October 21, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

It is likely that many of you are already aware of the return of Yik Yak, the social media application that allows any user within a certain geographic radius to post and comment under cover of anonymity. As many institutions have been grappling with issues related to Yik Yak as of late, we write today to bring your attention to the potential for abuse of the application, the harm this application can cause, and to make you aware of resources available on our campus. 

The Yik Yak application was relaunched this Fall with an extensive description of “community guardrails” that govern conduct on the application. Yik Yak’s “guardrails” ban conduct such as “bullying,” “abuse,” “trolling,” “impersonations” and “hurtful jokes,” among other categories of conduct. The application also specifically bans the use of real names and allows users to report posts when real names are used. When reported, posts containing real names appear to have been removed relatively quickly.

Because Yik Yak is a third-party application that allows posts from anonymous users who may or may not be part of our community, it is virtually impossible for the Colleges to identify specific users and link them to certain posts. Nevertheless, the Colleges’ policies will be enforced to the extent possible. Hobart and William Smith in no way condone harassment, direct threats, defamation or other forms of unprotected speech that interfere with our students’ access to an education and our employees’ rights in the workplace. We will foster an inclusive learning environment for all members of the community. We ask for students to do the same. 

To that end, this message does not aim to diminish our shared capacity to participate in open and critical academic engagement and expression. Indeed, for students wishing to discuss difficult or controversial topics on substantive issues, college is the perfect place. There are more engaging forums than Yik Yak, both in-person and virtually, to discuss challenging topics, to question each other’s opinions, and openly participate in dialogical practices. We encourage students, faculty, and staff who may be using this application to consider our collective responsibility to support one another.

For those individuals wishing to file a report related to a violation of campus policies, please contact Campus Safety at 315-781-3000. 

For those wishing to speak to confidential supports, please contact: 

  • the Counseling Center at 315-781-3388
  • the Office for Spiritual Engagement at 315-781-3671

The Offices of Student Engagement (315-781-3880), Campus Life (315-781-3900), and Title IX Programs and Compliance (315-781-3922) are also available for private conversation and support.  

Thank you to those students and others who have shared their continued concerns.  


B.B. Barile
Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students 

Khuram Hussain
Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Bill Boerner
Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion/Title IX Coordinator