Yik Yak, a controversial app that allows users to share anonymous posts, called Yaks, with others nearby, has taken hold at the College in recent weeks, with dozens of posts made daily, many of which attack or demean specific organizations, teams or individuals.

The posts range from the inane—“Can I just point out that napping is the best tho”—to the crude, to the racially insensitive. Many of the posts single out individual students negatively: one names a female student and makes claims about the frequency and nature of her sexual encounters. Common subjects for the posts include genitalia, masturbation, hooking up and—most common of all—the football and hockey teams.

Bowdoin has contended with other anonymous message forums in recent years. College Anonymous Confession Board caused a stir in the fall of 2010, when the College hosted several meetings to discuss anonymous speech and support those who had been targeted in the forum.

The app was temporarily disabled in the entire city of Chicago due to school administrators’ bullying concerns, according to The Huffington Post. It has also captured the attention of administrators at Bowdoin, including Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster and Dave Caputi, head coach of the football team.

“It’s the kind of stuff that’s inconsistent with who we are as a community. It’s bullying,” said Foster. “We’re better than that.”

Foster said he is particularly concerned about Yik Yak because it allows for anonymity.
“I have really strong feelings about anonymity—this thing to me is a cesspool,” he said. “Freedom of speech doesn’t assure anonymity. If you want to say something, put your name behind it.”

Foster said he does not plan on asking Yik Yak to disable service on campus, as countless high schools have done across the country, but said that students could face consequences for their posts.

“If someone came to me with evidence of a particular person being responsible, it could be actionable. If it’s offensive, threatening—I wouldn’t hesitate to act,” he said.

The football team, which is the subject of many posts, was told by its coach to stop using Yik Yak, according to several members of the team. Caputi declined to comment for this story.

One sophomore football player, who asked to remain anonymous because of his coach’s request, said he was among the first Bowdoin students to use Yik Yak. He and his friends began posting inside jokes about three weeks ago, but they began to have reservations as the app’s popularity grew.

“Some of my friends started to delete it because they thought it’s getting too big and some of the posts are kind of messed up,” he said. “They just wanted to get out.”

The football player, who recently deleted all of his Yaks, said there was a clear message at the meeting where the football team was asked to delete the app.

“It was just like, some things shouldn’t be said ever, and when you put something out there anonymously, it’s a cowardly move,” he said. “There’s no respect for someone like that.”

Monty Barker ’16 has been the subject of countless Yaks, including: “Is Monty a narp?” “Monty wears a bathing suit in the shower;” “Just caught Monty sniffing my bicycle seat;” and “Monty is friend and id appreciate it if you guys would stop.”

Barker said he is unconcerned by all the attention.

“I don’t mind it that much, to be quite honest,” said Barker. “I know the people who are writing them, and I think it’s funny.”

For the record, Barker is indeed a NARP (a term that stands for “non-athletic regular person”).

“I don’t play on a sports team,” he said.