On Yik Yak and Other Things

March 24th, 2015

In case you haven’t heard, the student affairs profession is all aquiver about the app Yik Yak, and in particular, the use of this anonymous posting app at the national NASPA conference in New Orleans this week. While I’m hardly the end-all be-all expert on this, I have a few thoughts, and since I have a blog, I also have a means to share those thoughts. Take or leave what you will.

First of all, I’d like to say I’m surprised by what was expressed on the yaks (oh, and if you want to read some of them, check out Niki Messmore’s post or Paul Gordon Brown’s post). I wish I could say I was surprised, but I can’t. Much of the behavior or comments posted on this app are things I’ve seen or heard in person before at conferences or amongst other student affairs professionals – and let’s be honest here, I’m not just talking about grad students or new professionals, contrary to what one of the yaks states. And did I find it as problematic then as I do now? Absolutely.

To be honest, me think we dost protest too much. Did we really not know this is how some of our professionals think and act? More importantly, do we think there’s some magical switch between the time we’re a student and need to be educated to the point where we’re a professional and now are supposed to know everything? (If you know of this magical switch, can someone help me find it? I’d love to know everything). I write a lot about how we ignore the needs of our fellow student affairs professionals when it comes to mental health, and I think we’re doing the same here if we make the assumption that these colleagues of ours should know better. If I’ve seen these behaviors demonstrated, who else has seen them and thought that they are acceptable?

I also want to talk about how we confront this behavior. Does a statement from a national organization provide us with an educational moment, or is it simply a tool to shame people? And by shaming, do we shut down the opportunity to educate? How many of us decried the handling of the SAE incident just a week ago because instead of using it to educate they used it to shame the members of that fraternity? Will we do the same to our colleagues?

In other news, I find it somewhat fascinating that one of our national organizations has felt the need to issue a statement about this behavior on Yik Yak, but none of the main organizations – as far as I can tell, and please correct me if I’m wrong – have yet to issue statements about some of the more incendiary issues going on in current events in regards to racial incidents happening on campuses and the nation at large. And with all the fuss about Yik Yak, did anyone happen to catch this happening today? Because that seems like maybe something we should be discussing in addition to the fact that our profession has some serious underlying issues that have suddenly been made public.

So what am I really saying here? Quit fussing about the app, people – make change happen because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s suddenly public.

UPDATE: Tricia Fechter from ACPA kindly pointed out to me that there was a joint statement published about sexual assault incidents in December regarding the UVA Rolling Stone article. This seems to be the most recent statement on current events from these national organizations.