Peter Xu and Harry Yu, brothers and Yale University students, were sick of using their university's "old and clanky" website for course scheduling, so they did exactly what one might expect from enterprising college students -- they built a better one.
The brothers, who are majoring in computer science, launched Yale Bluebook Plus as an alternative to the administration-created Yale Bluebook. The new site used data including course evaluations to give students more information and make class selection easier than ever. Athough originally developed for personal use, using data already accessible to them through internal systems, Yale Bluebook Plus quickly spread to other students, who found it better than the previous format.
On Jan. 7th, 2014, nearly two years after Yu and Xu had created the site, they were contacted by Yale administrators, who outlined three issues they had with the site. They were informed that they were using the Yale trademark without permission, and that the information, which was copyrighted, was accessible to people outside of the student body.
The brothers attempted to address those issues, Xu said. However, instead working with the brothers, Yale blocked the site without any warning, causing many student users to lose the schedules they'd carefully built.
After blocking YBB+, Yale College Dean Mary Miller issued an open letter to students explaining the decision, which Xu calls a "corporate apology."
"[Yale administrators] felt they knew best about how students should use data, about how students should choose their courses, and basically wanted to enforce that on students, and we felt that students should have control over their own education," Xu said on HuffPost Live.
Yale senior Sean Haufler has since created Banned Bluebook, a Chrome extension meant to replicate the function of YBB+, which the administration praised.
"The difference is the means by which they do it," Dean of Strategic Communications Paul McKinley told the Yale Daily News. "[YBB+] was using information it had scraped, while the Chrome extension leaves all the information at its source; it only manipulates the information.”
Miller has also stated the university did not handle the situation with YBB+ correctly.
The Yale administration is now willing to work with Yu and Xu to create an open data policy, which would permit them to continue working on their website. Xu told HuffPost Live that "this shows that the institutions aren’t suited for the fast pace of technology today -- the university's policy is behind the times."
Watch the full conversation with Peter Xu's battle with Yale at HuffPost Live below.