From hundreds of complaints lodged with the Office of Alumni Relations to harsh coverage from national news outlets like the Washington Post, backlash from outside of Bowdoin has mounted over the College’s handling of the February 20 “tequila” party. While alumni and others have expressed their uncertainty and refusal to donate to the College or even hire Bowdoin graduates in comment sections and social media posts, the College is not overly concerned with these online declarations. 

Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Rick Ganong said that in the weeks following the party, his office has received over 400 formal comments from alumni and parents. The “overwhelming majority” of these complaints expressed disapproval of how the incident was handled. 

“It’s been a tough month,” said Ganong. “And we really won’t know how that sentiment will impact giving until the end of the year.”

Any effect the incident and backlash might have on admission yield or alumni donations will not be known for sure until closer to the end of year.

While the Office of Admissions has received some calls about the party, most were from anonymous sources unrelated to the Class of 2020. Dean of Admissions Scott Meiklejohn does not anticipate that the event will have a strong effect on current or future applicants.

“I think it would be significant if we had heard a lot from admitted students or parents of admitted students. I suppose it’s possible that we might still, but we haven’t,” he said.

National coverage of the party began the week following the incident, starting with Barstool Sports. Soon thereafter, outlets like the National Review, the Washington Post and the Telegraph picked up the story. 

Even weeks after the incident, on March 31, authors such as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and humorist Gene Weingarten were still writing about the incident. 

“For this to get into the national press was just downright embarrassing,” said Bowdoin alumnus Dr. Mike McCutcheon ’65 in an email to the Orient. 

McCutcheon—who witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at First Parish Church in Brunswick and had a classmate who died serving in the Vietnam War—pointed to Civil Rights and the Vietnam War as issues he viewed as more substantive than current debates over cultural appropriation.

Furthermore, he noted that several of his former classmates would not be donating to the college this year. 

As for McCutcheon? “I’m undecided at this point,” he said. 

In contrast, John Williams ’68 noted that the incident would not impact his giving to the College. However, he did critique the lack of real dialogue on campus. 

“The offended are called to come to the offenders and say what they see as the offense against them. The offenders are called to man up and receive that information from the offended. Personally. And ask for their forgiveness. The offended have the duty to respond to the offenders graciously. And grant forgiveness when asked for it. All preferably over coffee and some decent pastry,” said Williams. 

Back on campus, even the Latin American Studies Department has received angry calls immediately following the party. Student employee Saidou Camara ‘19 recounted a call from a Mississippi man—who was not an alumnus of the College—asking what was wrong with wearing mini plastic sombreros. 

“I sat there baffled as the man criticized the school and the entire situation. I had no idea what I should say,” said Camara. 

Ganong encouraged donors to look beyond the incident. 

“There are some things about Bowdoin that I disagree with and that others might not like—it’s hard to like everything that goes on at a college campus. But that doesn’t mean we abandon our college. We try to make it better every single day. That’s why I’m here—trying to catch Williams and Amherst,” he said. 

Editor's Note (April 1, 2016 at 1:10 p.m.): This article ran in print under the headline "College not concerned by effects of alumni backlash." The headline has been changed online to add clarity.

College not concerned by e
ects of alumni backlash