DCU has seen a surge in online bullying over the past year, according to the Students’ Union (SU) President, Kim Sweeney.
The SU has been inundated with complaints of bullying mainly through the Yik Yak app which allows users to post comments relevant to their area, anonymously. The SU President circulated an email at the start of the year encouraging students to act responsibly on the app.
“I’m actually on Yik Yak myself to monitor it. I keep an eye on it and I have seen awful things being said about students, societies, groups of people in DCU,” she said.
Sweeney has heard from students who have been caused anxiety by the app. “For example people not even wanting to go to the library incase they get talked about. People are aware that they could be written about at any point. I don’t want any student to be uncomfortable to walk around campus.”
The Yik Yak app became popular in Ireland in the latter part of last year. It is popular in universities throughout the country and was recently the subject of controversy when a thread on the app speculated that the University College Cork (UCC) Welfare Officer was dealing cocaine from her SU office.
Katie Quinlan strongly denied the unsubstantiated rumours. “According to a small minority on this app, I’m UCC’s very own Pablo Escobar selling cocaine from the sanctity of the Welfare Office. This is problematic for a number of reasons, the main one being that it is entirely untrue,” she wrote on thebuzz.ie.
“It really is disheartening to watch people use a social media app to spread lies and slander about you. These people aren’t making juvenile insults, they’re accusing me of a very serious crime and these same claims are completely unfounded,” Quinlan writes.
Quinlan and others who have been defamed on the app can track the person responsible according to Sweeney. “In the case of Katie in UCC she has been advised that if she wants to, the UCC equivalent of ISS would support her, you can find them via the IP address it is possible to find out who is writing stuff. If there was a serious case, and the person wanted to, we could try and suss out who it was.”
Sweeney encouraged students to down vote negative comments and to mindful of not causing distress to their fellow student.
“We are an amber flag university and we would hope that no one else would affect anyone else’s study by saying something mean, they wouldn’t know what would be going on behind the scenes of someone else’s life.”