by Emily Sakamoto and Victoria Ungvarsky
In the wake of events including an apparent theft at the Crozier Center for Women and a slew of offensive anonymous comments on the social media app Yik Yak, a new movement promoting respect and acceptance has rapidly spread around campus in response. The #RespectfulDifference campaign was created as a means by which the Kenyon community could unite to address the increasingly harmful effects of anonymous commenting, and to promote positive dialogue on campus.
“The idea behind this movement is to help everyone move away from that cycle — hearing disrespectful things and saying them back,” Tim Jurney ’15 wrote in an email to the Collegian. “The idea behind respectful difference isn’t that every single opinion deserves respect. … It’s that every respectful opinion deserves respect in turn.”
Jurney was one of the students who developed the idea for the #RespectfulDifference campaign. As of press time, its Facebook page had already garnered 484 likes, and support is growing. Photos of groups and individuals holding signs indicating why they respect differences have proliferated. Entities including academic departments, President Sean Decatur and other members of senior administration, athletic teams and student groups, including the Collegian, have posted photos of support on the page.
Katie Moss ’15 expressed optimism that the campaign would create change in the Kenyon community. “I believe aggression and hate come from fear, and if we can see that we’re not all that different because we all respect each other … hopefully some of that fear, and thus that hate, will go away,” Moss said.
Despite anonymous commentary being a hot campus topic, some argue that anonymity and Yik Yak itself are not the root of the issue.
“These are issues that have been happening for the entire four years we’ve been here,” Brett Miller ’15 said. “And now just that it’s anonymous and on Yik Yak, it’s tangible evidence. But that’s not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is bigotry, it’s offensiveness.”
Though Syeda Showkat ’15 appreciates the sentiment of the #RespectfulDifference campaign, she shares Miller’s concerns that the movement doesn’t fully encompass the campus’s need for an outlet to react to events that affect the student body in a negative way. “What I think that the hashtag campaign doesn’t do is think critically or question critically as to what Kenyon culture is and how the campus is like and what people seem to be saying,” Showkat said.
Although #RespectfulDifference has both supporters and critics, no one can deny that it’s gaining traction through the power of social media.