Section: Editorial

Staff editorial: Owning your words

Protected speech is essential to journalism as well as academia. The right to set forth ideas, even ones that might be unpopular, is one that the Collegian especially champions.

Participation in these kinds of discussions comes with the responsibility of assuming ownership of your words and thoughts. Dialogue cannot go far if we do not invest ourselves in civil discussion. Openness gives academic and journalistic discourses credibility and potency, but there are limits to that openness.

Anonymous commenting, for example, has proved to be a harmful presence on campus recently — though certainly not for the first time. The Yik Yak app is only one of several venues that allow anonymity, and within the last several weeks it has facilitated the spread of malice and personal attacks. Admittedly,  such comments reflect a broader society plagued by bigotry and misogyny, and thus cannot be purely blamed on the app or on anonymity alone. Nonetheless, platforms like Yik Yak can amplify the spread of vitriol by publishing anonymous posts without pre-approval by a moderator. Yik Yak hands a metaphorical megaphone to haters.

This is not to say, however, that the Collegian does not support the right to express concerns. We encourage submissions to our Opinions page for precisely this reason, and we like nothing more than to see the section brimming with respectful, reasonable arguments from both sides of an issue.

We also occasionally allow anonymity in articles in order to protect reliable sources from any harm that may result from their speaking candidly to us about pertinent issues. Project Open Voices, often featured on The Thrill, also provides a productive use of anonymity by allowing people to express themselves about deeply personal or sensitive issues, including experiences of sexual assault and racism, without fear of judgement. 

People have a right to their opinions, but they do not have a right to attack or threaten those who disagree with them. The recent nastiness on Yik Yak cannot merely be characterized as voicing opinions. Some of the recent comments verged on hate speech and others represented direct threats to students’ safety. Some might characterize the recent online threats, which included a rape threat directed at members of a specific student organization, as the work of mere Internet trolls attempting to make a so-called joke. However, the presumption that rape is something to joke about is profoundly alarming and disrespectful to survivors of sexual assault.

College is an opportune time to learn to express yourself intelligently and test your reasoning skills, but posting venomous anonymous comments undermines that to the core. It is cowardly, and it sets back any growth this community attempts to foster.

We are heartened by the campus’s outpouring of support for Take Back the Night and those organize it, and we are confident that Kenyon’s reasonable, respectful majority can drown the spewers of hatred among us.

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