After multiple emails of concern sent by the administration, the Student Government Association, etc. concerning Yik Yak, the Observer editors set out to form an opinion concerning the occurrences. While at first we were in opposition to each other, we came to a realization. How can one defend a stance on an issue in which we are not privy to the facts?
While the messages may have been controversial, we feel that students should have had more access to information and details of something the community is being reprimanded for. Not everyone has a Yik Yak account, but they do have an Augustana-sponsored Gmail account. Not including details of an incident does not start productive dialogue on the issue.
The only way to have a productive conversation, or any type of learning opportunity means that transparency has to be the introductory phrase of a greater dialogue. Augustana College prides itself on the new set of learning outcomes, and we think that in order to reach the goals of intellectual sophistication, interpersonal maturity, and intrapersonal conviction, students need something greater than ambiguous declarations of unity.
Not only did the emails cause greater discourse based on confusion, it crushed a potential learning experience and the chance to reflect on personal and collective values. The events spurned a discussion of censorship, First Amendment rights, and other arguments, many of which were ill-informed and inaccurate.
The American Civil Liberties Union defines censorship as “the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are ‘offensive,’ (and) happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal, political, or moral values on others.” Which means, Augustana was not censoring its students, nor was that the intention. The college was considering making the decision to not support an app in which acts of hate and aggressive speech were being condoned, not infringing on the rights of students.
This miscommunication is a direct reflection of the evasive language usually placed throughout emails concerning controversial matters. What we propose is allowing students to access the information that is causing such turmoil. Dancing around the issue doesn’t help anyone. Not only does it create assumptions, spurn rumors, etc. it also buries any actual conversation concerning solutions. We propose more transparency from the college, especially about issues of social media and speech. We need forums where students and administrators can discuss together, rather than speak in separate circles.