Clemson University Chief Diversity Officer Leon Wiles said the school’s leadership has discussed banning the anonymous social media messaging application Yik Yak from the campus wireless network after students posted numerous racially insensitive posts on the app that he said is exacerbating racial tensions on campus.
Students recommended banning the app when the coalition of mostly black students met with school leaders on the library bridge late last semester, Wiles said.
Wiles said a potential ban is “under consideration.”
“Some of the comments I’ve seen on Yik Yak have been rather offensive, but I don’t think that is unique to Clemson,” Wiles said.
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Representatives with Yik Yak couldn’t be reached for comment.
Students who marched to Sikes Hall at Clemson on Wednesday to present a list of grievances to administrators said that members of under-represented communities are targets of insensitive, ignorant and alienating comments on Yik Yak.
The students asked President Jim Clements to apologize on behalf of the university for hateful speech made on social media, including Yik Yak, Twitter and Facebook.
The students — a loosely formed group called A Coalition of Concerned Students — asked for a public commitment by the Clemson administration to prosecute criminal or predatory behavior and defamatory speech committed by those in the Clemson community, including comments facilitated by social media.
The group of about 80 students read a list of seven grievances and demands at the Wednesday protest. Among them were requests to rename Tillman Hall, hire more minority faculty and administrators, build a multi-cultural center for minorities to gather, provide more funds for campus minority organizations, provide incentives for diversity training and adding “diversity” to Clemson’s list of core values.
Clemson’s administration plans to issue a formal response to the students’ demands before the next university Board of Trustee’s meeting, scheduled for Feb. 5-6, said Almeda Jacks, interim vice president of student affairs.
Other colleges and universities have taken action to ban or limit access to Yik Yak, which has become popular on college campuses and has spread rapidly since two Furman University graduates founded the app in 2013.
The app recently raised $62 million in funding from a venture capital firm and is valued between $300 million to $400 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
While it’s generally filled with posts about social life, classes or jokes about rampant campus squirrels, the app has sparked controversy on some college campuses for threatening, bullying or racist messages.
In recent months, Norwich University in Vermont and Utica College in New York have banned Yik Yak. In those cases, the app was banned from the school’s wireless networks, a symbolic but limited move, since students could still access the app through their phone’s data.
Last semester, the student government at Emory College in Atlanta voted to denounce the use of Yik Yak as a forum for hate speech.
The app has drawn attention in the Upstate after middle and high schools warned parents and students last spring about how the app was being used as a platform for cyberbullying.
The app’s creators quickly banned the app from school zones by eliminating access to it on or near school properties, a technique called geofencing.
Geofences were added around all Greenville County Schools, said Oby Lyles, school district spokesman.
It’s listed as an adult, 17+ app, which gives parents the additional option to use parental controls to keep it off their child’s phone.