then showed me some of the posts. I saw a lot of talk about partying, inquiries about where to find marijuana, crude sexual comments, lowbrow one-liners, and lame attempts to pick up dates for the weekend. Lots of amateur comedians, you see.

I can understand how some people may be offended by such vulgarity, but the appropriate response to the stupid and cringe-worthy posts is a face palm (or deletion of the app), not outrage and calls for a ban. That’s why I was disappointed to see that the private Augustana College in Illinois recently used a firewall to block access to the app on its campus. Augustana’s Black Student Union, Student Government Association, and something called the Multicultural Club Council had complained to the administration about “racist” and “offensive” comments that were posted on the app. 

Augustana’s administration should have responded with a line used often by one of my former professors when responding to whiny students: “too bad, so sad.” In other words, get over it! Thick skin is important. Colleges that cater to the emotional whims of their students or try to coddle certain groups to “protect” them from the Big Bad World undermine the foundations of free speech and end up encouraging the incivility they originally sought to eliminate. If a society’s mindset toward offensive or disagreeable ideas is “We need to ban that!” then that society is on the fast track to authoritarianism.

Jesse Saffron — Jesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a North Carolina-based think tank dedicated to improving higher education in the Tar ...

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