“Sweets & Selfies with Su-Mar at the Student Center”

From Geoff “Geoff” Larcom comes the following:

EMU President Susan Martin wants to thank students, faculty and staff with sweets and the opportunity for fun selfies as we end the academic year.

Students, faculty and staff are invited to come, say hello and rock your best smile if you want a selfie with President Martin from 1-2 p.m. on either Wednesday, April 22 or Thursday, April 23 in the Student Center. President Martin will be providing sweets on the first floor of the Student Center in the Fireplace Lounge, located across from the EMU Bookstore.

President Martin wants to sincerely thank so many across the campus for the love, support and hard work during her tenure as president the past seven years. As she says, “You helped lift Eastern up and made it shine as a beacon of opportunity for so many people to lead extraordinary lives. Thank you!”

And don’t forget to tag your photos #SueMar or share them with the President on Facebook Susan Martin (be her friend!).

First off, I think this is something more designed for “the kids,” as they say, so while I’m glad they’ve included faculty and staff, I have a feeling most selfie-seekers are going to be students. Second, be on the lookout for some amusing “SueMar” photos and tags on social media.

Four students arrested for protesting “American Sniper” movie

This made the news in The Eastern Echo here– “Four students arrested protesting American Sniper Friday night movie” and also at mLive here– “Protesters detained after disrupting ‘American Sniper’ showing at EMU.”  And it’s also a story that got picked up by Inside Higher Ed, too. It’s a bit of a confusing story to me, but here’s a quote from the mLive story that also paraphrases the Echo story:

About 40 students protested the film, according to a report by the university newspaper, The Eastern Echo.

The Echo reported that student protesters filed onto the stage and held up signs under the screen, before one student began speaking to the crowd.

“Do you want me to play a movie painting your people this way?” the student asked the audience, according to The Eastern Echo.

Audience members reportedly shouted back, “Tell us after.”

Larcom said the protesters received several warnings from police before the four were detained.

They were released shortly after with no charges, he said.

First off, I haven’t seen the movie. It’s not the kind of thing that appeals to me much for all kinds of different reasons and I probably would have agreed with the basic point of the protesters, and besides, I heard a lot of kind of mixed reviews when it came out. But second, I kind of agree with the audience members here: it seems to me it would have made a lot more sense to have some kind of discussion about the movie– maybe both before and after it was shown– rather than to simply try to stop it from being shown in the first place.

This all comes on the heels of events over at the University of Michigan, of course. There the movie was scheduled, then canceled, and then was going to show it along with a panel discussion, then savior football coach Jim Harbaugh tweeted his support for the movie, and then the U of M folks announced they had made a mistake originally in canceling the showing. And, to quote the mLive piece:

Ultimately, the movie was shown as previously scheduled on Friday, with the added option of a showing of the movie “Paddington,” to no major protest.

I wonder how many people saw Paddington?

“Yik Yak catches flack form Mich. universities”

From The Detroit News comes “Yik Yak catches flack form Mich. universities,” which, as the headline suggests, is more about, well, Yik Yak and flack.  It more or less rehashes the same arguments about Yik Yak that have already been trotted out, though I will highlight two passages I thought were kind of interesting. First there’s this:

Laura Krench, a junior at Eastern Michigan University, is a huge fan of Yik Yak. She downloaded the app onto her phone about a month ago and checks it about every 20 minutes throughout the day.

Recently, she commented on a yak from someone who posted that they had stopped cutting themselves for almost six months but had cut themselves three days in a row.

“If you feel like cutting, write about it, cry about it,” Krench wrote. “Find an alternative because hurting yourself is not the solution. I’ve been there and I believe in you. You can quit again, you truly can.”

I have to say that I’ve seen a lot of Yaks along these lines– maybe not quite this extreme, but Yaks that anonymously express some kind of loneliness, depression, etc. There are obvious problems with the anonymity of Yik Yak, but I’d suggest that a) Yik Yak becomes a safe space to express these kinds of thoughts, and b) Yik Yak is used a lot more for this kind of thing than it is for harassing professors.

The other passage I wanted to highlight from the end of the piece takes a bit of set-up. In the opening paragraphs, the reporter– Kim Kozlowski–  makes reference to Plato’s (aka Socrates’) low opinion of anonymity generally. I don’t know the dialog specifically where Plato talks about this, but given the high value Plato/Socrates places on the exchange between Socrates and others as a means of arriving at “Truth,” this makes a certain amount of sense. Then Kozolowski quotes EMU Professor Margaret Crouch about how the infamous Yik Yak incident made it impossible for her to teach because “they (the students, that is) did not respect us.” That leads to these concluding paragraphs:

Crouch said students need to be held accountable for violating the student code of conduct, especially in a world that continues to be changed by technology. Already the Internet has created distance between people who use it more often to communicate than face to face, and sometimes to hide as trolls on blogs.

Social media apps that allow anonymity change things even more, leaving no social sanctions — exactly what Plato was talking about centuries ago, Crouch said.

“The kind of behavior we think of as ethical or even just decent is kept in place by social sanction — by other people,” Crouch said. “There will be people who will do bad things if they don’t have the social coercion to behave. … So the idea that people will behave badly if they have anonymity has been around a long time. It’s not anything new.”

A couple of quick thoughts. First, without going too far into the weeds with this, what Crouch is talking about in terms of communication technologies like the Internet is more or less what my dissertation was about. What I argued way back then was that these technologies create what I described as “immediate” rhetorical situations, where the term “immediacy” has both positive and negative connotations. On the one hand, the quickness and juxtaposition of “immediacy” can be confusing and chaotic because of a lack of perspective, reflection, etc. On the other hand, immediacy also breaks down barriers, and it can foster connectedness and intimacy between communicators over a great distance. Or to be more direct about it, while the internet and anonymous communication is not universally good, it’s obviously not universally bad either.

Second, I’m not so sure about the “social coercion” to make students “behave” squares with students “respecting” their teachers. I’m not sure the two are related, and I’m quite sure that “coercion” is a bad way to get “respect.” We’ve all been in situations as students or other kinds of listeners where we “behaved” but where we also had zero respect for the teachers/speaker. So I guess I’m questioning the point where “respect” broke down, and I also am of the opinion that “coercion” is not a great approach to teaching.

And third, as Crouch says, this is nothing new, which is again why I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to ban Yik Yak.

“EMU pulls the plug on controversial Life in Color concert with a history of drug use, EMS runs”

From the Detroit ABC affiliate wxyz comes “EMU pulls the plug on controversial Life in Color concert with a history of drug use, EMS runs.” I had never heard of the whole “Life in Color,” which is described as the world’s largest paint party.” Basically, it’s what I believe the kids used to call a “Rave.” There’s a video of an investigative report that the WXYZ people did last year that talks about the unusual levels of drug use, EMS calls, and even some deaths. Here’s a quote from the WXYZ site:

The concert, scheduled since January, was set to take place on Saturday at EMU’s Convocation Center. On Tuesday, a WXYZ reporter asked EMU’s vice-president of communications whether the school was aware of the event’s dubious history.

Less than a day later, spokesman Walter Kraft released a statement saying the event was canceled because of “issues with the facility.” He would not comment further.

 

The Echo in the news: “Student newspaper ‘crass rant’: ‘There are too many babies'”

I just saw this in my EMU news feed: from Campus Reform comes “Student newspaper ‘crass rant’: ‘There are too many babies,'” and the student newspaper in question is our own Eastern Echo. Here’s a quote:

A blurb in Eastern Michigan University’s student publication claimed that there are too many pregnancies and made fun of parents.

“There are too many babies happening,” the post reads. “Why are you proud of throwing the rest of your life away? Will you still be gloating about your baby when it’s smearing its poop all over your new TV? I’ll be laughing with a glass of wine on a boat because I can literally do whatever I want, FOREVER!”

Katie Perrotta, a junior communication major at EMU, told Campus Reform in an interview Tuesday afternoon that she shocked to see the blurb when she picked up the newspaper.

“Seeing that this morning was kind of shocking,” Perrotta said. “I was very stunned at how insensitive it was or how close-minded it was to the big picture of what children are all about.”

Maybe it was kind of insensitive, maybe it was kind of funny– you be the judge. But I don’t think this is really a swipe at the “pro life” crowd, even though that’s the weird direction the rest of this article takes. And Perrotta happens to be the president of the EMU Students for Life group, too.

It also turns out that Campus Reform is a “project of the Leadership Institute,” which bills itself as “training conservative activist, students, and leaders since 1979.” So you know, a bit of an agenda there.

 

“Anonymous apps on the rise across college campuses”

There was a good story about Yik Yak the other day on the Michigan Radio show “Stateside” and it’s up on their site now:  “Anonymous apps on the rise across college campuses.” It’s a twelve and a half minute interview with the U of M’s Director of Social Media Nikki Sunstrum. Among other things, Sunstrum talks about meeting/talking with the folks who developed the app and their vision of it– they see themselves as a “more democratic Twitter.”

She also talked about the proactive approach to the app that they’ve taken at U of M. For example, there’s this post on the social media blog at U of M from back in September about Yik Yak.  That too is definitely worth reading because it explains what the app is and it also offers some solid advice for dealing with the cyberbullying/harassment problem that comes with this level of anonymity. Here’s a quote:

It’s up to us to change the tone of the yaks. Up-vote positive yaks that speak to us as Umich students, down-vote the yaks that can be degrading or hurtful to others, and flag hateful posts. By doing this we shape our common voice in a supportive way. Even though Yik Yak is anonymous, we can still step in to to stop the bullying found on this platform. If you see yaks about abuse or self-harm, suggest our student support resources link: http://studentlife.umich.edu/studentsupport. Our university also has resources such as CAPS, SAPAC, and our 24 hour helpline for those in need of professional help.

Yik Yak can be a way to share the hilarious and absurd thing you saw while studying in the UGLi. It can be the outlet you introduce a difficult issue that’s on your mind. It can be a way to anonymously reach out for support when you need it. Yik Yak is a culture-sharing medium. It’s hilarious and it’s entertaining. It can be distressing or it can be uplifting. It can connect us or tear us apart. Regardless of how you use Yik Yak, these fleeting posts have an impact on us.

 

“‘She’s spitting lies,’ says Julia Niswender’s aunt about grandmother’s comments”

From mLive, “‘She’s spitting lies,’ says Julia Niswender’s aunt about grandmother’s comments.”  Here’s a quote:

The tension was palpable in the courthouse as two camps of slain Eastern Michigan University student Julia Niswender’s family came to the court hearing to watch stepfather James Turnquist waive a preliminary examination in a child pornography case Tuesday.

After the brief hearing, dozens of family members spilled out into the hallway and outside the 1st District Court in Monroe. Some jeered and gave unfriendly gestures to family members from a distance.

Essentially, not even the family agrees if Turnquist had something to do with Julia’s murder. The court at least decided that he wasn’t that big of a threat because they lowered his bond in the case that’s been holding him in jail.

On the lighter side of all of this, here’s Buzzfeed’s “25 Hilarious Little Gems From Yik Yak”

A loyal EMUTalk reader (who also happens to be a departmental colleague, good friend, and someone who has sent me other Yik Yak links lately) sent me this from Buzzfeed, “25 Hilarious Little Gems From Yik Yak.”  I’m posting this here for two reasons. First, it’s funny. I realize that there are those who might say something like “THERE IS NOTHING AT ALL FUNNY ABOUT YIK YAK,” and I apologize in advance to those readers. And not all of these are equally funny, family-friendly, and/or politically correct.

Second, in my reading of Yik Yak (which really isn’t all that frequent), these kinds of posts are pretty typical. Sure, you do see ugly things like the language that characterized the infamous Yik Yak incident that has put EMU on the map for all the wrong reasons. But I think a much larger percentage of Yaks are more along these lines– or maybe a better way of putting it is most of the Yaks I have seen are attempts to be as funny as these.

And by the way, if you are doubting me about this and you haven’t yet checked out Yik Yak, what are you waiting for? As I said as part of a rather “spirited” Facebook conversation I had over the weekend, if you are in the “we need to ban Yik Yak” camp, it seems to me you ought to at least see what it is you’re trying to ban.

But in the meantime, read these. They’re pretty funny.

 

“Colleges Should Stop Worrying About Yik Yak and Start Respecting Their Students”

An alert EMUTalk.org reader sent me this the New Republic web site, “Colleges Should Stop Worrying About Yik Yak and Start Respecting Their Students.”  It’s a very smart piece by David Sessions (who is a PhD student at Boston College), and if you only read two articles about all of this Yikking and Yakking, I’d say read this one and the New York Times article I posted the other day.

I take away three things from this piece. First, if you’re concerned about Yik Yak one way or the other and you have smart phone, install it and see for yourself. My take on the conversation is similar to Sessions: most of it (he says 70%, I’d say more like 90%) is some version of “I’m alone in my dorm and wish I had someone to talk to and possibly touch,” and (I would add) “I’m so high and/or I would like to be high.” Not exactly debates over the Platonic ideal, but not particularly surprising, either.

Second, the “brute reality” is the only way Yik Yak is going away is if the government intervenes (and no one wants that), and cyberbullying/abuse happened before Yik Yak and will happen after Yik Yak. The real project we should be engaging in is figuring out how to live in this reality rather than figuring out to make it go away.

And third, this last paragraph in Sessions’ piece:

College students are neither inherently predatory nor inherently vulnerable, and the proper response to technological challenges is not suspicion, fear, and punishment. With Yik Yak, like everything else, it’s hard to expect students to respect their classmates and professors, and to stand up when they feel wronged, if the university already presumes they’re incapable of doing so.

Exactly.

“Popular Yik Yak App Confers Anonymity and Delivers Abuse”

Just when I thought the whole Yik Yak thing was dying down comes this (which I learned about from an alert EMUTalk reader and a colleague), from the Sunday New York Times, “Popular Yik Yak App Confers Anonymity and Delivers Abuse.” Here’s a long quote from the opening paragraphs that makes it clear why this is particularly relevant for EMU:

During a brief recess in an honors course at Eastern Michigan University last fall, a teaching assistant approached the class’s three female professors. “I think you need to see this,” she said, tapping the icon of a furry yak on her iPhone.

The app opened, and the assistant began scrolling through the feed. While the professors had been lecturing about post-apocalyptic culture, some of the 230 or so freshmen in the auditorium had been having a separate conversation about them on a social media site called Yik Yak. There were dozens of posts, most demeaning, many using crude, sexually explicit language and imagery.

After class, one of the professors, Margaret Crouch, sent off a flurry of emails — with screenshots of some of the worst messages attached — to various university officials, urging them to take some sort of action. “I have been defamed, my reputation besmirched. I have been sexually harassed and verbally abused,” she wrote to her union representative. “I am about ready to hire a lawyer.”

In the end, nothing much came of Ms. Crouch’s efforts, for a simple reason: Yik Yak is anonymous. There was no way for the school to know who was responsible for the posts.

Eastern Michigan is one of a number of universities whose campus has been roiled by offensive “yaks.” Since the app’s introduction a little more than a year ago, it has been used to issue threats of mass violence on more than a dozen college campuses, including the University of North Carolina, Michigan State University and Penn State. Racist, homophobic and misogynist “yaks” have generated controversy at many more, among them Clemson, Emory, Colgate and the University of Texas. At Kenyon College, a “yakker” proposed a gang rape at the school’s women’s center.

The article goes on from there, and I think it does a pretty good job of summing up the way Yik Yak works and the limitations/problems/dilemmas universities face in doing anything about it.  Though since this is now news in the New York Times, I have to wonder: what has happened with Crouch’s threat of hiring a lawyer?