Anonymous app stokes controversy and discussion on campus
THE SANTA CLARA
May 21 , 2015
Santa Clara prides itself on being a tolerant community, but recently, offensive comments surfaced on Yik Yak, a popular app localized to campus.
One of the inflammatory posts read, “I hate minorities.” Another, “I’m glad we as Americans can leave Mexicans out of our country.” The posts were quickly downvoted off of the site by other users.
Last Wednesday the Associated Student Government held its quarterly “When It’s Not a Great Day to Be a Bronco” forum. Typically the town hall-style meeting covers general problems on campus. However, this quarter’s meeting focused specifically on the faceless racism displayed on the app.
Screenshots of several “yaks” referenced in the meeting had also appeared on the chain-link fence in front of Benson during The Santa Clara Community Action Program’s Immigration Week in April. They were meant to highlight racist sentiments on campus.
One of the authors of the displayed Yik Yaks agreed to an anonymous interview with The Santa Clara. He and a friend claim they posted seven of the yaks displayed on the wall.
“We just started saying things and one thing led to another, and all of sudden we had a bunch of really offensive yaks out there,” he said. “But, it’s not like either of us believe what we said. We just did it to get a reaction out of people.”
Though he admits his words were offensive, he claimed that he does not feel that anything should be taken too seriously within the context of the app.
“It’s Yik Yak,” he said. “It’s not like I’m on the news or in a political campaign and I’m spewing this garbage. I’m on an unaffiliated app. You shouldn’t consider Yik Yak as a legitimate source. Anyone who takes it seriously is stupid. But I’m not happy we may have spawned some copy cats.”
A couple of weeks ago, a vicious yak was directed at several members of Santa Clara’s Black Student Union, Igwebuike, as they held an annual appreciation dinner.
Several members had gathered outside of Swig Residence Hall one night, in preparation for the event, when someone commented on Yik Yak, “Can the monkeys outside Swig please shut their watermelon-eating mouths?”
Many members of the group showed up to the ASG meeting to voice their disgust.
“My brother is going to school here and I don’t want him to have to deal with these kinds of things,” one of the students said.
While the app has caused controversy on campuses across the country, many argued that the problem is not the app.
“Yik Yak is actually all of the things that people actually think on this campus that they are not willing to say out loud,” one student said. “[Santa Clara] is a deeply privileged and deeply sexist and deeply homophobic and deeply racist place and until we are willing to confront that at a deep institutional level, this is not going to change.”
Many attacked how the university handled the situation. Several students criticized Father Engh’s email response. The subject line of the email merely read, “Joint Message to Students.”
“There is no sense of urgency, there is no sense of anything about racism,” another student said about the subject line.
Several at the meeting offered suggestions for sparking progress on campus – ranging from speaking about difficult issues such as racism, sexism and homophobia to demanding greater accountability.
Although tensions were high, next year’s ASG Vice-President Madeline Owen, who facilitated the event, said that it successfully served as a platform to share frustration.