A student-led initiative made gender-neutral housing on campus a reality last week, following coordinated talks between students, Residential Life staff, and Bowdoin Student Government. The announcement that the College will allow a gender-blind doubles option in the upcoming housing lottery demonstrates the active potential students have to shape our campus—potential that students should utilize more often.
As the Orient has scoured 10 years' worth of archived stories for our Decade in Review series, we have realized how crucial an engaged student body has been to transforming the College. While administrators and faculty members determine academic policies and campus construction, students have proposed and enacted changes that bring innovation to student life, with much more ease than we might think.
For example, it was a 2001 student government proposal that eliminated classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break. In 2002, the newly named Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) initiated a convenience shuttle, operated by Brunswick Taxi, to offer students transportation options off campus. While in recent years we have criticized BSG for focusing too heavily on self-governance, student government clearly has a function in College decisions, student movements, campus events, and student funding allocations. Beyond BSG, other groups—the Committee on Student Affairs, active clubs and involved organizations—work on targeted issues to improve student life.
While the initiatives from these groups have subsided in recent years, there is always room for innovation and student input. Consider, for example, the possibility of using Polar Points in town—an option seen at many other colleges and universities—or delivery from Jack Magee's pub. Heralded as lofty possibilities in recent years, the College has actually experimented with both. Running between 2000 and 2002, students could use Polar Points at Domino's pizza in town. Domino's Pizza used board transfer machines to coordinate payment with the College, and also took over the responsibility of delivering food from the Pub. Ten years since the implementation, we ask why students haven't pursued the issue further. If the technology exists and once worked, what student initiative would it take to use Polar Points for lunch at Big Top?
We've also heard plenty of students grumble about the College House system. After reading through the archives, we realized many of the complaints we hear today—lack of house autonomy, lack of identity and sense of tradition, lack of enthusiasm or engagement for upperclassmen—are echoes of cries a decade old. What would it take for students, rather than Residential Life and the Inter-House Council, to motivate real change to create a system we're all happier with?
Some student life issues are inherent to any college experience and can't be avoided. And, of course, we are all guilty of a little complacency now and again. However, we're inspired after reflecting on the significant changes students have instituted in the past decade—both for their practicality and seamless integration into campus life. Maybe the lack of persistent reform is a testament to the quality of Bowdoin's operations and policy initiatives, but it might also signal a lack of initiative on our behalf. Judging by the maddening state of printing in the library, we suspect it might be the latter.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Piper Grosswendt, Will Jacob, Gemma Leghorn and Seth Walder.