Students Call on Roseman to Ban Yik Yak

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President Nancy Roseman told a group of about 30 students at her open office hour that she would look into their request to ban a popular social media app and would renew campus wide discussions about inclusivity and cultural sensitivity.

Some of the students seemed satisfied with Roseman’s response to their concerns but others were not.

Students were upset about Yik Yak posts following a Social Justice House open meeting on Sept. 14 where approximately 100 students gathered in response to photos and comments circulated on social media allegedly showing racially offensive behavior at a Sept. 12 theme party.

At a follow up meeting on Sept. 16, the students decided to take their concerns to Roseman.

The Yik Yak posts from the evening of the first meeting included “I like watermelons, sombreros, tacos and tequila. Once gave a blanket to an Indian. Does that make me a racist or an oppressor,” “If you were offended by the sombrero but dress up for Halloween, you’re a hypocrite. Someone somewhere might be offended by any Halloween costume” and “So it’s clear that illegal immigrants did actually break the law right? Like even if that’s who was being made fun of, it’s not like you’re picking on innocent people. They chose to break laws.”

During the Sept. 16 open meeting at the Social Justice House, students decided to bring their complaints about Yik Yak directly to Roseman during her office hour, stemming from a workshop led by Social Justice House resident Janel Pineda ’18.

“The workshop that I gave on stories is designed to help people pin point the stories that are personal to them, that are personal to this campus and why those stories matter. It was important for us to act now and to discuss why acting now is important. And it is because we have been silent for too long,” Pineda said, referring to people of underrepresented backgrounds.

Alejandro Heredia ’16 was the first to approach Roseman with his story, followed by Sharaldine Francisco ’16 and Jacqueline Amezcua ’19, with each one emphasizing their desire for Yik Yak to be banned on campus. At this point, John Dinsmore ’16, senior class president, who was attending his regular open hours meeting with Roseman, noticed the crowd of students waiting for their turn to speak to Roseman and motioned for everyone to join the conversation.

Amezcua said that after only three weeks on campus, she does not feel welcome or wanted.

“I was accused of being whitewashed by people in my dorm,” she shared.

Roseman responded to calls for actions. She explained the “need for this campus to finally start a conversation about inclusivity. We have a lot of work to do but we’ve got to start somewhere.”

Roseman also acknowledged the students’ concerns with Yik Yak and agreed to look into solutions for banning it on campus. But she does not believe the app is the primary concern.

“Yik Yak is a symptom. It’s a vehicle,” she said.

Pineda raised the problem of racism, asking Roseman whether it is tolerated on Dickinson’s campus.

In response, Roseman explained, “No, you never don’t react to it…. I want you to feel like this is your institution.” Referring to Amezcua, she continued, “That she’s afraid to leave her room cannot stand. You engage in dialogue in your community…. You can’t bare that by yourself, we have to do it as an institution.”

Some students were happy with the conversations while others were not. Brander Suero ’17 questioned Roseman’s answers directly in the conversation.

“What I’ve gotten from you is that you can’t help us. We have to help ourselves,” he said.

But Roseman assured him that the topics of inclusivity and diversity are a priority for her.

“Every time I speak in public, I speak about this. And that’s my job, to push, push, push. But it won’t be as effective unless we push together. They can ignore me but they can’t ignore you as a collective,” she stated.

Other students made it clear that the lunch hour would not be the last time they voiced their concerns.

“We’re not going to stop here because of this conversation. We’re going to be all over campus,” Dejvi Ndreca ’19 said.

“This is not a people of color problem, it’s a campus problem,” Stephanie Read ’16 said, calling for a more inclusive campus effort to confront racism.

Kristina Rodriguez ’19 acknowledged Roseman’s limitations in banning Yik Yak but is frustrated by the difficulty of immediate action.

“I feel that it is frustrating being told that the president of this institution basically cannot do anything about this huge issue,” Rodriguez said. “It is truly disheartening and I think the next steps should be to target faculty who are the people who actually vote on and make decisions for this campus…It is frustrating to hear that things are being done but we have no time frame and nothing seems to ever be able to be done right now – in this moment.”

Pineda saw the lunch hour conversation as a good starting point for future action.

“I think the event was successful in getting students to voice their opinions and share their stories directly with President Roseman so that she could be more aware of what concerns students specifically have,” she said. “And I think that it was definitely a good start to begin working towards a more inclusive and safe and diverse campus community.”

Pineda hopes there is more clear communication between students and the administration in the future, starting with administration “directly address[ing] the racial divides on campus.”

Student Senate President Ian Hower, who accompanied Roseman to the open hour, said that he was pleased with the turnout.

“That was exactly what the lunches with President Roseman and I were intended to be; an opportunity for students to have their voice heard by the leadership of the College in a casual setting,” Hower said. “The energy and passion the students brought was profound and is already resulting in action by Student Senate and the Administration.”

Roseman said after the conversation that Dickinson has a lot of work to do in order to create an inclusive community. She said she will release a campus-wide letter but emphasized the need for more dialogue.

“Dickinson, as a community, must honestly acknowledge that it has much work to do to make our community an inclusive one where every single member of our community feels they are fully included and embraced in every aspect of the institution,” she said. “We must have a more open and honest dialogue, we must listen and learn from one another so that all of our students can thrive in and out of the classroom.”