Since the November election, students have reported four separate incidents of verbal harassment with potentially political overtones to the Office of Safety and Security. None have been deemed bias incidents by Security nor has the Brunswick Police Department (BPD) charged any individuals. Three of the four incidents involved Brunswick community members and all seem consistent with other informal reports of harassment received by the Brunswick Human Rights Task Force. 

According to Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols, a bias incident “is fairly obvious when it occurs,” such as when a slur pointed at a particular person is used. In cases when inappropriate language is involved, Security examines the context and intent to determine if it is a bias incident. This semester there has been one formal report of a bias incident when a community member called a student a racial slur at Joshua’s Tavern on October 30. 

Of the four incidents of verbal harassment since election day, Nicholas identified only one as related directly to the election. On November 12, a female student was jogging on Maine Street when a group of teenagers in a car proclaimed their support for President-elect Donald Trump and made a comment that directly referred to language used by Trump in an Access Hollywood tape where he bragged about sexual assault. 

Since then, the female student has met with BPD, as have all those who reported harassment—with the exception of those a part of an incident that exclusively involved Bowdoin students. This incident was investigated by Security and passed on to the dean’s office for further review. 

According to Nichols, although none of these instances have been deemed chargeable offenses, he still believes it is important communicate with the police to help identify a vehicle or individual in case the same person is involved in a similar incident again. That way, BPD can take informal action in the future. 

“I can assure you if there’s another incident involving our students with this individual that the matter would be taken to the next level,” Nichols said. 

Nichols did not feel the number of bias incidents was abnormal. 

“Variations of this happen on a regular basis almost every year,” he said. “We have incidents, they happen out in the world, and whether it’s a racial epithet that’s thrown out from a vehicle or a misogynistic statement or some other type of offensive interaction with people of the community, that’s not that unusual.” 

Brunswick Town Council and Brunswick Human Rights Task Force member Jane Millett echoed Nichols’s sentiment in a phone interview with the Orient, saying that reports of harassment have been steady since the task force’s creation.

Furthermore, there has not been an increase of reports on BPD’s electronic reporting platform, according to Councilor Sarah Brayman, who leads the task force. If anything, Brayman has heard only anecdotal stories of harassment and encourages people to anonymously report via the BPD’s platform to help the task force mobilize. 

Brayman also questioned a direct link between local incidents of harassment and the national political climate.  

“But the task force is aware … I think that we all can see that rhetoric has gotten ramped up and it’s been ramped up for months now throughout the election cycle,” she said. 

Going forward, the task torce will hold additional meetings and continue to share a message through community organizations about the importance of being an active bystander to help make Brunswick a safe and welcoming environment for all. Brayman also said she will continue to research national networks the town can join to gain more tools to deal with such incidents. 

Millett believes individuals should learn to be active bystanders. 

“We felt like people should do that strongly and not really hesitate,” Millett said. You have to evaluate every situation individually, but whether or not you say something to a person in authority or whether or not you intervene immediately is going to be dictated by the individual and also by the circumstances.”