College campuses across the country have measures in place to help prevent crimes against students, but when it comes to cyberbullying and online harassment, who should be keeping women safe?
In the opinions of women’s and civil rights groups, it should be the colleges themselves.
More than 70 such groups across the country have called on the U.S. Education Department to tell colleges and universities to monitor social media sites like Yik Yak, which lets users post anonymous comments about anyone online.
“Students on college campuses throughout the country have with increasing frequency used anonymous social media applications, such as Yik Yak, to target women students, students of color, and sexual minorities with harassment, threats, and other forms of intimidation with impunity,” the coalition said in a press release.
According to InsideHigherEd.com, these anonymous sounding boards are basically open season on anyone these anonymous people want to target – and female students can be targeted for something as innocent as turning down a date.
Currently, Yik Yak can filter out offensive speech (much like an online message board), but lawyers have pointed out simply changing a word to make it sound like something else (“grape” for “rape,” for example) lets the user publish their post.
The coalition wants to put it on colleges and universities to monitor these boards for possible harassment, though they say colleges have been quick to turn down the responsibility in the past because students can log into Yik Yak without using university servers.
And some colleges argue that monitoring Yik Yak’s feeds would be a violation of First Amendment rights, which allow people the right to freedom of speech.
Still, the coalition doesn’t think that it’s a matter of First Amendment rights at all as much as Title IX, a federal law that prevents discrimination or harassment in higher education.
“How many women have to be violated, threatened, harassed, intimidated, or even die before University administrators decide that they have a crisis on their hands,” Eleanor Smeal, the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation said in a statement.
“Simply put, sexual assault must be treated more seriously by universities. One in five women on college campuses being assaulted is an epidemic.”
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