The 2008-2009 academic year at Bowdoin was both exciting and tumultuous. The College found itself coping with a national economic crisis, engaging in a highly anticipated national election, and participating in other interesting and noteworthy events in academia, arts and athletics during the 207th academic year.
Students returned to campus this September during the transition of two major posts at the College: the director of the Museum of Art and the director of Admissions. In June, William Shain stepped down after two years of serving as dean of admissions at the College, citing family health problems as part of the reason for his departure. Scott Meiklejohn, who worked at the College for 11 years (most recently as vice president for planning and institutional advancement), was named interim dean of admissions.
After 10 years as the director of the Walker Art Museum, Katy Kline also announced that she would leave her post in September. Kline said she felt the time had come to "let somebody else invent the next chapter" since the museum's $20.8 million renovation and reopening last fall. Retired Professor of Art History Clif Olds served as interim director of the museum. Kevin Salatino, who currently serves as the head of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), will take over the position in August.
However, September saw a number of new arrivals as well. The College celebrated its dedication to the common good during the official dedication of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good on September 26. The McKeen Center, which replaced the Community Service Resource Center, is located in Bannister Hall. The week of events leading up to the dedication of the McKeen Center included a Common Hour address by former Senator George Mitchell '54 and the 10th annual Common Good Day.
The College was also forced to look inward at its own community values after the Wall Street meltdown escalated to a national economic crisis. Near the same time, the College reported that its endowment had slowed to a growth of 1.3 percent for the 2008 fiscal year, down from 24.4 percent the previous year.
The economy continued to impact the College as the year progressed, but the administration assured the Bowdoin community that everything was under control. Wachovia Bank froze a fund containing less than $500,000 of the College's money; the fund had previously held millions of dollars of the College's money, but had been transferred to other investments during the summer of 2008. Mills and Associate Professor of Economics Gregory DeCoster also explained the College's financial state to students in an October 6 forum.
Despite the dismal performance on Wall Street, construction on Maine Street Station, a $25 million train station and shopping center in downtown Brunswick, began on October 20. Bowdoin has signed two spaces in the development, and some of the site is scheduled to be completed by July 2009.
In October, the Bowdoin community and the nation also turned their attention to politics and the 2008 Election. The Orient got a chance to interview Rep. Tom Allen '67 (D-Maine) before the November 4 Senate election and heard Allen's views on the election, the state of the economy, and of course, the Red Sox. Bowdoin also hosted a debate between Charlie Summers (R) and Chellie Pingree (D) for the first district house seat several days before voters went to the polls.
The atmosphere on campus as election day neared remained electric, as students vigorously worked to register members of the Bowdoin community to vote through a "Get Out the Vote" (GOTV) campaign. In a poll the Orient conducted throughout October and published on October 31, 84 percent of the student body supported then Sen. Barack Obama, while only 11 percent supported Sen. John McCain before the November 4 election.
Bowdoin pride also remained strong throughout the month, as a newly redesigned polar bear mascot was unveiled by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. The new mascot features the 96-year-old polar bear mascot gazing directly at the viewer and standing on three legs, with the fourth paw raised and resting on a capital letter "B." The Bowdoin name also traveled beyond the realm of the Bowdoin community into ABC's hit TV show "Grey's Anatomy," appearing twice on the shirt of Lewiston native Patrick Dempsey, famously known as Dr. Shepard or "McDreamy."
After weeks of political events and election preparation, the Bowdoin community was geared up and ready for Election Day on November 4. Starting at 8 a.m., Bowdoin students were shuttled to election poles to cast their ballots, with students traveling to the polls. More than 500 students also voted early with absentee ballots. On the evening of November 4, Bowdoin students and faculty gathered to watch as Barack Obama was declared the 44th President. That evening, shortly after the announcement, a rally of some 200 students spontaneously formed on the Quad shouting, "Yes, we can," while running, jumping, climbing trees, and celebrating with noisemakers and tiki torches.
In local election results, the Maine's Electoral College votes went to the Democratic presidential nominee for the fifth presidential election in a row. In the Maine Senate race, incumbent Susan Collins (R-Maine) defeated Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), a member of the Bowdoin Class of 1967, in the race for U.S. Senate. In the local state representative race, alum and Iraq War veteran Alex Cornell du Houx '08, defeated Jonathan Crimmins (R), and David Frans, a Green Independent candidate, to become a state representative for District 66 in Maine's Legislature. District 66 is a part of Brunswick that consists of approximately 300 Bowdoin students, including residents in Howell House, Helmreich House, Burnett House, and Stowe Inn.
Two weeks after the November 4 election results elated much of campus, another celebration took place near Farley Field House to celebrate the second consecutive NCAA national title for the women's field hockey team. The championship game went into double-overtime before first year Katie Herter assisted Bowdoin's all-time leading scorer Lindsay McNamara '09 for the winning goal. A crowd greeted the bus returning from the game with cheering, champagne, signs, and leis around 1 a.m. on Monday, November 16.
With Winter Break approaching, the College continued to react and plan for difficult economic times. President Mills announced on Monday, December 1 that he would form a new committee to look into the College's finances and make cost-cutting recommendations for the next year's operating budget. The "blue tarp committee" was selected by President Mills and includes faculty, students, and staff who worked closely with the senior officers and President Mills to discuss Bowdoin's financial situation and budgeting plan for the next few years.
Bowdoin students, staff and faculty returned to campus in January to witness the christening of Bowdoin's brand new hockey rink, the Sidney J. Watson Arena on January 18. The women's team tied Hamilton in the rink's first official game before the men's team dominated the Williams Ephs in an 8-3 win.
While some members of Bowdoin's community traveled to Washington, D.C. to witness the swearing in of the new president, others were given key roles in the new administration. George Mitchell '54 was named the special envoy for Middle East peace, Karen Gordon Mills (wife of President Barry Mills) was appointed as the administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), and Chris Hill '74 was named U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.
In January, the College continued to contend with the poor state of the U.S. economy. President Mills sent an e-mail to the Bowdoin community on January 22 recommending a small increase in the number of enrolled students at the College, a salary freeze for most employees, and a number of other steps in order to confront an expected budget shortfall. His recommendations came after three meetings of the blue tarp committee. Overall, however, the number of students requesting financial aid did not increase considerably this year, though the College said it was planning to budget more funds for next year.
After applications had finished trickling in, Bowdoin recorded a 1.7 percent decline for the Class of 2013. Sixty-four percent of applicants declared that they intended to apply for financial aid, up from 57 percent in 2008. Many of Bowdoin's peer schools saw applications fall between 5 and 20 percent, while some, like Wesleyan, jumped considerably.
In February, the College also looked to gain funds from President Barack Obama's stimulus package, signed on February 17. Bowdoin sent a letter to Maine Governor John Baldacci's office looking to receive state funds for "shovel-ready" construction projects in Brunswick and "green initiatives" around campus—projects that totaled $10.3 million. Some of these projects included putting energy-efficient windows in Coles Tower and Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, as well as installing solar panels on the south side of the Farley Field House roof.
As spring approached, the student body also began making decisions about their living situations at Bowdoin and abroad next year. A record number of students applied for College Houses, with 300 students vying for 197 spots in the eight college houses, compared to 218 students who applied to live in the houses last year. The applicant pool consisted not only of 272 sophomores, but also 28 upperclassmen. In addition, 269 students applied to study abroad during the 2009-2010 year, with 95 students applying to study abroad in the fall and 150 applying to go abroad in the spring, creating an imbalance between semesters. Twenty-four students applied to go abroad for the full academic year.
After a two week long Spring Break, students returned to campus at the end of March with the housing imbalance continuing to be an issue on campus. Res Life, in order to deal with the problem, said that it would convert 25 Brunswick Apartment doubles into triples, and turn 11 Stowe Hall quads into quints.
In March, Teach for America (TFA) also announced that its applications rose this year by 42 percent, as college graduates sought alternative options to jobs and graduate school.
On the basketball court, the women's basketball team made the Polar Bear nation proud when it won the NESCAC championship and received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, the Polar Bears fell to Muhlenberg College by the heartbreaking score of 58-57.
In April, Bowdoin announced that it had accepted 18.6 percent of its applicants for this year's admissions cycle, a slight increase from last year's acceptance rate of 18.5 percent. Bowdoin's peer schools generally saw larger application decreases; Williams, with the most dramatic drop, saw a 20 percent decrease; Middlebury dropped 12 percent; Bates and Colby each saw a seven percent drop; and Amherst dropped one percent. As was the case last year, a record number of students of color—1,095—applied for admission and a record number of students of color were accepted, 413, for a 37.7 percent acceptance rate. The College has also offered 1,150 applicants a spot on the wait list. In the past, the College has only accepted between 10 and 60 students from the wait list.
This April was also characterized by an emphasis on the environment, as Bowdoin declared in February that it would keep its carbon pledge towards neutrality despite economic hard times. The President's Climate Commitment Advisory Committee, which is responsible for setting a date and coming up with plans for the College to reach carbon neutrality, organized events that took place during April Climate Days during the week of April 5 through 10. Events during the week included a Climate Fair, a locavore dinner at Thorne, the results of the Climate Matters Contest, a Common Hour lecture with environmental advocate Majora Carter, and a concert by folk band Avi and Celia at Quinby House.
While Bowdoin's campus contemplated the environment, the rest of Brunswick showed signs of struggle amidst a faltering economy. Though Gelato Fiasco raved about good business, stores like CyberLANd wereforced to shut their doors, following in the footsteps of other Brunswick businesses including Grand City Variety, Sweet Leaves Tea House, Hattie's Ice Cream Parlor, Maine St. Art, and Book Land. Brunswick business owners cited the closing of the Naval Air Base and the lack of student spending in townalso as factors that hurt commerce on Maine Street.
In the academic realm, President Mills sent Professor of Economics Jonathan Goldstein a six-page letter of censure on April 21 after an eight-month investigation into research misconduct stemming from his study, "The Tradeoff Between Extra-Curricular Activities and the Academic Mission of Small Liberal Arts Colleges: Why Some Schools Are Poor Educational Investments." In the study, Goldstein examined various policies at 36 small liberal arts schools and ranked them according to three factors: grade inflation at the school, the percentage of athletes at the school, and whether the athletic director at the school had Division I, II, or III experience. In the study, Bowdoin ranked last of the 36 schools in the survey. Mills' letter warned Goldstein that similar research offenses would lead to more serious repercussions in the future.
Ivies Weekend, traditionally held the last weekend of April, kicked off with a performance by Racer X on April 23. The weather during Ivies Weekend offered blue skies and warm temperatures, and students were entertained by artists Sean Kingston and Santigold in a Saturday concert. After the weekend festivities, students are now ready to tackle final projects and exams as the academic year draws to a close.