Silencing an issue doesn't solve the problem

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Everything sets on fire all the time — frats, academic buildings, restaurants. Knife-wielding maniacs roam the Quad. Tim Beckman gets fired a few times a week. Everyone is either drunk or hungover all of the time, and fraternity brothers shower together every day.  

This doesn’t actually happen, of course, but Yik Yak starts and perpetuates these rumors. 

Police officers are forced to spend time monitoring the app; Daily Illini breaking news reporters spend time monitoring the app. We often are forced to call the police and fire departments, listen to police scanners and drive to different locations to see if there are emergency vehicles outside. Normally, this isn’t because of what actually happens, instead, its because of the untrue rumors that the app starts. 

Often, these rumors are dangerous, causing students to panic or worry about something that isn’t true and forcing emergency services to spend precious resources chasing and disproving rumors. Many times, the yaks are racist and sexist. Despite the dangers of the app, a university cannot ban its use — despite what some institutions of higher education — including Utica College and Norwich University — are trying to do.

These postings on Yik Yak are often based on misinformation, ignorant and irresponsible, so much so that we felt it was important enough to write an editorial about intelligent use of social media on Oct. 27.

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We realize that part of the fun of Yik Yak is anonymous postings, but when these postings make other students feel unsafe or uncomfortable, they harm the campus community. 

Still, we are glad the University has not considered banning the app. 

A ban would not be enforceable, and it only serves to anger students. There are many more positive ways to spur change than unnecessarily upsetting students. Education about why these types of postings are harmful are much more effective than a ban would be. 

We cannot, and should not, silence voices, even if they are anonymous. A better way to address university concerns about the Yik Yak app could be to get to the root of the issue and tackle the importance of effective and considerate social media use. This stems back to last January, when a plethora of inappropriate, tasteless tweets and social media posts came out about Chancellor Phyllis Wise after she announced we would not have a snow day despite weather conditions.  

After this event, the University responded with several discussions about diversity and inclusivity that helped shed light on the reality of digital hate. 

This is the same type of response we would hope colleges have for Yik Yak. Instead of silencing the issue, campus administrators from concerned colleges and universities should work to address the issue of Yik Yak head-on to help promote more effective, appropriate use of the app.