The College is currently trying to overcome a housing shortage for next year by, among other things, planning to cram more students into certain existing rooms designed to accommodate fewer people.
Bowdoin is a residential college. While the College's top priority is rightly academics, dormitory life affects nearly every aspect of a student's Bowdoin experience. When multiple students are crammed into bedrooms, it can cause or exacerbate social problems?and, if sleep becomes an issue, make it harder to be active and engaged in classes. A student who is unhappy with his or her dorm life is probably unhappy at Bowdoin.
There is an understanding that first-year living is a different experience than upperclassman living. There is an expectation that as students mature, they will have space of their own. This won't be the case for many rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors. As the Orient reports today, some upperclass students will be placed three to a bedroom. Our mascot is the polar bear, not the sardine.
We sympathize with residential life officials who are trying to deal with the problem. However, we contend that the issue must rise to a priority for top administrators in the coming weeks?especially as related to admissions policies and property searches.
Each of the last five entering classes has been larger than the previous, and the College plans to continue to grow even further until it reaches 1,700 students. We cannot help but question the wisdom of continuing enrollment growth when the College is so tight on space that it must resort to squeezing students into rooms that were designed to hold fewer people.
We would urge the College to consider using the wait list to reconsider the size of the Class of 2010, and perhaps cap the class enrollment. It diminishes the Bowdoin experience when we squeeze upperclassman housing in order to accommodate a first-year class that our housing system cannot adequately handle.
It may also be worthy for the College to examine available rental properties, as it did with the School Street and Elm Street properties in downtown Brunswick. While these properties are not ideal living spaces, they are preferable to the "sardine" approach.
The College might reply that junior and senior students are not guaranteed housing. This is true. And if the on-campus housing situation is bad enough, the market will likely correct and students will move off-campus. For whatever reason, however, on-campus housing is an attractive option for most upperclass students and helps to make the Bowdoin experience special. Thus, administrators should do whatever possible to help meet the needs of today's students.
The College must realize that next year's living situation will create a trying time for many students. Accordingly, staff should try to be as sensitive as possible to students' concerns about less-than-ideal living situations. In the meantime, we urge administrators to find solutions before on-campus residents become unhappy residents.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board is comprised of James D. Baumberger, Drew Fulton, Bobby Guerette, Evan S. Kohn, and Beth Kowitt.