Earlier this week, MacMillan House advertised a party planned for tonight called Gender Bender. The posters read: “dress as a woman, dress as a man, dress in between, dress best as you can.” Upon creating a Facebook event for the party, MacMillan quickly received criticism: students on campus addressed how the events’ posters implied a gender binary and how the event brought a sensitive conversation into the insensitive environment of a campus-wide party.

One of the major criticisms was the lack of partnership with Gender Matters, a new discussion group and supportive space for trans/genderqueer/non-binary students to come together to share common experiences and seek support from one another. No member of MacMillan House openly voiced knowledge of this student group.

Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, prior to advertising the party, members of MacMillan discussed the event and met with the Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance (BQSA). Following that meeting, MacMillan planned to host a panel to explore issues of gender before throwing the party. This programming, however, fell through. Although the House’s intent was not malicious, without this fundamental part of the programming the planned campus-wide was still hurtful and offensive for some. The House should have canceled the party as soon as the plans for the panel failed to come to fruition.

In recent years, students have criticized the College Houses for being predominantly white spaces. In addition to racial homogeneity, however, College Houses consistently attract clusters of applicants who are members of similar campus groups and who socialize with similar people. 

The Office of Residential Life’s website describes members of College Houses as “thoughtful leaders in the broader campus community.” In order to be leaders of the greater campus community, however, there must be representation of the student body as a whole in the College Houses. While Bowdoin makes efforts to diversify the overall campus, the College still needs to work to diversify existing spaces, such as the College Houses. This begins with diversifying the makeup of the College House system.

The fact that relevant student communities were overlooked in the planning of the party highlights the lack of social diversity within College Houses. It is important to recognize that for the panel and party to have been properly executed, the makeup of MacMillan—and all College Houses, for that matter—must be representative of all identities that make up the student body. 

College Houses seek to be the “living rooms” of Bowdoin’s campus—but if the College House system is not diverse, how can the Houses be truly welcoming spaces? The current social stratification on campus is exemplified by the homogeneity in College Houses. As we move forward in conversations like these, it is important to be mindful of who the conversations include.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Marina Affo, Julian Andrews, Steff Chavez, Meg Robbins and Joe Seibert.