A working group of students, faculty and staff will be gathering community input this semester to develop recommendations for a new policy regarding off-campus housing that addresses both the financial impacts of off-campus housing and its effects on Bowdoin’s community and social scene. The group plans to submit its recommendations to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Matt Orlando by the middle of April. 

The group’s formation follows an announcement by Foster in January that the College will only permit 200 students to live off campus for the 2017-2018 academic year after 217 students lived off campus this year. The percentage of students living off campus—currently 12 percent—has trended upward in the past two years after holding steady around eight percent between 2011 and 2014, according to the College’s Common Data Set. 

Foster also cited a loss of over $500,000 in revenue for the College based on the number of students living off campus this year compared to the average between 2008 and 2015. 

In an email to the student body on Monday, Foster listed several statistics which highlight the social disparities that exist between on-campus and off-campus housing. 81 percent of the students living off campus are white, while only 19 percent are students of color and international students. According to the College’s Common Data Set, 64 percent of Bowdoin’s student body is white. 

Just 28 percent of students living off campus are recipients of student aid, compared to 44.7 percent of the total student body being on aid. 

Foster also noted the disparity in off-campus housing across gender and between athletes and non-athletes. Sixty-one percent of the students living off campus are male, though the Bowdoin student body is split equally in terms of gender. Fifty-five percent of students living off campus are varsity athletes, while 34.6 percent of the student body is on a team, according to the U.S. Department of Education Equity in Athletics Report. 

“The working group is really to look at the development of an off-campus housing policy. We wanted people who are going to speak to different perspectives,” said Director of Residential Life (ResLife) Meadow Davis, who is leading the group. 

The group plans to meet with student organizations, conduct open forums and send a survey to the student body to inform recommendations. 

“We’ve already developed some ideas of groups that we should talk to … BSG, the Alcohol Team, Peer Health, ResLife,” Davis said. “But then there are a lot of students who aren’t connected to the natural groups, so wanting to make sure we hear from students who are living off campus this year [and] students who are planning to live off campus next year. So [we plan on] specifically inviting those groups of students to come in and talk to us.”

Parker Sessions ’18, who is a member of the working group, highlighted the importance of student engagement with the group’s process. 

“Bowdoin [is] going to make an off-campus housing policy,” Sessions said. “I wanted to be able to contribute my point of view and hope that we can get to a meaningful [and] fair compromise.” 

Such a compromise is expected to include a limit on the number of students permitted to live off campus as is the policy of most NESCAC schools as well as incorporating improvements to on-campus housing.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to tweak some of the College policies that will incentivize kids to live on campus,” Sessions said. 

He cited the lack of washers and dryers in Harpswell Apartments and Pine Apartments as opportunities for the College to improve amenities in upperclass housing. 

The working group is comprised of Davis, Sessions, Irfan Alam ’18, Esther Nunoo ’17, Carlie Rutan ’19, Reeder Wells ’17, Professor of Economics Ta Herrera, Professor of Cinema Studies Tricia Welsch, Director of Capital Projects Don Borkowski, Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols and Assistant Director of Health Promotion and Education Christian van Loenen.