“Little recourse against faceless commenters”

A loyal EMUTalk.org reader sent me this link the other day, “Little recourse against faceless commenters,” a column by Froma Harrop in “Herald.Net” out of Everett, Washington. It talks about a variety of examples of bullying online and the problems of anonymous identities and the like, but the reason I include it here is because it makes reference to our own local Yik Yak controversy:

Three female professors at Eastern Michigan University were shocked to learn that some young scholars in their lecture hall had been on their cellphones attacking them with lewd public posts, complete with imagery. It was all done anonymously, courtesy of an unusually obnoxious social media app called Yik Yak.

Their lecture topic, post-apocalyptic culture, seemed somehow apt. And to think, this was an honors course.

One complained to her union rep as follows: “I have been defamed, my reputation besmirched. I have been sexually harassed and verbally abused. I am about ready to hire a lawyer.”

It’s not clear what a lawyer could do for her.

She really has only two options: 1. Rip the electronic devices out of the students’ grubby little fingers. Or 2. Choose to not give a fig what anybody says about her anatomy/age/hair color/sweater size.

Having been on that receiving end any number of times, I’d advise 2. The more obscenity and general abuse flourish online the less impact any of it should have. These days, even high schoolers need skin 10 feet thick.

And then the commentary goes on from there.

Say, speaking of different online forums:  remember that the sun that is EMUTalk.org is setting for good some time this summer/early fall, and if you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to join the Facebook group EMUTalk. It has the disadvantage of not being anonymous (well, unless you set up a pseudo-anonymous Facebook account), but it has the advantage of being about as close to an open-ended forum where anyone can post and comment as we’re likely to get. So if you have a Facebook account (and really, who doesn’t?) go and join the group.

A couple of Yiks and/or Yaks

Summer is always the slow season around EMUTalk, and in that sense, there’s not a whole lot different in this last season of the blog. No news is, well, no news. But I did come across a couple of kind of interesting articles on Yik Yak I thought I’d post.

Feminists United plans to announce at a news conference Thursday that it has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that members were threatened with sexual assault and death and were cyber-stalked after speaking out in campus debates about Greek life and against a lewd chant by the rugby team this year, said attorney Lisa Banks.

Authorities say that Grace Rebecca Mann, a 20-year-old from McLean, Va., who served on United’s board, was slain April 17 by a roommate. Steven Vander Briel was charged with first-degree murder and abduction. Police have not commented on an alleged motive.

Banks and United members said they have no evidence that Mann’s activism or the threats on Yik Yak were related to her slaying. But they said a flood of more than 700 messages — some of which targeted members by name — left them feeling afraid. They said school officials did nothing to stop the threats despite repeated requests throughout the year.

So, what I mean by it being “two stories” is it seems like there is an issue of the women who are in this group being harassed via Yik Yak and one of their members was killed by her roommate for some reason, probably not related to Yik Yak though.

“EMU students say dressing as Native Americans was part of theme party (WITH POLICE REPORT)”

Not much new going on lately (not surprising since we’re now into the slower months of spring and summer), but this story from the Ypsilanti Courier is kind of interesting: “EMU students say dressing as Native Americans was part of theme party (WITH POLICE REPORT).”  Here’s a quote:

An Eastern Michigan University police report has provided more details into an off-campus party where students dressed as Native Americans with faces and bodies painted with red paint.

The report sheds light on student behavior during the April 11 party, that included a game of beer pong that one man said was a metaphorical “impregnation ceremony.” It also includes interviews with party goers who said dressing up was part of a “theme party” and there were no racist overtones.

The police report, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, is part of a university investigation that could result in punishment for students involved if their behavior is deemed to have violated the university’s code of conduct. Names of those interviewed were redacted by university officials because of federal student privacy laws.

Here’s a link to the police report itself, which is posted on Scribd. As far as I can tell, what you’ve got here is a bunch of drunk college kids doing some racist and stupid things, which is to say that this pretty much confirms the previous story as well. Reading the actual police report is kind if interesting though.

“EMU student wears ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt over gown at graduation”

From mLive comes “EMU student wears ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt over gown at graduation.” It’s a story about how a graduating senior named Kenneth Hill pulled on a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt right before he crossed the stage at commencement.

I thought I’d share it here for two reasons. First, congratulations to all the graduating students! The article features lots and lots of other pictures from commencement, so you can go and check that out. Second, the comments on this story– there are over 900 of them right now– are pretty damn crazy, if you ask me. Or at least there are more than few pretty racist and otherwise cranky comments there.

“U-M community bands together after suicidal note on Yik Yak”

From mLive comes “U-M community bands together after suicidal note on Yik Yak,” which is another story that makes it clear that Yik Yak is not just a tool for bullying faculty or posting racist rants. Here’s a quote:

A short post on social media titled “Thank you & Bye” prompted a large response and discussion of mental illness on the University of Michigan campus this weekend.

Community members took to the anonymous, location-based social media app Yik Yak and to University of Michigan Diag on Sunday after someone posted about an apparently planned suicide.

and…

Students such as English senior Hannah Maine, 21, said the gathering and programs such as the Wolverine Support Network are opportunities for better open-dialogue on issues of mental illness.

“People don’t feel comfortable admitting ‘I have depression’ or ‘I have suicidal thoughts’ because of all the stigma, but hopefully these types of things will help take that away,” she said. “You need to talk about it otherwise it’s not going to get better.”

Maine said Yik Yak has been a helpful way for students, such as herself, to address similar struggles and stress anonymously.

Announcing EMUTalk, the Facebook Group

Before I get to EMUTalk news, just a quick shout-out to the graduates and their families enjoying commencement today, probably about as I type this. Congratulations! Do EMU proud in whatever you decide to do next!

Anyway, back to my point: as I announced back in February, I’ve decided to wind down EMUTalk by this September. There are a lot of reasons for this, but besides being a bit of a time suck and expense for me (not a huge time suck or expense, but still), I kind of felt like it just became too much of me me ME here. I already have a blog where I spout off about me me ME; I wanted this to be more of a community with lots of voices. Sure, that happens in the comments, but I was hoping it would happen more with the discussions too.

At the same time, I realize that there really is a space– maybe even a need– for a forum for conversations like this, and I didn’t want to completely abandon/leave the chances to share things with the community behind. So I decided to set up a Facebook group– here is a link to it.

I’m still trying to get the hang of how Facebook groups work, but I am pretty sure that I’ve set it up so that it is a “public” group that anyone can join, anyone can write a post, and anyone can comment. If you have a hard time joining for some reason, let me know and I’ll try to set it up. It’s also a group that can easily have multiple administrators. Administrators have the power to do things like change the pictures/headers, add more about the group description, and do some policing in the form of removing abusive posts and blocking/removing administrators. If you want to be a group administrator, let me know and I’ll set you up with that.

I think the Facebook group offers some interesting disadvantages and advantages over the blog set-up. The two biggest disadvantages as I see it is it’s not possible to post things anonymously (though that might be an advantage too) and (obviously) you have to be on Facebook. I like Facebook– I’m on it all the time– but I am very aware of the privacy issues and the other concerns people have about the interface, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some regular readers and posters here are unwilling and unable to participate in that new forum.

But I also think this offers some definite advantages, too. For starters, just about everyone I know has a Facebook account, even if they don’t want to admit it, which means that you’ll still have access. Second, it is A LOT easier for people to post things here to share for interest and/or for discussion. In other words, this is about as close to a completely open community discussion board as we’re going to get. And third, this pretty much will run itself (I think).

So go join that group!

“EMU creates chief diversity officer job after racially charged incidents”

I would have posted about this earlier, but I was (as they say) “away” from the Internets. But as reported in mLive (and as the campus saw in an email from President Martin included in the mLive story), “EMU creates chief diversity officer job after racially charged incidents.” Here’s the paragraph where Martin talks about this new position:

This is why I am announcing that we will add a new position to the University’s senior leadership team: Chief Diversity Officer. This individual will serve as the senior executive on the leadership team responsible for efforts related to diversity, inclusion and equity. The individual will advise the president, senior leaders and campus units on policies, processes, and practices intended to foster a most diverse and inclusive campus where all members of the university community can thrive and contribute to the University’s mission and core values.

I guess I have kind of mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it seems to me like this particular incident deserves an actual response from Martin, at least something along the lines of “I think those students behaved badly” or what-have-you. And I’m just not so sure hiring another administrator is a solution to this.

On the other hand, a “Chief Diversity Officer” is a position that apparently does exist on a lot of campuses. As far as I can tell, it’s a position that tends to bring together under one leader things like Title IX issues, equal employment issues, and to address issues like this infamous party. So maybe it’s a good idea.

“Rally planned at EMU after Native American man reports harassment”

From mLive comes “Rally planned at EMU after Native American man reports harassment.” Here’s a quote:

Native American students at Eastern Michigan University are hosting an on-campus rally Wednesday at 3 p.m.

The Native American Student Organization will gather outside the student center near the lakeside entrance to discuss a recent altercation between students and a Native American man at an off-campus party in Ypsilanti.

There’s one other bit of news that I hadn’t seen previously about this incident in the story. The Ypsi cops came and busted up the party after Phillips’ complaint and there is an EMU investigation going on “for internal purposes.”

“EMU showing ‘American Sniper’ again after protesters interrupt first screening”

From mLive comes “EMU showing ‘American Sniper’ again after protesters interrupt first screening.” I saw this the other day in an announcement sent around by Geoff Larcom, but here’s the mLive story and discussion about it. The second showing is going to be this Friday, April 24, at 8 p.m. in the Student Center Auditorium. Two quick thoughts for now:

  • I saw this article in my newsfeed shortly after I got up this morning and it had like three comments on it. I’m posting this at about 8:30 AM and now it has over 130 comments and the comments seem to be coming about one or two a minute. And of course most of the comments are pretty stupid.
  • I probably won’t attend this screening because it’s on a Friday night and I am guessing I’ll have other plans, but I have to say I’m tempted. I didn’t see it in the theater when it came out and if I had to pick a side in this, I’d probably be on the side of the people protesting this movie. But the added discussion about the movie might make for an interesting night, and besides, it’s free.

It’s a stressful time of year, so….

…go ahead and hug an emu. But be careful– they bite!

The friend of the animals