YikYak: Providence College’s New Public Safety

by Halle Beranek '24 on November 4, 2023
Guest Writer


Generations predating Gen Z frequently express their disdain regarding anonymous social media posting platforms like YikYak, citing that they allow for misinformation to be spread and harmful gossip to ensue. Within the past month, off-campus student homes have been broken into, burglarized–one an armed robbery–and on-campus residents have harbored peepers taking photos in bathrooms, while non-PC students have entered buildings and attempted to enter residences. Rather than hearing news of these events immediately from the Office of Public Safety, students have turned to outlets like YikYak and GroupMe for information. As such, I’ve come to wonder if platforms like YikYak are a saving grace for students when our own Public Safety Department fails again and again to protect and serve.

On Saturday Sept. 23, an off-campus residence was broken into, the first floor door being shattered and various items stolen from the home. Security camera footage recorded the perpetrator, a young adult male in a navy blue hoodie with a gray and black stocking cap; and a gray facial covering over the mouth and nose. At another home, camera footage recorded the same perpetrator wearing a navy blue hoodie, khaki pants, red and black sneakers, and gloves trying door handles on parked cars at 4:38 a.m. Within a two hour time span, students from nearly every off-campus street shared security footage of the same man trying the door handles of parked cars. One student even shared footage of the same perpetrator from Sept. 3. All this information and more was shared in the PC Class of 2024 GroupMe while word of it was being passed around on YikYak as well. What was shared by Providence College Office of Public Safety on Sept. 23 was the below statement:

Please be advised that Providence College (PC) students have reported to The Providence Police Department (PPD) and the Office of Public Safety, that on Saturday, September 23 unknown person(s) attempted to gain access into residences in the adjacent neighborhood. PPD is further investigating the incidents, and we are continuing to work with Providence Police on this matter.

If you have any information, please contact the Office of Public Safety at 401-865-2391 or Providence Police at 401-272-3121. 

Suspect information:   

No known suspect description was reported.

I take issue with two prominent parts of this report: (1) that students were not notified of the reports during the time in which they occurred, leaving them ignorant of threats to their well-being and (2) that there was reportedly no known suspect description when in fact footage was shared with the PPD and the Office of Public Safety. My one question is: how can students stay safe when they do not know there is an immediate threat to them, and when the Office of Public Safety decides to report on it, they provide no description of perpetrators?

This issue can be traced back years. I recall one Friday night in the fall of 2021 when users on YikYak were posting about an alleged kidnapping attempt of a student who was walking with her boyfriend. Luckily, the boyfriend was able to fend off the attacker and prevent further harm. That same night, a stabbing was alleged on YikYak. While police cars and public safety vehicles lined Eaton Street, shutting down access to campus via the Eaton Street gate, no FriarAlert notification was sent. After the event had occurred and been investigated, an email was finally sent to students. How is it that the FriarAlert system can send flood warnings but cannot send possible threat or reported altercation notifications? 

Instead of receiving information from authorities, students are left to scroll through YikYak and group chats on apps like GroupMe to hear about neighborhood threats and suspicious activity when the department hired with the intention of maintaining public safety “only sends stuff if major events happen and have been happening for several months,” as Anna Carlson ’24 remarked. Still more concerning is sophomore Shane Brennan’s report that “a friend of [his] was almost stabbed and nothing was reported. As much as there’s crap on YikYak, at least it’s more accurate and informative than Public Safety.”

It speaks volumes that students feel the need to consult otherwise discreditable sources for information about protecting themselves when the department entrusted with their protection time and time again fails to communicate possible threats, accurate descriptions of the suspects and perpetrators, and refuses to improve upon crime prevention. Perhaps I am just a clanging gong, but my intention with this piece is not to purely complain but to offer constructive criticism. It is my belief that the Office of Public Safety and school officials should seek to mirror other colleges and universities who have adapted their alert systems to include all information reported to authorities regardless of if the case has yet been closed. If Providence College truly seeks to maintain a safe campus for all, then it will need to humbly address the issues of public safety on and off campus, not just sweep it under the rug to maintain a spotless image for benefactors and prospective students.