We're halfway through the decade, and we just got a statement from SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar on a new high frequency trading rule that wasn't exactly a dissent, but looked like it would be laying the groundwork for one:
This is a proposal about regulatory structure, not market structure. In my many years as a market microstructure researcher, I have not seen one research paper on Rule 15b9-1 or requiring FINRA membership for proprietary trading firms, and I have never even heard it come up in a discussion of market structure. And, since I have been a Commissioner, I have received countless suggestions for enhancing our current market structure; this rulemaking has not been on the list. The document we are voting on today also does not articulate any link between the proposal and equity market structure. We need to be mindful that the opportunity cost of this rulemaking is the valuable time that we could have spent on issues that are more clearly related to, and impactful on, market structure.
He sounds frustrated, but is this a sign that the SEC is getting more fractious? One way to see would be to see if there are more dissents now than there used to be, and one possibly incorrect way to do that would be to look and see if the "by the commission" language that the SEC usually uses to announce its decision on a release sat next to an announcement of a dissent. So I did that and:
You'll have to be excused for the atrocious formatting, but Typepad isn't very good at playing with other programs. Anyway, we're halfway through the 2010s, but it looks like there won't be many more dissents this decade then there were in the not-so-tempestuous 1990s and 1960s (for securities regulation, that is). I'm not sure what was going on in the '40s, and at any rate, my approach to ensuring that this data viz was accurate involved the quickest of skims over a Westlaw download. But despite what seems to be an agency with more political divisions among its commissioners, the divisions haven't resulted in dramatically more dissents.
I have argued in a paper that the revolving door seems much less problematic than conventional wisdom would have it. And Ed DeHaan, Simi Kedia, and their co-authors have found that SEC lawyers who go through the door usually try to show off when at the agency by bringing and winning bigger cases.
But Congressman Stephen Lynch isn't so sure about that door, and has introduced the SEC Revolving Door Restriction Act of 2015 to put some brakes on it. His press release:
H.R. 1463, the SEC Revolving Door Restriction Act of 2015, amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to prevent former employees of the SEC from seeking employment with companies against which they participated in enforcement actions in the preceding 18 months. H.R. 1463 defines enforcement action as court actions, administrative proceedings, or Commission opinions. Former employees must seek an ethics opinion from the SEC if they are interested in seeking employment within a year of their termination at the SEC with a company that was subject to an SEC enforcement action in which they participated.
I'm actually not too sure what this adds to the typical revolving door restriction. Federal prosecutors can never work on matters on which they worked while in government service. And they are barred from representing clients for at least one year. This lengthens that limitation to 18 months, but at the White House, it's already 2 years for lobbying.
The agency isn't too excited about this, as they have observed over at Jim Hamilton's World of Securities Regulation:
Delaying staffers’ employment in the private sector would affect a significant number of SEC employees, who have a long tradition of leaving government service to join the defense bar. At the 2015 SEC Speaks conference, when current and former agency staff members were asked by Chair Mary Jo White to stand, at least two thirds of the room took to their feet.
But it doesn't seem to add much to the regs already in place. Even POGO, the NGO that seems to be behind the introduction of the bill, acknowledges - indeed, it collects data on - previous ethics restrictions: "SEC regulations require former employees to file [ethics] statements if they intend to represent an employer or client before the agency within two years of their SEC employment." This even gives them the out of a waiver. But you can look over the text of the bill and let me know if you see anything more than a more specific ban of agency officials working on matters post-employment that they handled pre-termination.
I'm driving up to Winston-Salem today for what looks to be an excellent conference at Wake Forest. I'm looking forward to seeing Alan Palmiter, Omari Simmons, Andrew Verstein, and other friends. I can't wait!
...maybe. Hear me out.
So you know I'm coming off of organizing 2 conferences. And you know I think about conference Q&A. And that yesterday the founders of controversial Yik Yak came to speak at UGA. At Monday's Yik Yak session we decided to field questions from the audience to Yik Yak founders via the app itself. None of us were sure how it would work, and I knew that some students in attendance had good reason to be angry about Yik Yak.
So onstage there were 2 founders, 1 student moderator asking most of the questions, and then a second student, Daniel, who would occasionally ask questions posed by the audience. I thought Daniel might get overwhelmed, so I volunteered myself to be in the back of the audience monitoring the yaks and texting him questions.
I had never used the app before, but I downloaded it as I was running out of the house. And I have to say, I see the appeal, particularly at an event with a large number of people. The first Yak I read was quite amusing: "Asian guy giving out free stuff at Yik Yak meeting: you're sexy and I must have you." Similar yaks opined that the founders were cute. It kind of feels like you're eavesdropping on the secret lives of college students. That's mostly funny.
Here is one screenshot I took so you can get a sense for what I'm talking about. I'll post 2 more below the fold.
Once the conversation got going it, the questions proliferated. It was kind of amazing: I could hear what audience members were thinking, what they wanted to ask--and, because of the voting feature, how many of them were interested in any given question. And they could see the same thing. A few racism questions were popular, and Daniel asked them. But also popular were questions about the origins of the Yik Yak name--I'd read enough press accounts to know the answer, so I might have filtered that one out, but 20 people wanted to know. And here's another one I transmitted: "Do you think because of its anonymity Yik Yak is an accurate depiction of campus life?" That question got a few appreciative "mmm"s from the back of the room--I heard one adult observer murmur, "Good question."
All in all, I found it to be an uniquely interactive talk. Even though only 4 people were speaking out loud, a sizable contingent of the audience was engaged in a nondisruptive conversation about the talk as it unfolded. And that conversation influenced how the talk unfolded. As Q&A sessions go, it was amazing.
Contrast this with the typical talk, be it at a law conference or elsewhere. How does the audience ask questions? With some version of an open mike. The benefit of an open mike is that it allows anyone to ask a question--in theory. But people might be reluctant. And you can get an obscurantist or a partisan bloviator that the rest of the room finds uninteresting. Politeness dictates that anyone can have the floor, but there's no principled way to filter the questions or ensure that popular ones get asked.
Take, for example, last week's symposium. Originally the last panel was going to have 2 Georgia state banking regulators, and we knew we would draw a lot of practitioners. We asked IT about ways to have the audience pose questions anonymously, maybe posting them to a message board. They couldn't figure out a way to do it.
It turns out, we had the technology--if only we could convince the audience to download Yik Yak. We had students, practitioners, and scholars in the audience. They could have weighed in on the questions they wanted, or the moderator could have chosen a mix of questions to keep everyone interested. Any filtering mechanism inevitably raise hackles, but with the votes visible on Yik Yak, if the moderator tried to screen out an awkward question that a lot of people wanted asked, everyone would know.
I know, there are jerks out there. We might not like who we are when we are anonymous. But at UGA the downvoting seems to work, and the Yik Yak founders assert that with a big enough group, problematic Yaks don't stay up that long. I'm not sure yaking questions would work at a non-Yik Yak Q&A session. But it's fun to think about trying.
One of the things you now have to do if you're a bank with over $50 billion in American assets is to file a resolution plan, or living will, with the authorities - this basically states how you are going to dispose of the company if it becomes insolvent. After passing all the big American banks through an annual set of stress tests, the regulators have turned their attention abroad:
In their review of the resolution plans from BNP Paribas, HSBC Holdings plc, and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, the agencies noted some improvements from the original plans. However, the agencies have jointly identified specific shortcomings with the 2014 resolution plans that will need to be addressed in the 2015 submissions.
It's annoying enough to be told by some foreign regulator that you aren't sufficiently prepared for a disaster, given that you're home regulator is telling you that you are. But it must be especially annoying if you are a state-owned bank, which RBS is, to the tune of 66% of its outstanding shares. That's almost a foreign relations issue. And given that the resolution of international banks like these is one of the most difficult issues facing bank regulators - there has been a failed effort to create a framework going on since Lehman Brothers failed so chaotically - it must be grating to be told to revise the plan:
The agencies will require that the annual plans submitted by these three institutions on or before December 31, 2015, demonstrate that the firms are making significant progress to address all the shortcomings identified in the letters, and are taking actions to improve their resolvability under the U.S. bankruptcy code. These actions include:
- Amending the financial contracts entered into by U.S. affiliates to provide for a stay of certain early termination rights of external counterparties triggered by insolvency proceedings to the extent those rights are not addressed by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association 2014 Resolution Stay Protocol;
- Ensuring the continuity of shared services that support critical operations and core business lines throughout the resolution process; and
- Demonstrating operational capabilities for resolution preparedness, such as the ability to produce reliable information in a timely manner.
Those are actual requirements! The first one anyway. The other two could be goalposts that just get moved further away next time. Anyway, one question in the brave new world of international banking supervision is whether supervision is a tool that home banks are using for competitive advantage against foreign banks. It will be interesting to see whether this sort of charge is leveled at this sort of action.
As promised, the Yik Yak founders spoke at UGA yesterday. For those of you not in the know, Yik Yak allows users to post ("yak") anonymously in a 1.5-mile radius.
Coincidentally, the app had made the news on UGA just last week, for unfortunate reasons. Last Thursday night an undergraduate was found dead in her dorm room, apparently for still unexplained health reasons. While any loss of young life is sad, this particular student sounds like a really exceptional person. If you read the linked article, you will see that a racist idiot posted something offensive on Yik Yak as news of the student's death was unfolding. Institutional reaction was swift, and UGA's President decried the post.
So Yik Yak's founders walked into a charged atmosphere last night, to say the least. Honestly, we discussed canceling the talk, but felt that it would be good for us as a community to discuss the role of apps like Yik Yak on campus. A third-year student served as moderator and--in a "meta" move I lobbied heavily for--we took questions from the audience via Yik Yak. More on that in a separate post. Here are some highlights of what the founders had to say:
- They very much positioned themselves as just like the college students in the crowd. Tyler and Brooks started the app because wanted to give everyone an equal voice on campus--an equal chance to have their content spread. They painted college life as the ideal place for the young entrepreneur: no job, food and housing are taken care of, and you have an "awesome" group of beta users--the people you live with. Just cut out some partying, Netflix, or Chipotle, and you have time to launch a business!
- They said that bullying and racism were terrible, and that they are always updating filters to prevent it. The UGA bomb threat I blogged about in my first post was their first "big incident," and now if you want to yak something that the app deems dangerous a pop up will say, "Are you sure you want to post this? Yik Yak and law enforcement take this very seriously."
- On the racism/bullying/sexism front, Tyler and Brooks made the argument that Yik Yak offers a far more efficient response than Twitter or Facebook. With those services you have to go through an "arduous" reporting process. On Yik Yak, if 5 people downvote the post, it's gone. I'll note that, based on the screenshot, last week's racist comment received 4 negative votes within 39 seconds of being posted. Presumably it disappeared soon after, once it got the 5th vote. Honestly, to me as a minority teaching in a school in the deep South, the story is a positive one for Georgia. There are going to be jerks everywhere, and anonymity makes it easier for them to express themselves. But our community responded immediately and negatively to that horrible yak, and it disappeared quickly.
- How is Yik Yak going to raise money? A popular question, and the founders answer was that they were focusing on trying to grow the user base right now. "After that, shame on us if we can't figure out how to make money." Hmm, I'm not sure about that business plan, boys. But I'm not really the target demographic (or am I? Tune in tomorrow for more).
- Their advice to budding entrepreneurs: start simple and see what works. They had a nice story about spending 14 months designing an app that no one used and went nowhere. In contrast, Tyler threw together the first Yik Yak in a day and a half.
- Oh, as you redeem the Yakarma points you rack up using the app for Yak swag on the Yak campus tour. Apparently the socks are very popular.
Whew! Readers of the Glom know that Georgia Law hosted back-to-back conferences at the end of last week: 1) a symposium on Financial Regulation: Reflections and Projections, and 2) the Law & Entrepreneurship annual retreat. Some thoughts:
Symposium: My friend and colleague Mehrsa Baradaran reminded me that when we pitched this idea to our dean our goals was not to mention a single Supreme Court case. We wanted to talk about financial regulation. Our goal was to group top-notch scholars interested in the mechanics of implementing regulation with the regulators themselves. I think we succeeded. A nice offshoot of combining banking and securities types was that we were able to get different circles of scholars to intersect, which led to some cross-cutting conversations. And hearing from the regulators was nice: here's Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart's speech and here's SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar's speech.
Retreat: I've blogged about the rhythm of the semester before, and conferences have their own rhythm: through dinner, panels, lunches, breaktime talk, you get to know the fellow participants. If everyone is good and everyone is listening, later panelists reference earlier ones and a real conversation occurs. But it's ephemeral. Everyone gets in their car and on their plane and those people will never be together again.
The LEA Retreat is a little different. A core of us have been coming together for years. While it's never quite the same group of people, there's conscious continuity. I think that's what makes for its special chemistry. It's an engaged and supportive group interested in talking about entrepreneurship. It's always fun.
That said, organizing a conference means that you've always got one eye and one ear on logistics. And that can take a lot out of you. The payoff of having conferences back to back was huge--but I'm happy to be back to the usual routine of blogging/teaching/research/deaning!
Professors do not always endow their own schools with funds - they don't always have the capacity. There are exceptions, though, and today comes news that the eminent emeritus corporate law professor William Carney and his wife have donated a substantial sum to Emory's transactional law program:
The gift is one of the largest named gifts from a professor ever given to Emory University.
"It's a difficult legal market and students are graduating with significant debt," Carney says. "Graduates need practical knowledge, and the center gives young transactional lawyers a realistic understanding of what they need to do on day one."
Carney, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law Emeritus, led the committee that developed the center and hired its first director. It has grown dramatically since its founding in 2007. More than 200 second- and third-year students are currently enrolled in its certificate program, now under the leadership of Executive Director and Professor Sue Payne.
It's a nice - and loyal - story. Huzzah for the Carneys, and congratulations to Emory!
In a short story sure to enrage the scambloggers, and already on AboveTheLaw, note this:
Law schools are in crisis: Enrollment is plummeting, bar exam pass rates are declining, and the employment rate for fresh graduates is abysmal. There's one area, however, in which these institutions still outpace the rest of academia: how much they pay. Tenured law professors pulled in a median salary of $143,509 in 2014, more than professors in any other discipline, according to new survey data.
Here's a chart:
This is a case where medians are ... appropriate? Tons of business school professors, who finish second on the list, make not so much. But there are way more business schools than law schools, and the variation in quality, and pay, is high. It looks like the law professor ranks include legal studies professors at colleges and business schools, and that might be a reason to suggest that the median for the salary of tenured law professors in law schools is higher than the listed number. And don't even get me started on a conflation of biological and biomedical sciences.
In the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the central academic unit and where Theidon works, female professors had a 66 percent success rate gaining tenure in the last five years, compared to three-quarters of men.
That is the tenure rate for Harvard's faculty of arts and science, which presumably includes the economics and government departments. Which means the tenure rate at other departments must be high indeed - or that everyone is hustled out the door before a tenure decision is made.
Via Matt Levine, you should really read this excellent profile of a proprietor of a pawn shop for penny stocks. A tremendous underwriting workaround.
So, those who saw my FB rants know that I was stuck in airports two days this week. I tried to get some work done, but I'm also not that serious, so I downloaded a movie. I chose a movie that I wanted to see, but wasn't particularly fun for the whole family: Boyhood. Running time was 2:46, which helped to pass the time.
As almost everyone knows now, Boyhood was shot over twelve years, so you see the characters age in front of the camera. The film is really a series of scenes from twelve different years of a family's life, focusing on Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who ends the movie graduating from high school and going to college. Physically and emotionally, he ages the most of anyone on-screen. He and his extraordinarily self-centered and bossy sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), live with their single mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette). In the second year of the movie, their dad Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke) shows up and become reintroduced into their lives. By the end of the movie, Mason has moved from a stoner would-be musician less-than-part-time dad to an actuary dad who drives a minivan with his new wife and baby and is a more-than-part-time dad. But, he is still less than perfectly reliable. Samantha is still self-centered and bossy, and Olivia is still utterly unappreciated by her children, though those around her often comment on the impact she has had on others and how well she has raised her children.
The scenes are fourteen mini-movies of Mason's childhood, and they aren't wholly connected. We meet characters in one year that are gone the next and never spoken of again, including stepfathers, stepsiblings, and friends. The movie opens in an unnamed Texas city, but Olivia's family moves first to Houston and then to San Marcos. If you are from Texas, the movie is quite a treat, with hints to tell those in the know where scenes are filmed and places characters go. In Houston, the family gets a mean, drunk stepfather and in San Marcos the family gets a sullen, drunk stepfather. The children also get a loving stepmother and step-grandparents, who come with a birthday gun and a birthday bible. Mason has friends, bullies, and girlfriends that pop up in one year and disappear. Surprisingly given the drunk stepfathers, Mason and his sister also spend their early (and later) years drinking and smoking pot with permission from their parents. But, Mason pulls it together in the last two years and goes off to college (Sul Ross in Alpine).
If you enjoyed Slacker and Dazed and Confused, then you'll love Boyhood. I tried to think of it as a sequel to Dazed: if the characters there had skipped a decade or so and had kids, they could have been Olivia and Mason, Sr. What would there kids be like? I think Mason and Samantha. Mason is very much like the main character in Dazed. All the grown-ups are nagging him to have a work ethic, but he doesn't see what a work ethic has done for his mom. He is somehow on a superior philosophical plane that separates him from others, whether they are schoolmates, teachers or bosses. He listens to his dad, but that's about it. He reaches his pinnacle and finds his people on move-in day at college. They go on a vision hike ('shrooms and all) to Big Bend and talk about how you don't seize the day, the day seizes you.
So, I'll be a weirdo. I know everyone loves this movie, and it is definitely a great moviemaker's movie. A lot of references to current events remind us of the passage of time, as well as the aging of the actors. The novelty of having your actors age alone is worth watching the movie. I've been thinking of certain scenes since I saw it, and definitely the scenes feel very real. But I am not and have never been an ambivalent, wishy-washy man-boy. I'm not a fan of Hamlet, or Holden Caulfield or Mason. I don't have a romantic notion of him and his place in life. I love boys -- I have two of them. But in my movie, Mason would come to appreciate his mother (and his stepmother) and not plan to cruise through college (on his not-so-rich parents' dime) going to class when he feels like it.
The Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) is pleased to once again offer its Prospective Law Professors Workshop as part of its annual meeting. This two-day workshop is for those seeking law teaching jobs in Fall 2015. The Prospective Law Professors Workshop will run on Tuesday, July 28, and Wednesday, July 29, at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. The workshop will include practice interviews, practice jobtalks, guidance on drafting CVs and FAR forms, and several panel discussions geared toward prospective law professors. There is no supplemental fee to participate. Participants in the workshop need only pay the standard SEALS registration fee. The number of participants will be limited. For more information on the program, including how to apply, please visit our website at http://sealslawschools.org/seals-prospective-law-professors-workshop/
Last Fall, I had the great honor and privilege of traveling to the University of Aberystwyth to participate in a conference on Internet Jurisdiction. I was quite out of my league among a group of European and Australian scholars and professionals specializing in EU laws regulating the internet. Speakers came from many different countries, representing universities, EU commissions, Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia. My contribution was to discuss the U.S. policy regarding online gambling, which sticks out like a sore thumb from the U.S. policies on borderless speech.
Here is the link to the draft of the short 6,000 word essay that followed, and the abstract:
The globe is a patchwork of laws on various “sin” activities: alcohol, drugs, prostitution, pornography, and gambling. Separately, the globe is a patchwork of laws on free speech. Many times, these categories of activities and speech are even more blurred. Prior to the internet, however, citizens of the world could only avail themselves of other jurisdictions’ looser laws by being physical travelers between these patches. Tourists could travel from gambling-free states in the United States to Las Vegas, Nevada to gamble, or even to foreign jurisdictions such as Monte Carlo. College students from the U.S. could study abroad in Europe, where the drinking age was lower than 21 years of age, and drink without impunity. The occasional American tourist venturing into the Amsterdam “Red Light District” would also not face penalties in his home jurisdiction for engaging in activity that would be illegal in the U.S. Home jurisdictions rarely were concerned about this type of tourism, even though some modest amount of dollars was exiting the jurisdiction. Writers and thinkers in countries with anti-free speech laws could emigrate to other countries to voice opinions, but could rarely freely move back and forth without reprisal at home. The valuable speech the authors created could also not be freely distributed in the home country, making speech tourism less practical or even valuable.
The advent of the internet and the ubiquity of computers have created the ability to be “virtual vice tourists” and well as “virtual speakers.” In the former instance, web-surfers engage in activities online that are illegal in the country in which they are sitting, but not in the country in which the computer server sits. In the latter instance, speakers with legal rights in the country in which they sit are projecting their speech into jurisdictions in which such speech is restricted. In addition, physical forms of speech, such as books, may be read or purchased online by residents of countries with stricter speech laws. Citizens of nations with strong free speech rights and histories wish to export that culture and demand that all countries respect the rights of the speaker. In other words, the speech law of the internet should be that of the country that respects speech the most. Though the U.S. government urges foreign jurisdictions to protect internet speech to the fullest extent, the U.S. does not protect fully internet activity, such as online gambling. In fact, the U.S. would like to spread the reach of its online gambling regime beyond its own borders. Perhaps this is consistency: our laws, whether they relate to free speech or online gambling, should be respected everywhere. Or, these policies could be incompatible: the laws of the internet should mirror the jurisdiction with the most liberal speech laws and the jurisdiction with the most restrictive online gambling laws.
In 2005, the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body ruled that the United States was violating the General Agreement on Trade in Services by prohibiting online gambling sites headquartered in foreign jurisdictions (and domestically) while allowing certain kinds of internet gambling, namely horserace betting. Though the U.S. had argued that it had the ability to prohibit internet gambling under the exception for public morals and public safety, this argument was specious at best due to the fact that other types of gambling are legal and available in almost every state: casino gambling, tribal gambling, state lotteries, and video gambling, to name a few. Moreover, the next year the U.S. passed a federal law explicitly prohibiting online gambling and the processing of payments and credit to online gambling operators under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which was appended to the Safe Ports Act, legislation focusing on homeland security. This act made online gambling by U.S. residents harder by forcing U.S. banks, credit card companies and online payment processors to decline to transfer payments to offshore gambling companies, but not impossible. However, in 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed eleven indictments against individuals associated with the largest offshore gambling sites – sites that operated completely offshore but that also enjoyed a clientele comprised of U.S. citizens. These defendants faced charges associated with fraudulent practices aimed at bypassing the restrictions placed on banks by the UIGEA. After this so-called “Black Friday,” the illicit online gambling by U.S. residents through convoluted payment systems was severely curtailed.
The U.S. stance prohibiting online gambling has toughened substantially since the WTO’s 2005 ruling, yet the U.S. government’s public morals argument has grown even weaker. Since 2012, three states, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, have passed laws legalizing intrastate online gambling. Other states are contemplating the same revenue-generating move. To say that offshore online gambling must be prohibited for public morals and public safety reasons is particularly disingenuous when domestic online gambling is becoming widespread. However, as domestic online gambling grows, the pressure to keep offshore online gambling illegal also grows as U.S. states attempt to preserve their market among their own citizens. To add to this disconnect, the U.S. takes the stance that U.S. speakers should not be subject to tighter anti-speech laws of other jurisdictions when citizens of those jurisdictions access that speech, whether the speech is a book or a blog post. The U.S. should revisit its off-shore online gambling position in light of its free speech policies.
a social media network, only without user profiles. It does not sort messages according to friends or followers but by geographic location or, in many cases, by university. Only posts within a 1.5-mile radius appear, making Yik Yak well suited to college campuses. Think of it as a virtual community bulletin board — or maybe a virtual bathroom wall at the student union. It has become the go-to social feed for college students across the country to commiserate about finals, to find a party or to crack a joke about a rival school.
I first heard about YikYak by way of a bomb threat on UGA's campus that resulted in evacuation of a campus building. Anonymous speech can lead to abuse pretty quickly, as the NYT piece points out. So why Yik Yak? Here's the origin story, again by way of NYT:
Yik Yak was created in late 2013 by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, fraternity brothers who had recently graduated from Furman University in South Carolina. Mr. Droll majored in information technology and Mr. Buffington in accounting. Both 24, they came up with the idea after realizing that there were only a handful of popular Twitter accounts at Furman, almost all belonging to prominent students, like athletes. With Yik Yak, they say, they hoped to create a more democratic social media network, one where users didn’t need a large number of followers or friends to have their posts read widely.
“We thought, ‘Why can’t we level the playing field and connect everyone?’ ” said Mr. Droll, who withdrew from medical school a week before classes started to focus on the app.
“When we made this app, we really made it for the disenfranchised,” Mr. Buffington added.
Update: A doctoral student says stop the professorial hand-wringing, already.