Nearly as well-worn as the notion of the "Bowdoin bubble" is the observation that Bowdoin does not actually exist in a bubble, but as part?an extraordinarily large and important part, in fact?of a community that has its own interests, needs, and ambitions.
The people of Brunswick are our neighbors?but really, they are more than that. Neighbors can remain aloof if they choose to, but it would be impossible for the College and the town to avoid each other. Nor should they wish to. Bowdoin has plenty to offer Brunswick. It goes well beyond the obvious jobs and commerce, as many of the College's art exhibits, music recitals, stage productions, and speaking events are open to the public. The town, of course, has much to offer Bowdoin students: atmosphere, commercial and recreational resources, and the crucial experience of belonging to a community struggling with real-world concerns that can seem distant from the classroom.
As the 2007-2008 academic year begins, two issues have emerged on the public radar that relate directly to the ambivalent but inevitable interaction of College and local interests.
On Cleaveland Street, some students' desire to dwell beyond the campus walls has collided with a local coalition's desire to preserve the tranquility of its neighborhood. On June 21, the tension between off-campus students and area residents went on public display as a number of Bowdoin's neighbors?including several professors?testified before the Brunswick Zoning Board of Appeals in support of the Cleaveland Street residents' effort to keep students out of their backyard. "I love my students, I love working with them," Associate Professor of Anthropology Susan Kaplan told the board, "I hate living near them?and worse, next to them."
Meanwhile, at the urging of the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA), College officials and their consultants worked exhaustively to formulate a development plan for the land Bowdoin is seeking to acquire from the local Naval base. In July, the College presented a tentative plan that addressed the interests of both the College and the town, and the BLRA exuberantly approved it. President Barry Mills has praised the BLRA for pushing for a more detailed plan, and BLRA officials have lauded Bowdoin for illuminating how they intend to use the land and what that means for the future of Brunswick. "This could be a new dawn in the relationship between the College and the town," said Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, one of the BLRA's directors.
In these examples, we see the potential benefits and unavoidable pitfalls of Bowdoin's coexistence with the community. Conflicts will emerge. Sometimes these conflicts are irreconcilable: College students and their less obstreperous neighbors will never live in complete harmony. But cooperation and compromise are also possible, and indeed essential, in a relationship that is defined more completely by symbiosis than by strife.
The 213th year of this relationship has commenced; may it be marked by mutual appreciation and respect.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Steve Kolowich, Anne Riley, Anna Karass, Adam Kommel, Mary Helen Miller, and Joshua Miller.