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CREATIVITY STIFLED: Did Yale Shut Down The Next Facebook?

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(HLNtv.com) — “Hi! We’re brothers!

“We attend an Ivy League school. We just created an amazing website for our fellow students. But our idea has being taken away from us! And the school is shutting us down!”

— The Winklevoss twins (right?)


It’s happened again; this time about two hours south of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Facebook was born, on the campus of Harvard rival Yale.

Peter Xu and Harry Yu had created an online course catalog for fellow students to shop for classes with the benefit of sortable ratings and evaluations for both classes and professors. Over three semesters, 2,094 of Yale’s roughly 5,000 undergrads used their site, called Yale BlueBook+. The name was a spin on Yale’s official online course selection program, Yale BlueBook.

Students were again using the brothers’ site last week to help select their classes when it suddenly went down. This wasn’t a bug or some denial of service attack; it was Yale’s administrators, who pulled the plug Monday.

According to the Yale Daily News, the brothers were approached last Wednesday by the university, which had several concerns about the student-run program. Chief among them were that it allowed non-undergrads to view course ratings, used “BlueBook” in its title, misappropriated the Yale name and logo, and was not hosted on a Yale server.

In a meeting Friday with University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski, Xu and Yu say they were told to shut down the site. They first tried to address the school’s concerns, though, by removing “Yale” and “BlueBook” from the site, renaming it CourseTable and removing the option to sort classes by rating.

Yu says they submitted the new plans to school officials but never heard back from them before the site went dark Monday. Olszewski has not responded to requests for comment by either the Yale Daily News or The Washington Post.

However, the Post did receive a statement from Yale College Dean Mary Miller that said, “Yale’s policy on free expression and free speech entitles no one to appropriate a Yale resource and use it as their own.”

Xu and Yu say the shutdown cut students off from the worksheets they’d created on BlueBook+ to help plan their semester’s classes. The pair eventually e-mailed copies of those documents to every user.

On the Yale Daily News website, many readers criticized the administration’s decision, with an emerging theme that the school chose to stifle innovation rather than work on a compromise with the brothers.

“Can you believe we pay/paid $50,000 per year to have course reviews intentionally obstructed?” read one comment. “Also, after this incident they might as well put a sign for tour groups next to the Nathan Hale statue that says ‘LIKE COMPUTERS? GO TO STANFORD.’ ”

Speaking with The Post, Yu admits to being “disappointed.” But in an online petition to reinstate Yale BlueBook+, the brothers say that “Yale as a whole does not try to stifle innovation.”