The End of TikTok: Universities Across America Ban The App


Andrew Kyung, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, January 24th, Senior Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., announced his intention to introduce a bill nationally banning TikTok – a social media application owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance. 

TikTok’s 210 million downloads in the United States demonstrate the application’s strong presence in this country. Senator Hawley’s bill is consistent with his previously proposed legislation curtailing Chinese influence in the United States. His propositions have led to his grouping with other congresspeople of similar viewpoints as “China hawks.” In a tweet posted on January 24th, Hawley expressed his view that TikTok “is China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives. It threatens [American] children’s privacy as well as their mental health.”

Bipartisan political skepticism of TikTok can be traced back to 2019 when senators Chuck Schumer, D-Ny., and Tom Cotton, R-Ar., ordered the application to undergo national security review by an intelligence committee. Senator Hawley’s most recently proposed bill immediately proceeds President Biden’s official banning of TikTok from all government devices, which occurred just last month. 

Outside of the nation’s capital, American universities are taking their own precautions against the potential threat that TikTok poses to student security; some universities have been quicker to act than the federal government. In December 2022, Auburn University and the University of Oklahoma banned the application on all university devices. The universities’ administrations also prohibited access to the app through the campus’ Wi-Fi network. 

Since then, other academic institutions have followed suit. Within the past two weeks, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, and six other Texas universities have all banned TikTok on their campus devices and network. Colleges in Florida have reportedly been considering taking the same imposing measures. In fact, in an official statement released by the University of Florida on January 12th, the university administration advised students to “discontinue using TikTok and remove the app from their devices.” Perhaps the University of Florida’s suggestion is a harbinger of an official policy in the coming weeks.

These recent developments certainly evoke questions about what Vanderbilt University may do to control or terminate TikTok’s usage on campus. There has been no indication that the university administration plans to implement initiatives similar to that of Auburn University, UT Austin, and others. For now, it seems that Vanderbilt students can happily scroll through today’s trends without issue. However, as more universities across the nation ban the app, Vanderbilt may feel increased pressure to follow their lead. Even if Vanderbilt’s administration stays uninfluenced by the potential restrictive policies of peer institutions, there is still the possibility that Senator Hawley’s bill passes, banning the app nationwide. 

On February 3rd at 6 P.M. in Wilson Hall, Vanderbilt University will host student debates over university TikTok bans. This timely subject is the featured issue in Vanderbilt University’s debate exhibition – a debate tournament inviting over one hundred students from thirty universities to compete in teams of two. The event is free, open to the public, and designed to spur civic discussion of topical political issues on campus. 

Never before has TikTok’s future in the United States seemed more tremulous than it does today. To the avid TikTok users that happen to be reading this article, you may want to enjoy the app while it lasts. It could be gone tomorrow.