By Rhydian Morris
NUS sparked controversy this week by a vote at national conference to seek to restrict Yik Yak use on university campuses. The motion proposed by University of Surrey Student’s union called for the NUS to seek to work with Yik Yak to restrict the app during election periods. While the motion addressed that social media generally does more good than harm, the proposers stated that the apps have a tendency to ““shield racists, sexists, and cyber bullies” from campus disciplinary procedures.
While the motion was not limited to Yik Yak, and named other social media sites with anonymous accounts like Facebook and twitter, it’s clear the main purpose of the motion was to target Yik Yak. Many Nus members have publically decried Yik Yak including Nus President Megan Dunn who posted on twitter that “The rise of Yik Yak was a particular menace”.
Then motion comes after the university of Lincoln student’s union attempted to campaign to block Yik Yak on campus. The student’s union announced that they would ban the app from all university Wi-Fi networks and within a 5km radius due to “much distress” caused to some students.
The news of the decision has attracted criticism from many, with the decision being used as further evidence of the NUS’s anti free speech tendencies. One Student had this to say on the decision “Just another example of how out of touch the NUS actually is and how totalitarian they are when faced with something they don’t like – banning is always their first response. Terrible organisation and I wish we weren’t affiliated with them.”
Thought not all students have been critical of the decision with one student suggesting that anonymous posting shouldn’t be necessarily regarded as protected free speech “People should be allowed to say whatever they want, just by the nature of what free speech is and should be, but at the same time need to be shown that there are consequences for saying the wrong things. Just because you CAN say something doesn’t mean you SHOULD, but at the same time you should be able to say whatever you want. You also must face the consequences for what you say, however. It’s a tough topic.”
While the decision has been criticised on the basis of censorship questioned have been raised over the possibility that the NUS have any ability to actually restrict Yik Yak in the way the motion proposed. It is questionable whether Yik Yak as an organisation would be willing to restrict Yik Yak on campus during the specific period of elections.
One student had this to say over the full motion and conference decision:
“Fundamentally, it seems like a relatively pointless endeavour to continually go after any site that offers anonymous messaging. You ‘ban’ YikYak people will just move to whatever else offers them the same ability.
If they ban the app within Universities it will just p**s people off, those who weren’t using it to spread whatever message was opposed, and turn them further against the NUS. The NUS has been fundamentally appalling at talking to students who are not actually in the NUS circle. It continually does things that seem to go against the logic or consensus of the majority of students, and while some of these may be good actions they don’t explain it at all. Meaning that the NUS becomes increasingly insular as it alienates and ignores major parts of the student body it is meant to represent.
I like the idea of the NUS, I just wish they would fucking talk to students. Like, it is genuinely mind blowing how many people have literally no idea of what the NUS do apart from ‘pass stupid rules’.”