Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are my own and do not represent the Bridgewater State University Honors Program as a whole.
About two weeks before winter break, I was sitting on the couch in the Office of Institutional Diversity scrolling through a particularly unpleasant Yik Yak feed. Between the usual lamenting of parking logistics and appeals for Netflix watching buddies, my feed was dominated with comments such as “can we stop talking about race?” “I’m not gonna bandwagon on hippie issues” and the intentionally dismissive #whitelivesmatter hashtag in response to the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the protesting that followed. I thought, “here is one of the most popular and telling visuals of our collective student consciousness, and it’s littered with disheartening, dismissive commentary. What kind of message does this send about our campus culture and students’ attitude towards issues of injustice?
In that moment, not a particularly good one.
A medium like Yik Yak, I understand, is not wholly or perfectly representative of the BSU student body. (And, due to its anonymous nature, it can be easily overrun by trolls.) However, it was a sharp reminder of the viewpoints that exist outside the comparatively tolerant circle I’ve built myself on campus and the implications they have on student life at BSU. If it serves to legitimize my outrage, I am hardly the first to see posts to the app as symptomatic of a larger problem. As Dr. Judith Willison told me in the office that day, “this tells us what kind of work we have left to do.”
As a student with a vested interest in how social issues are addressed and understood at my school, I take cues from an array of sources to gauge students’ opinions on current events. I operate on the premise that BSU works better when students have a comprehensive, working knowledge of social justice and the capacity to articulate their views. As an honors student, I recognize that social justice is both a cornerstone of the program and a sizable piece of my heart and brain. It is my wish that within the Honors Program and beyond, BSU becomes a more welcoming place to discuss polarizing issues. In the coming months I hope to post more social justice oriented pieces to facilitate productive dialogue.