Rogue ‘support agent’ plays on racial tensions following ‘Urban Congo’ spat

When a campus newspaper reported that the entire university might get kicked off a popular social-messaging app because its students were jerks, it threw everyone into a panic.

Yik Yak told The College Fix that report was based a false source. But it raised the issue of how explosive the app has become on the nation’s campuses.

The service, which lets users in a specific geographic area post anonymously to a single feed for their community, has already blocked itself from middle and high schools following reports of cyberbullying. Its policy prohibits users under 17.

Yet some college administrators, student leaders and campus activists want Yik Yak to treat their schools the same way – either do more to crack down on racist, sexist or other offensive speech, or face blocking from their campus networks.

The service has some technical capability to identify users when asked: This past weekend Yik Yak helped the FBI identify a student who threatened a mass shooting at Oklahoma State University.

‘Possibly disabling submissions from this region entirely’

yikyakThe Daily Princetonian reported last week that a “Yik Yak support agent” had told a student the service was considering banning Yik Yak content within the university’s region.

“We have received an unusually large number of reports from this area, in the past few days, which has gotten our attention,” the agent wrote in an email to the student, according to the paper.

“We are currently considering implementing manual submission approval or possibly disabling submissions from this region completely.” (The act of banning a region’s Yik Yak content is known as “geo-fencing.”)

But the alleged agent whose email was obtained by the paper is not associated with Yik Yak, Director of Communications Hilary McQuaide told The Fix.

“We’re talking with the Daily Princetonian about a correction with their article. This was not an email that was … sent by us. It is not an email from Yik Yak,” McQuaide said.

A kerfuffle over a racially-tinged performance troupe

The Princetonian’s report fed into existing controversy over the app on campus.

BuzzFeed reported April 8 that the Princeton performance troupe “Urban Congo,” composed of swimming and diving team members who bang on percussion while wearing loincloths, had disbanded after one of its shows was shared to Snapchat.

Black students in particular took to Yik Yak to criticize the performance for mocking African tribal culture, and they in turn were criticized by others on the app, some of whom partially identified the black students.

Though Yik Yak declined to comment on the specifics of the content issue at Princeton, McQuaide noted that the service relies on users to deal with offensive content through its “voting” system.

“We have the community up and down voting posts and Yik Yak monitors as well and users can self-report. We have many things working in tandem to maintain a healthy community,” McQuaide said.

The problem with Yik Yak isn’t its content per se, but that its anonymity encourages users to target social movements with impunity, according to a student at a nearby school who says it shouldn’t be banned from campuses.

“Five years from now, [personal time capsule app] Timehop won’t remind certain Yakkers that they compared black people to monkeys during a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration on Livingston [campus],” Rutgers University student Alexandra Meier wrote in The Daily Targum last month.

“It’s time to bring a sense of permanence and accountability for using Yik Yak as a platform for dickheadedness,” Meier said.

A double-edged sword

Yet the app’s anonymity can also challenge the power dynamics inherent in college.

The Fix reported last month that Eastern Michigan University put a mandatory pro-environmentalism honors course on hiatus following student complaints about it on Yik Yak.

One professor in that class didn’t appreciate the comments.

“I have been defamed, my reputation besmirched. I have been sexually harassed and verbally abused,” Margaret Crouch wrote to her union representative, according to The New York Times. “I am about ready to hire a lawyer.”

Even if schools or Yik Yak itself don’t act to block or moderate offensive content on the app, students can voluntarily choose to leave certain conversations off it, student Avaneesh Narla wrote in The Daily Princetonian this week.

“Yik Yak is great for crude jokes and complaints, but we shouldn’t use it as a forum for arguments/dialogue or consider it as indicative of campus mentality,” Narla said.

College Fix reporter Matthew Boyer is a student at Rutgers University.

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IMAGE: Fox 10 screenshot

A “woman of color” professor at Ohio University who just got poached by Northwestern University is throwing shade at her employer on her way out.

The Post reports that the school’s black student population is growing but its percentage of black faculty has fallen, and the most recent to depart is political science professor Debra Thompson:

“Faculty of color generally face pretty obvious institutional discrimination — good old-fashioned racism,” Thompson said. “This is my fourth year, and this is the most racist place I’ve ever lived in my life.”

Thompson said the university puts on a good face for the public, like many institutions.

 “Yeah, we have a black president, but no black faculty, and the numbers are diminishing,” Thompson said. “We have no efforts to recruit faculty of color. We have no efforts to retain faculty of color. We have no diversity plan.”

The school’s president is Roderick McDavis, who has been jousting with the student government all year. A recent anti-McDavis campaign led by progressive students included “memes that portrayed President McDavis in an extremely radicalized manner,” as one critic put it.

Thompson doesn’t actually give any examples of the racism she’s faced, and the article provides no specific incidents of racism at the school.

Another recently departed black administrator told The Post that he gets “stopped by police, often,” but “Those are common things that happen anywhere” – not just Athens, Ohio.

Read the story.

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The past week and a half was … “eventful” for Princeton.

The outrage still rocks on regarding the performance by a group dubbed “Urban Congo” — a “joke dance group” comprised of members of the school’s swimming team. It seems their dress, “the way they dance,” and even their name “is offensive and perpetuates stereotypes of Africans.”

Then there’s the matter of rapper Big Sean headlining the big Lawnparties event.

Students Duncan Hosie and Rebecca Basaldua began a petition to oust the performer from the big bash due to the “promoting [of] rape culture and misogyny” in his lyrics.

Hosie told The Daily Princetonian that after he saw the Undergraduate Student Government’s (USG) promotional video for the event, which featured Big Sean repeating the lyrics “stupid ass bitch” from his hit song “IDFWU,” he reached out to Basaldua. Together they agreed to start a petition against Big Sean’s involvement with the event and open up a dialogue on campus about the selection of acts for school events like this one.

“After I saw that video, I started researching Big Sean’s language and I found language that was both misogynistic and homophobic,” Hosie said. “We wrote an op-ed piece that we published on Google Docs [on Sunday] and wanted to see the number of supporters. Right now, close to 500 people have signed.”

The petition asserts that “USG Should stop promoting rape culture and misogyny by rescinding the offer to Big Sean to headline Lawnparties Spring ’15. In the future, USG should strive to bring non-misogynistic acts to campus.”

University President Christopher Eisgruber got involved first by sending out an email addressing the matter(s), and then holding a gathering at the University Chapel last Sunday.

As you might expect, the perpetually aggrieved weren’t satisfied:

Ifunanya Nwogbaga ’18 said he believed that Eisgruber overlooked the severity of the issue in the email and had “the wrong message.”

“I could see how Eisgruber’s message was really not totally appropriate. It’s kind of implying that the things that have been happening are okay and that they need to be discussed, when really they should not be happening at all,” he said.

Nwogbaga added that Eisgruber should have acknowledged that the Urban Congo incident offended black students in particular.

And further:

Some students who gathered in the University Chapel on Sunday to address issues of racism and prejudice turned their backs on University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, and some walked out.

U-Councilor Naimah Hakim ’16 then introduced four students who presented a list of demands, including dignity, accountability and change.

While these students spoke, other students stood in the aisle of the Chapel with signs protesting for change. After the four students onstage finished their remarks, they and the protesters in the aisle marched out of the church, chanting, “Hate speech is not free speech.”

Wow — now we got a demand for dignity.

It’s well worth reading the comments at the Daily Princetonian articles as it’s there you’ll encounter comments by students (well, hopefully by students) that will assuage at least some of your fears about the future of civilization.

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Debate on race at UCLA between Jason Riley and Randall Kennedy tackles where to lay the blame for the ‘black body count’

LOS ANGELES – Two black intellectuals engaged in a heated exchange at UCLA this week over the high homicide rate among young black men and the shooting deaths of black men by racist or lawless police officers, with one arguing that’s not the main problem facing the black community and the other suggesting it’s a huge crisis.

The dispute took place during a debate on campus titled “Liberal Policies Make it Harder for Black Americans to Succeed” between Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal and Harvard law school Professor Randall Kennedy.

Riley is a noted conservative television and newspaper pundit who has written extensively on racial issues, including in his recent bookPlease Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed.” Kennedy teaches contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations at Harvard Law School. He has likewise written voluminously on race and his most recent book is “For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law.”DebateSlider

The testy exchange during the debate saw both speakers interrupting each other and raising their voices.

Kennedy contended that racism within police departments is a major problem that leads to the killing of blacks as well as a black distrust of law enforcement and disrespect for the rule of law. He decried “rogue cops,” and suggested the criminal justice system is unable to discipline them.

But Riley pointed out the criminal justice system is “run by one black man who reports to another black man.” He also noted that less than 2 percent of black shooting deaths are at the hands of police officers and that, in fact, 90 percent of black shooting deaths are at the hands of other blacks. He also talked about how some of the worst black crime rates can be found in cities that have historically had many black mayors and police chiefs.

“I don’t think racism is the explanation,” Riley said. “It is not the Klan driving through the neighborhood shooting it up. These black kids in Boston, New Orleans, Chicago and New York are not shooting each other because of white racism. They are shooting each other because they have no sense of what it means to be a man, or to be black for that matter. They have a warped sense of racial identity, and this is how they settle their scores. It does not have to do with white racism and cops, it has to do with upbringing and values in fatherless homes.”

Riley tied his statements in the exchange into his basic point that blacks need to stop blaming the white bogeyman and instead honestly face their own cultural problems.

Kennedy said police – the guardians of law and order – should be held to higher standards than “thugs” who commit crimes.

Riley then noted that homicide is the leading cause of death among young black men, and asked Kennedy whether focusing on police shootings of blacks or blacks shooting of blacks would help reduce the “black body count.”

“That is a huge problem that is going to require a multi-focus,” Kennedy responded. “… I am not saying white racism is the all-debatepurpose explanation for what we are talking about. I am saying is what we are going to have to do is address many different things. One of those things, however, is the problem of police.”

Kennedy argued that while the notion of obeying the law has broken down in some black communities because of some of the reasons Riley stated, he added another reason is “when you see the police acting in a lawless way, that too breaks down the feeling of law-abidingness.”

“There just aren’t enough of those cases to make a dent,” Riley countered. “That is not to say we should ignore the fact that we have cops misbehaving. But it is to say to focus on that is to go wide of the mark. Cops are about six times as likely to be shot by someone black than the opposite. Yet we have [media] commentators selling this scenario that black men in America in poor communities walk around in fear of being shot by cops. That is not the case. They walk around in fear of being shot by other young black men. That is the reality. … The cops are in these neighborhoods because that is where the 9-1-1 calls originate.”

Is focusing on police brutality as the main problem going to reduce the black body count, Riley posited. No, he argued.

“If [police] are now overly concerned with being second-guessed of every decision they make, they are going to be more hesitant, they are going to be less aggressive when it comes to keeping peace in these neighborhoods. That will result, I fear, in a higher black body count.”

It was just one of many issues tackled by the two men during the one-hour debate Monday night at UCLA. They also disagreed on whether affirmative action has helped or hurt African-Americans, and if it’s American’s collective duty to provide “insurance” for victims of racism.

The two debaters’ speaking styles were polar opposites: Riley was soft-spoken, concise, and calm, whereas Professor Kennedy bellowed, used verbose rhetorical flourishes, and often displayed intense emotion.

In Riley’s opening statement, he stressed two major points. First, that liberal social policy since the Civil Rights Act of 1965 has been at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive toward black advancement. Second, that in order to advance, blacks must face tough and often taboo questions about cultural problems within black communities, and cease blaming their problems on residual white racism.

One overarching theme for Riley was the juxtaposition between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Riley stated the government should only be in the business of guaranteeing the former and should not be striving for the latter.

Kennedy structured his opening argument in favor of affirmative action, and the other liberal social policies that Riley called ineffective, by drawing a parallel between these programs and other types of “social insurance” the government provides.

Kennedy argued that Americans collectively provide insurance for disasters, disability, age, economic depression like that seen in the financial crisis of 2008, and the destruction wrought by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He then offered the premise that racism is a social catastrophe that should be viewed by government in a similar fashion as the other sorts of catastrophes he mentioned. He stressed that it is American’s collective duty to provide “insurance” for victims of racism. Kennedy proclaimed one form this insurance could take would be to guarantee every person in the country a job, whether they have the skills for the job or not.

In the rebuttal period, Riley called Kennedy out for not addressing his claim that the last fifty years of liberal social policy have led to black retrogression. He said the argument against affirmative action and other similar policies is a pragmatic rather than a theoretical one.

Riley said there is 50 years of history showing that such policies simply don’t work. He gave some evidence to bolster his argument: between 1940 and 1960 the black poverty rate fell by 40 percent, all before the Civil Rights Act was passed, and the rate of decrease in the poverty rate has slowed since liberal policies began to be implemented in the 60s. He also noted that black unemployment rates and incarceration rates were lower in the 60s than they are now.

Riley conceded that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were “liberalism at its best,” but that most of the economic gains blacks have made can’t be attributed to government policies such as affirmative action. Riley noted that the number of black “white-collar workers” quadrupled between 1940 and 1970, before affirmative action was implemented.

In Kennedy’s rebuttal, he refuted Riley’s argument that the blame for black retrogression should be laid at liberalism’s doorstep, noting liberals haven’t had a monopoly over policy in the last fifty years inasmuch as Reagan and both Bushes have served as presidents.

In addressing affirmative action, Kennedy flashed his oratory skills: “I am an unapologetic champion of affirmative action, I am an affirmative action baby, I’m not suffering a neurotic tremor about that.”

Responding to Riley’s point that pragmatism should be the focus in designing policy, Kennedy said “I’m experimental, even if it’s a conservative idea, give it a shot to see if it works.”

Roughly 75 people turned out for the debate. Matt Malkan, a professor of physics at UCLA who attended, said the debate was historic, with nothing like it happening in the last 10 to 15 years on campus.

It was hosted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an organization dedicated to “Educating for Liberty” and co-founded by conservative icon William F. Buckley.

College Fix reporter Josh Hedtke is a student at UCLA.

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Yeah, that’s the reason.

The University of Georgia’s Red & Black reports on a lecture by Enrique Neblett Jr., an associate professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has researched black college students and their mental health.

But he also claims their physical health suffers from racism:

His study built on previous evidence that racism is tied with anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (among others) and tested what role racism plays in the development of risk factors that cause these diseases.

“When African American youth are going to college and leaving home, their parents are no longer right there,” Neblett said. “Youth are thinking about their identity and may experience race discrimination for the first time. Experiencing racism might lead to compromised health. For example, some students will cope by eating fatty snacks.”

And I thought binging on ice cream was something every freshman did, regardless of their skin color.

Neblett made his subjects “listen to short scenarios in which a subtle act of racism was described, such as an African American individual being passed over when waiting in line, or a blatant act of racism, such as being called a racial slur,” and also categorized them by “ideology” – such as “assimilationist,” “humanist” and “race-focused.”

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IMAGE: Dry Hundred Fear/Flickr




You can tolerate racism as long as it serves a larger purpose?

College Fix readers may remember we featured an Ohio University student-run parody show that made fake Twitter accounts for each campaign in student elections.

One of the presidential candidates, Ryant Taylor, had complained on the parodists’ Facebook page that they hadn’t asked for permission.

Now Taylor’s own campaign page on Facebook has come under fire for allowing racist pictures to remain up for several days, and marginalizing the critic who pointed them out.

Kyle Serrott, the “lone male worker” in the campus Women’s Center, writes in The New Political why he can no longer support the BARE ticket, which includes Taylor, a member of the Student Union.

It has to do with a rally Taylor helped organize against the school’s leasing of a new residence for President Roderick McDavis, who along with his wife is black. Taylor helped administer the rally’s Facebook page:

However, the page was quickly hijacked by members outside of the Student Union with memes that portrayed President McDavis in an extremely racialized manner. These photos played on the historical themes of animalizing Black men, sexualizing Black men, and criminalizing Black men. While these photos were extremely problematic, they garnered many “likes” and comments from several members of the Student Union, staff members of OU and even faculty members/professors.

I was shocked to see that these photos were not only allowed to remain on the page through the weekend leading up to the BAT RALLY, but encouraged other photos to be placed, including one which placed Deborah McDavis riding an elephant, playing up numerous tropes that connects Blacks with Africa and serves to animalize Black people.

The Student Union, which is all about “ending institutionalized racism, sexism, trans-phobia, [and] homophobia,” responded harshly to Serrott’s public criticism on Facebook, Serrott said.

Taylor allegedly told Serrott that he was “conflicted with the images himself, but ultimately decided not to do anything about it”:

He went on to tell me that he would have preferred that I sent him or another event organizer a private Facebook message instead of “causing drama” on the page.

Another administrator, Jessica Ensley – previously featured by The Fix for her demand that the school ban Yik Yak for its “misogyny, racism and bullying” – echoed Taylor:

She expressed to me in her message that she also thought that the photos were racist, including the one she posted depicting Deborah McDavis riding an elephant. Despite her unease with how the photo portrays racist tropes, she expressed to me that she posted it anyway and did not publically call out racism on the page because she “didn’t want to take away from the message of the rally.”

Serrott claims his post that “stirred drama” was deleted from the Facebook page and that the racist photos were only removed “several days after” he called them out:

I am fully convinced that had I not said anything publically, the photos would not have been removed and no such statement about not condoning racism would have been issued.

What is even more problematic is that Ryant was willing to allow racism in order to further the cause of his own belief. This is unacceptable behavior and rhetoric for a potential future leader of Student Senate. Ryant, and those on the ticket who are also members of the Student Union, must be held accountable for their actions.

Man, student elections are fun!

Read the letter.

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IMAGE: Ben Siegel/Ohio University