University addresses, investigates YikYak threat

Inside the threat posted on YikYak. PHOTO CREDIT:

The University of Rhode Island alerted students on Monday, March 6 about a threat that was issued over the weekend after many students expressed concerns for their safety to professors, Student Senators and on social media.

 The user posted the threatening message through the anonymous social media platform, YikYak, where anybody can post and view anonymous messages within a 5-mile radius. 

The original post stated, “I’ve been having thoughts of hurting/killing people. I don’t know who to turn to anymore,” but it appeared to have been deleted shortly after. Before its disappearance, users responded by supporting the individual to seek help and speak with a professional.  

The email that URI sent out on Monday, March 6, clarified that an investigation was launched and action was taken on URI’s end. To ensure that the community was safe, they encouraged the University to resume normal operation. 

Many students felt as though there was more that could have been done, such as alerting the students before Monday about efforts to safely mitigate the situation, or utilizing the URI Alert texting service for quicker communication, said Lauren Peckham, second-year student and on-campus representative on the University of Rhode Island Student Senate. 

“Telling students that you’re working on it is better than letting it go unknown for the whole weekend,” she said. 

Peckham expressed that many students were scared to attend morning classes on Monday, despite the email’s statements of resuming operation. Some professors decided to cancel morning classes in response to students reaching out with concerns.

Student Senate President Grace Kiernan shared that by using the URI Alert text system for public safety announcements, the delivery method would share information with students without the need for Wi-Fi or a laptop.

 “We have that system already made, so if we were to continue to use it rather than using it for a testing system, then it would be very beneficial,” said Kiernan.

At the moment, the URI Alert texting service is strictly reserved for emergencies only, in the event that any immediate action is required.

Kiernan emphasized the need for thorough communication about actions being taken toward public safety issues, even if they are not considered emergencies. Without staying informed on issues that pose a potential threat to the population, students felt unsure about how to proceed with their daily activities.

After law enforcement’s investigation was closed, information was released that they spoke with the individual and found that there was no threat to the University, nor were they a student at the University of Rhode Island. Despite the student response, campus officials remained positive that this event posed no threat to the campus population.

“There is no greater priority than the safety of our campuses and our community,” said Dave Lavallee, the assistant director of communications at URI. 

In the event that the University needed to act on a substantial threat, students would receive texts from URI Alert with information on how to proceed. 

“We ask all members of our community to remain vigilant and to immediately share any information about potential threats with URI Police at (401) 874-4910,” Lavallee said. 

Students may also reach out to the Counseling Center at (401) 874-4094 for further resources.