The Miller Learning Center at UGA was evacuated from 12:15-1:13 due to a threat posted on the social networking app YikYak. The app, which displays anonymous messages from nearby users and is popular on college campuses, saw a message this morning reading “if you want to live don’t be at the SLC [Student Learning Center, the building’s name to upperclassmen] at 12:15.” Predictably, the app’s users responded by praying that star running back Todd Gurley would be rescued first.
At 12:15, University of Georgia Police burst in to classrooms in the SLC and demanded a full evacuation. Law enforcement arrived in force, complete with closed roads, K-9 units, and one temporarily-deputized UGA staffer who refused to shake my outstretched hand. At least one helicopter has been seen overhead. UGA students received an automated all-clear phone call at 1:13.
Two elements of the zeitgeist are apparent. YikYak has been routinely criticized for allowing young people to make anonymous comments they wouldn’t have the courage or stupidity to say in person- which is also its charm. It’s been banned from several public schools and has been labeled “the most dangerous app I’ve ever seen” by one psychiatrist. Presumably the apps of his childhood were far more benign.
The other is the militarization of school security that is undoubtedly necessary yet intensely troubling. Most students treated the event as what it was- a joke, a freshman who didn’t study for a test, or a drunk frat boy with no sense of boundaries. The screaming police officers, blinding lights, and bomb-sniffing dogs aren’t in the joke. They instruct us- as does more and more of our paranoid, safety-conscious, heavily armed world- that we aren’t safe here.