Yik Yak on Campus
Last week, over one hundred members of our campus community came together to talk about racism and sexism on our campus and beyond. These virtual and in-person meetings were prompted by a series of hateful messages on Yik Yak, an application that allows anonymous postings within a five mile radius. These violent anti-Black and misogynist messages engendered great pain among so many of us across Babson College, from staff to faculty to students, graduate and undergraduate alike. Though there is no way to know if the author calls our campus home, we grieved to think that these attitudes were represented among us. We felt urgency in deciding what to do about the culture of a campus that would produce such hate speech.
For two and a half years, Vice Provost Amir Reza and I have hosted a lunchtime conversation series called Diversity Matters, and in that venue we’ve strategized about all the kinds of intersectional diversity we value here: religious, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, national, regional, gender, sexuality, ability. This collaboration, this series, grew from my role as faculty director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, for I knew that our mission of creating a “gender enlightened” campus would be effective only if we recognized what film director Herbert Biberman called “the indivisibility of equality”—for us, the idea that gender equality, the Center’s explicit mission, cannot be divided from racial, religious, socioeconomic, LGBTQ or other kinds of equality. Pressed by the hate speech of the anonymous postings, still informed by our commitment to these equalities, we used our March Diversity Matters to talk about how to have courageous conversations to counter cowardly hate.
In our meeting last week, we began by talking about that hate. All the individuals in the filled-to-capacity-room testified to the pain felt by students of color, women, victims of sexual violence, and others. As members of those groups and as allies, we asserted that College leadership had an imperative to make clear that such attitudes were unacceptable. And we all committed to small acts and to large actions: mentoring and supporting students of color, programming around anti-racism and anti-sexism, listening to each other carefully, and collaborating to promote understanding. We pledged to utilize the rich resources already available to us, especially student-centered initiatives, and to begin to broadcast #Babsonbrave. The Center counts itself as an ally in all of these campaigns.
Toward the end of our meeting, quite a few of us wrestled with the fact that the author faced no consequences for an act with broad negative impact. How could the author commit to living and working in a diverse world? How might the author learn that s/he is, to paraphrase Dr. King, on the wrong side of history?
Together, all in that room rededicated ourselves to the educational mission of our institution, recognizing that the classroom is fundamental to these lessons. Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership leads and supports faculty, staff, and students in learning that contributes to all kinds of equality. And in that, we join the charge against intolerance—and locate ourselves on the right side of history.