When attending one of the most prestigious and expensive universities in America, it’s important for students to make sure they are getting the best education possible from instructors who will meet their needs.
When Peter Xu and Harry Yu created a course and instructor evaluation website for Yale University students, more than one-third of the undergraduate population started using the site, according to the New York Times.
It was also met with hostility from the Yale administration, leading to Yale forcing the site to be shut down.
“Yale Bluebook +” was modeled after the Yale Blue Book course selection website owned by the university. Yale administrators said the decision to shut down the student site came from concern over the site using the Yale brand and logo, the use of an “unduly prominent” numerical rating system and the site being available to people who were not Yale students.
When Yale officials threatened to take disciplinary action, Xu and Yu were compliant with the demands set by the administrators, most notably renaming the site CourseTable to avoid using the Yale trademark. Regardless of the students’ compliance, the site was blocked from the university networks and then was taken down.
After much backlash across the Web and support given to Xu and Yu from officials at Columbia, M.I.T. and Harvard, Yale officials have said they “could have been more patient” with the site developers. This small apology does not justift or fix the huge problem that the university has created for these two students.
As of the time of publication, the site has yet to be officially reinstated. According to CourseTable website, nearly 700 supporters have signed a petition to bring back the course evaluation site, which shows how successful the business has been.
While the use of the Yale trademarks is cause for Yale officials to require changes to the website, it should not have been shut down, since doing so infringes on the rights of the student creators and the students who would use the site to rate instructors and classes.
Requiring the website to be shut down wasn’t right because it prevented students from using the only known course evaluation program that wasn’t directly controlled by the university. Xu and Yu created an honest business and complied with the university when it had complaints.
Since the “Yale Bluebook +” site was both independent of the university and open to the public, it allowed users to freely express their opinion. It put pressure on university officials and instructors to improve their methods for future classes. Without a site like Xu and Yu created, there lacks a checks and balances system on the university.
The university also should not have shut down the site since the students met the demands of the officials by getting rid of the Yale trademarks and changing the site name.
While it is true that using the name “Bluebook” and using other Yale branding does give the university grounds for wanting changes to be made to the website, that reasoning alone does not warrant the university bullying Xu and Yu to shut down the site completely.
The fact that the site was shut down through threats of disciplinary action screams abuse of authority.
Though as a private institution Yale officials have every right to discipline students, it is unethical to abuse that power, particularly over students who were trying to make the class selection system better for students and give Yale’s website some honest capitalistic competition.
An institution of higher education — particularly one as prestigious and historic as Yale — should support students in their endeavors to be creative and innovative, not reprimand them for doing what they have always been taught to do, which is take what they have been taught in the classroom and use it in a practical sense.
And while the university administration has since recognized the error of its ways, the situation will not be rectified until the site is reinstated. Xu and Yu should not be punished for creating an honest business.