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October 29 2015

Feminists Want the Education Department to Curb Mean Student Comments on Yik Yak

Charlotte Allen

Yack on Yik Yak--and have feminists and Feds all over your back.

A coalition of 72 feminist and other organizations  wants the U.S. Education Department to require universities to protect their students from anoymous comments that the students might deem threatening or offensive.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The groups have sent the U.S. Education Department a letter calling for it to treat colleges’ failure to monitor anonymous social media and to pursue online harassers as a violation of federal civil-rights laws guaranteeing equal educational access.

The letter says many colleges have cited "vague First Amendment concerns" to shirk their obligation to respond to harassment, intimidation, and threatening behavior via such applications. It calls on the department’s Office for Civil Rights [OCR] to require colleges to fight such online abuse by taking steps like identifying and disciplining perpetrators and creating technological barriers to the use of social-media applications that harassers favor.

"Vague First Amendment concerns"! Translation: Who cares about the First Amendment when it comes to policing speech we feminists don't like?

The chief object of the feminists' wrath is Yik Yak, a smartphone app that allows people to post and view anonymous comments within a 5-mile radius of themselves. It's thus ideal for college campuses and their environs. The letter to the Education Department follows a lawsuit filed by the Fund for a Feminist Majority and Feminists United on Campus (FUC),a student group, against Mary Washington University in Virginia under Title IX, the federal law that bans discrimination at educational institutions.  According to Campus Reform, the suit charges Mary Washington's administrators with "systemic failure to protect students from a sexually hostile school environment, from sex-based cyber assaults, and from threats of physical and sexual violence.” FUC had earlier tried unsuccessfully to persuade the university to ban Yik Yak from campus.

University President Richard Hurley responded in June with a letter calling the allegations “irresponsible” and contending that the First Amendment prevents public institutions from taking the sort of actions the groups demanded.

“Although I understand that FUC may be upset that UMW has not ceded to its demands to ban Yik Yak from campus, it is important to understand that as a public university, UMW is obligated to comply with all federal laws—not just Title IX,” Hurley explained. “The First Amendment prohibits prior restraints on speech, and banning Yik Yak is tantamount to a content-based prohibition on speech.”

Campus Reform continues:

Despite Hurley’s reasoning, the groups announced in the press release last week that the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights has decided to investigate their complaint, though no timetable has yet been given for the process.

At the same time, they also want OCR to “issue clear guidance concerning anonymous social media,” including “information about what steps educational institutions must take to determine whether unlawful harassment is occurring on these platforms, without forcing victims themselves to police these platforms, and a clear path that educational institutions must follow to identify and prosecute anonymous harassers.”

Screen shots of the presumably offensive Yik Yak comments collected by the Chronicle of Higher Education suggest that most of them seem to be made by male students annoyed by the all-pervasive ideology of the campus feminists themselves. They consist mostly of complaints about "feminazis" and obscene puns on the FUC acronym. One comment threatens to "tie these feminazis to the radiator" and commit a sexual act on them--but the anonymous commenter names no specific names. Since the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment protects anonymous speech, it's hard to say how far the feminists will be able to take their lawsuit--but the Obama administration's activist Education Department is another matter.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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