The following is the Orient's compilation of the most important stories that have appeared in this publication during the last nine months. We feel these are the stories that have had the greatest impact on our college lives since September 2003. We do not claim to have chosen the most important highlights for every Bowdoin student; our own individual memories are shaped by both common events and those events that never reached the pages of the Orient. These are our shared experiences: the stories discussed in the dining halls, in classrooms, and by alumni from coast to coast. They are the stories of people who have made history, groups that have clashed, and policies that will affect all of us here. Please join us as we look back at Bowdoin College's 202nd academic year.
Incoming students saw one ranking go up and another go down on the front page of the year's first issue. Bowdoin's food was ranked first in the nation by The Princeton Review, a source of pride for both Dining Services and the Admissions office. At the same time, the College slipped from seventh to tenth place in the U.S. News and World Report's annual review of liberal arts colleges, although many staff and students claimed that a simple number doesn't matter all that much.
September's other major story occurred 40 miles from Bowdoin but was widely felt on campus. Colby College senior Dawn Rossignol was abducted from a campus parking lot and murdered. In response, Colby was locked down: even armed security was placed at the doors of its library. Authorities eventually captured Edward J. Hackett, who later pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and murder. As members of the Bowdoin community who knew Rossignol coped with her death, others wondered: could the same thing happen here?
As leaves began to fall on the Quad, a forecast of big changes for the College emerged. In early October, President Barry Mills announced that Bowdoin's sprawling Breckinridge Public Affairs Center in York, Maine, would be placed on the market. Mary Breckinridge Patterson had allowed Bowdoin to use the luxurious river estate since 1974 and left it to the College upon her death in 2002. For three decades, Breckinridge was a retreat for student organizations, class groups, and other organizations. The Orient criticized the decision in an October 10 editorial entitled "Paradise Lost," but Mills defended the choice as one that would further enhance the academic mission of the school and bring important financial resources to the center of campus.
After receiving a tip from an anonymous source, the Orient revealed in the same issue the College's plans to change distribution requirements. The changes, which will not affect current students, are still being deliberated now.
Later in October, news broke about physical changes to Bowdoin. The College hired architect Kyu Sung Woo to design two new dormitories for first-year housing, part of a larger vision in Bowdoin's new architectural master plan. The complete master plan was revealed later in the year.
Bowdoin also found itself well-endowed financially, with its endowment level and return rate far surpassing those of similar institutions. Mills said that the news demonstrated the College's seriousness about building assets for its future.
Bowdoin made statewide and national news twice in November, in the worlds of both entertainment and politics.
Portions of the HBO film Empire Falls were filmed at the Breckinridge Estate, and Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Helen Hunt, and Ed Harris all visited the Bowdoin property during filming. On a smaller scale, but one closer to home for Bowdoin students, Hari Kondabolu '04 launched his talk show on the Bowdoin Cable Network. The show packed Kresge Auditorium as it attracted famous Bowdoin guests, including Mills and Professor of Asian Studies and Government Henry Laurence. Also, the Campus Activities Board brought in Rufus Wainright, one of its most prominents act of the year, who triumphed over the China Rose buffet to perform songs from all three of his albums in a Sargent Gym concert.
In politics, the Orient continued its series "On The New Hampshire Campaign Trail." In the series, Orient editors described the sights and sounds of Democratic primary campaign stops. Material from the Orient received national attention when a statement by Wesley Clark to editor Evan Kohn '06 was reprinted in publications throughout the United States, including the The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor. When Kohn told candidate General Wesley Clark that he appreciated his understanding of rap lyrics, Clark repeated an OutKast lyric to Kohn: "You've gotta shake it like a Polaroid picture."
And if it were not already obvious, it was affirmed in November that the total Bowdoin experience comes at a price: the cost of tuition was 50 percent higher than in 1993.
Although the Orient published only one issue in December due to final exams and Winter Break, one story melted some of the winter ice. The publication reported that the conservative Center for Popular Culture had criticized the College for employing an overwhelming majority of, by the Center's count, liberal professors. In response, a debate ensued about the importance of having a politically proportionate faculty.
After a long winter's rest, students returned to school on January 26. That Friday, news began to spread that the College was looking at a historic women's basketball season. The reality of the team's success would emerge in the months ahead.
Fire hit the campus after the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl. Students burned branches and furniture outside Brunswick Apartments, but things were about to get hotter.
On Thursday, February 12, the most explosive issue of the year emerged after a confrontation in Jack Magee's Pub in Smith Union. During a Black History Month coffeehouse, an altercation took place between onstage performers and students going to Pub Night after the weekly senior bowling league. Witnesses said both sides traded racially charged remarks. The following morning, two students posted signs around campus referring to racism and slavery.
The events prompted a firestorm of controversy about tolerance and diversity on campus. The College administration immediately responded: on Friday, Dean of Student Affairs Craig Bradley sent out a campus-wide email reminding students to be respectful of each other. The dean's office also scheduled a civil discourse forum to discuss the incidents of Thursday night and the following morning. Mills sent an email to students expressing the College's support for campus diversity and respect among students. Events over the next months, including a well-attended student-initiated "Un-PC" talk, further addressed the issue.
Changes in College policy also took place in February. Mills, along with the presidents of Colby and Bates Colleges, announced that the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) off-campus study program would be shut down after the 2004-2005 school year. The program, which allowed students to study at CBB institutions in South Africa, Ecuador, and England, was terminated due to unstable enrollments and financial stability issues, according to the presidents. Stephen Hall, Director of Off-Campus Study at Bowdoin, predicted that the closures will not affect the number of students who choose to study abroad.
The College's master plan was unveiled in February as well. With stages outlined for 2010, 2025, and 2050, the plan indicated that Bowdoin may see major changes. A new bookstore, concert hall, and hockey rink are all likely additions to the campus by 2010. Further changes, including renovations of academic buildings, a new arts center, expansion toward the downtown area, and even the creation of a new library as part of Hubbard Hall are tentative ideas for 2025 or 2050. However, Mills said that population growth was not in the works. "We have no plans on expanding the size of the College in any material way," he said.
Even though Bowdoin graduate Ian McKee '98 won the heart of Meredith Phillips on the ABC reality show The Bachelorette and was interviewed by the Orient in early March, the women's basketball team created the biggest headlines of the year when it started—and refused to stop—winning. In a nail-biting games, the team won the NESCAC championship, then defeated Salve Regina, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of Scranton to propel itself to the Division III Final Four.
The team, along with busloads of fans, traveled to Norfolk, Va., midway through Spring Break for the Final Four. Our Polar Bears edged out the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in a 64-59 semifinal victory, then played in the national championship. The game, broadcast on regional Fox Sports Network cable outlets, again left fans on the edges of their seats. After a tight match, the Wilmington Quakers took a 59-53 victory.
The team's 30-1 season will go down in Bowdoin history books. It was the first time a Polar Bear team has appeared in the Final Four. The seniors on this year's team amassed a 103-14 career record and won four straight NESCAC championships.
Beyond the statistics, the team showed it was about people first. An article in The New York Times documented how students on the team often had to work basketball into schedules already packed with academics and other activities. The Polar Bears also emphasized their commitment to each other: "The courage, leadership, intelligence, and talent embedded in one another shined throughout the entire season," captain Lora Trenkle '04 said in the Orient. "We shared many special memories and none of them can be replaced or described by or to people outside of our program."
Nevertheless, the press tried to describe some of these memories. "Bowdoin coach Stefanie Pemper had it right," wrote Press Herald columnist Steve Solloway in a column after Bowdoin defeated USM. "A game rises to greatness when both teams test the other, minute after minute, until there are simply no minutes left. [It was] such an incredible game that with two minutes left, Pemper actually told her players that she didn't care if they lost. She was that proud of what they had done."
In April, the president's and deans' offices organized a series of collective discussions to encourage students, faculty, and staff to converse about the larger issues surrounding the "Pub incident" that took place in February. The discussions were held once a week for three weeks and were each attended by members of the community. The debates explored issues of belonging, sources of learning, and the future of diversity at Bowdoin.
Sadness also came to campus late in the month. On Sunday, April 25, Bowdoin legend "Century Sid" Watson died of a heart attack in his Florida home at the age of 71. Watson coached Bowdoin men's ice hockey for 24 seasons and brought the team to multiple division championships. He was named national coach of the year three times, and in 1996 was awarded the Hobey Baker Legend of Hockey Award?the most prestigious award in college hockey. Watson became Bowdoin's athletic director in 1983 and supervised the construction of many athletic facilities still in use today. He also facilitated the expansion of several programs and was instrumental in the development of women's athletics at Bowdoin.
Since it is the women's basketball team that emerged as Bowdon's most successful team in recent memory, it seems as if time has created a full circle in Bowdoin's 202nd year of existence. There have been stories from the College's past?the death of Watson, the history of Breckinridge, and crises of racial insensitivity. Yet events like the legendary journey of women's basketball have allowed members of the community to live in the moment. And as Bowdoin finalized changes in its academic priorities and sketched plans for tomorrow's physical landscape, the College looked toward the future.