By Brianna Levesque
The debate surrounding Yik Yak and the utility of anonymous outlets as a tool for communication and representation has been raging for a couple of weeks now. In the beginning, most noted that this supposedly harmless and amusing app may have the potential to be a source of cyberbullying in other communities — but not to worry, it couldn’t happen here! No, Kenyon students are enlightened enough to possess a certain level of respect and compassion for their peers, to innocently post nothing more than clever jokes and half-hearted grumblings. Yet lately, to the shock and disgust of many, it has become excruciatingly evident that our community is not above displays of venomous hatred.
I’ll admit: I am human too, and being so, I am also curious to hear others’ opinions, secrets and witty observations on such forums as Kenyon Confessions and Yik Yak. Unfortunately, I also believe we are forced to acknowledge the hefty price we pay for such amusement. Ideally, these forums would be a positive nexus, a place which would allow the community to engage and grow closer through shared experiences. However, our world is all-too-perceptibly far from perfect. It disheartens me so to read posts and comments which blatantly illuminate the empathetic inadequacy of our society. Even in such an intelligent, accepting and supportive community as this, it is still a struggle to maintain even the most basic levels of human decency.
It seems there are members of our community who are operating under the outrageous assumption that personal attacks, theft, threats of violence and acts of dehumanization are to be tolerated here at Kenyon. Hear me clearly: They. Are. Not. I am, of course, speaking particularly of the harassment the Crozier Center for Women has been subjected to by anonymous users on Yik Yak, but this is transferable to all interactions we experience on this Hill and beyond, both virtually and in person. Under the cowardice-breeding veil of anonymity, some have chosen to voice their disagreements with the organization not through thoughtful and respectful discourse, but with jarring words dripping with insolence and hatred.
Along with word of mouth, an email sent out Sunday night by Crozier revealed to me (someone who has never downloaded Yik Yak) the gravity of the statements which have pervaded the site, such as “Gang rape at Crozier,” and “Crozier women are barely women.” Let’s clear some things up here. First of all, it is completely legitimate for Crozier to be criticized, for any campus organization to be subjected to intense scrutiny and for these organizations to be held responsible for the ways in which they fall short, as no group or individual is without flaws. It is vitally necessary these concerns of individuals be voiced, rather than squelched in derision of dissent, but it is unquestionably inadmissible when these sentiments are not expressed in a respectful — and, hopefully, constructive — manner.
No matter how hard anyone tries to deny it, behind every organization lies living, breathing human beings. Shocking, I know. Crozier is run by people who, like you and I, meander along Middle Path, frequent Peirce and work out at the KAC (all right, the latter example doesn’t necessarily apply to all of us, but you get my point).
Look up right now. It’s possible you are in the presence of someone actually living in Crozier, whose very safety in her residence has been threatened verbally on Yik Yak and physically in the recent theft of supplies and Take Back the Night materials; it’s even more likely you are near members and supporters of the organization, who run the identity gamut. But here’s the kicker: no matter where you are, even if you read these words in solitude, you are among those who influence and are influenced by Crozier. They are an organization devoted to basic equality. Those who feel there are ways in which the organization falls short of this goal should respectfully communicate their objections to the people who run Crozier who have the ability — nay, the desire — to evaluate criticisms and adapt their organization to better represent the needs of the community.
Kenyon should operate on the assumption that all people deserve to feel safe and respected, that the most basic of human rights should be preserved. To anyone who disagrees with this statement and the philosophy of necessary kindness it promotes: good luck facing yourself in the mirror for the rest of your life. What a frightening thought.
Brianna Levesque ’17 is a prospective English major from Medford, Ore. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.