This year, Ladd House will not be hosting its annual Inappropriate Party. After multiple conversations with the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) and Ladd’s advisors, House residents decided to forgo the event. In years past, disrespectful costumes have included aborted fetuses and various impersonations of Hitler. The Inappropriate Party, a Bowdoin and Ladd House tradition, is little more than a justification for students to be offensive. ResLife’s decision to caution Ladd House to think carefully before hosting the party—particularly in light of November’s Cracksgiving incident—was a good one. Ladd residents themselves spent two weeks brainstorming ways to host the Inappropriate Party without finding a solution. That itself is evidence that the event no longer has a place on campus.  

The Inappropriate Party is not an event where an isolated offensive action may occur; rather, it specifically encourages participants to be offensive. One can imagine costumes that would be inappropriate but harmless, but the chances that all or even most of the costumes would be innocuous are slim. It is not worth the risk. Additionally, simply telling those who may be offended not to attend this party goes against the very purpose of the College House system: to create an inclusive social environment at Bowdoin. The College should not allow, let alone promote, an event condoning disrespect.

The pre-emptive cancellation of an event, however, could be a dangerous precedent to set. The mere possibility of offensive behavior should not be reason enough to cancel a party, since pre-emptive action punishes everyone for presumed transgressions. We believe individual students should be punished after the fact, should they decide to act in a disrespectful manner. The Inappropriate Party is an event at which students have conducted themselves poorly year after year, and it merits cancellation, but the College should not presume that Bowdoin students are incapable of attending a Wild West-themed party, for example, without resorting to disrespectful Native American costumes like those worn at Cracksgiving. 

Upon graduation, Bowdoin students will enter a world in which many people are not as conscientious of concepts such as microaggressions and cultural appropriation. But we will also enter a society in which conversations about diversity of all kinds are becoming more common and in which cultural sensitivity is increasing. If Bowdoin can play any role in graduating a more socially-conscious group of alumni, it should. It is not our belief that Bowdoin students should plan events or live their lives in fear of offending others, but when we have a clear opportunity to prevent hurtful behavior, we should take it. 

Bowdoin took a decidedly progressive stance when it punished the students who dressed as Native Americans at Cracksgiving, and it reaffirmed its committment to that stance by discouraging the Innappropriate Party. The loss of this ill-conceived event will improve campus culture. When it comes to other student programming that the College may find questionable, however, we hope that that the administration will take a back seat and that students will have the wherewithal to act in a manner becoming of a Bowdoin student.  

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Garrett Casey, Ron Cervantes, Sam Chase, Matthew Gutschenritter, Nicole Wetsman and Kate Witteman.