In the wake of President Clayton Rose’s campus-wide email on September 8 that denounced bias incidents around campus in Brunswick, there have been four additional reported incidents involving either racist or misogynistic invectives being directed at students, three of which came from moving cars driving near campus. 

The most recent incident occurred on Sunday, November 1 around 1:55 p.m. when an Asian female student near the intersection of Longfellow Avenue and Park Row was subjected to offensive language shouted by passengers of a moving pickup truck. 

On Thursday, Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols sent out a campus-wide message detailing the most recent verbal assaults and urging the Bowdoin community to report any further incidents. 

Additionally, Nichols emphasized the ongoing cooperative initiatives between the College and the Brunswick community. 

“President Rose, Dean Foster, Dean Amaez, other College officials, and I met again this past week with town leaders to report these new incidents and to continue cooperative efforts aimed at developing appropriate responses. Brunswick police are working with Bowdoin Security to identify the perpetrators and to support those affected, but we need your help,” said Nichols in his email.  

Security is currently investigating leads and exchanging information with the Brunswick Police Department as cases develop. 

“We work these things as hard as we possibly can. I’ve spent the past week doing almost nothing but working on these cases,” said Nichols. 

But even with eyewitness accounts and security footage of roads around campus, Nichols noted the College has not caught a perpetrator of a drive-by bias incident in recent memory.

“Usually we’re not able to get conclusive enough information… When [you’re] talking about a dark SUV or a silver sedan, you’re talking hundreds of those in Brunswick at any given moment,” he said.  

According to Nichols, if the perpetrators of these bias incidents were to be identified, Bowdoin Security would issue a criminal trespass notice, at a minimum.

“[With incidents such as these,] there’ll be a security report but there’ll also be a police report,” said Nichols. “The police would take the case to be reviewed by the district attorney and if there’s been a crime that is prosecutable, then action will be taken.”

According to Nichols, since these bias incidents are not legally classified as hate crimes, a harassment and disorderly conduct official warning would first be issued to the identified perpetrators. 

If the conduct—or pattern of conduct, if aimed at a different individual or group—continued, then a summons would be issued and the District Attorney’s Office of Cumberland County would become involved. On its website, the Office of the Maine Attorney General defines a hate crime as “criminal conduct motivated by bias.”

“The word itself is not a hate crime,” Nichols said, referring to slurs directed at students. “It’s a bias incident.”

Nichols explained that a hate crime is one where an individual issues a racial epithet and physically assaults a person because of race. This is a Class C crime, a felony, a class higher than assault unmotivated by race, a Class D crime, a misdemeanor.

And while no hate crimes have been reported during his 10 years at Bowdoin, Nichols advised students to be cautious and vigilant.

“Number one: Stay safe. Right now all the instances involve hurtful words. There has been no physical contact. But make sure you are in a safe situation. Immediately go to a safe place. Report it to the authorities.”

Bowdoin has grappled with bias incidents in the past, most notably in the Fall of 2013 when two major incidents rocked campus. 

The first involved homophobic slurs and physical violence targeting a gay student outside of Joshua’s Tavern in downtown Brunswick, while the second involved swastikas and racial invectives drawn on a chalkboard in Brunswick Apartments.

In response to those incidents, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) initiated its annual “No Hate November” initiative.

In an email from October 29 of this year, the BSG Executive Team wrote, “Through this initiative, we display solidarity with our peers who have experienced bias at Bowdoin and beyond.”

When asked in an interview with the Orient as to whether all Bowdoin students should feel welcomed in the Brunswick community, Nichols defended the town.

“Brunswick is a safe town. You’ve got a certain percentage of the population that engages in pathetic, hateful, intolerant, ignorant behavior. And we’re having a series of incidents that have occurred here recently… But Brunswick is a fantastic community. It’s a safe community. And we’re dealing with the instances as they are occurring.”

And, after three bias incidents in the summer months of 2015—one of which was directed at a faculty member—Rose urged the College to rise above the base verbal assaults in his September email.

“We do not know where these people come from, nor can we understand or rationalize their behavior… As I suggested in my Convocation remarks last week, this is an issue for all of us and we should each...find ways to support and care for one another in these moments, and more generally try to understand that one’s racial identity (among other aspects of identity) can bring with it particular challenges, some of which can be quite profound. In doing so, we will further strengthen our community.”