This week, we have compiled the most important stories from the decade pertaining to student life, the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG), and athletics. We have pulled a selection of actual headlines from former issues, and condensed and synthesized stories relevant to each headline in order to showcase some of the most significant moments and enduring issues covered by the Orient. While our compilation is comprehensive, it is by no means complete. We encourage readers to pursue these headlines and others in our online archives, and to read our future installments of this series over the next several weeks.
Topics to come: A second installment of student life, college finances, admissions and reputation, environment and service, and Maine and Brunswick issues.
Vote reshapes student government, April 5, 2002
The Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) as it is known today has not always been officially named or structured as such. In the 1999-2000 academic year, the existing Executive Board (known as E9) ratified a constitution to create a second governing body, known as the Student Assembly (SA). According to an April 2002 Orient article, the SA from 2000 comprised elected class representatives, vice-presidents of the College Houses, a representative from the Inter-House Council, and the Student Activities Fares Committee chair.
In the fall of 2000, "minor changes" in the constitution converted the Student Assembly into the Student Congress, and the E9 became the Student Executive Board (SEB). By 2002, however, students said they were unsure how exactly SEB functioned. In its first meeting in April, therefore, the government's bicameral legislature ended. The constitution was changed to drop the SEB component, add a president and five vice-presidents, and rename the group Bowdoin Student Government, taking on the combined roles of the Congress and SEB. The idea was for the vice-presidents to "oversee standing committees, which mirror some of the influential College committees: student affairs, academic affairs, facilities, student government affairs, and student organizations," distributing roles and burdens across the members of BSG.
A year later, an April 25, 2003 article reported increased student involvement in BSG: 788 students voted in the week's election for BSG officers out of an approximate 1,200 who were eligible to vote—a 20 percent increase over the 653 voters from 2002.
BSG delays election, schedules referendum, April 16, 2004
In April of 2004, the BSG president postponed the spring elections for a week to resolve a wording conflict in the constitution. Although seniors had not previously been allowed to vote in the spring elections (as they were to soon graduate), the president found that the Constitution clearly stated that the "president and five vice-presidents shall be elected at-large by the student body"—indicating that all students, including seniors, could vote. BSG put the issue out to campus to vote whether seniors should vote on chief officers in the spring election.
A December 3, 2004 Orient article indicated that students on campus felt disconnected from BSG, unaware of their operations or how individuals functioned on the governing body. In April of 2005, in a meeting centered on constitutional changes to improve BSG's efficacy, the group voted against a staff restructuring that would have combined four vice presidential positions into two. Eliminating the redundancy of positions would have been "the biggest revamping of personnel since the current constitution was written three years ago," according to the Orient.
Mckesson disqualified as presidential candidate, September 23, 2005
In April of 2005, approximately 950 students participated in BSG officer elections, in which sophomore Deray Mckesson was elected as president over sophomore Derrick Wong. Mckesson cited his clearly stated desire to ensure "structural integrity and stability" of BSG through internal changes. The following fall, Mckesson also tried to run for presidency of the Class of 2007, but was disqualified after Wong filed a report with the BSG Elections Committee stating Mckesson had "misused his role as president of the student body by campaigning and publicly endorsing Elizabeth Laurits." When a re-election was announced the following week, Mckesson did not run again, maintaining he had not broken any rules but wanted to uphold a good working relationship with the other officers.
Constitutional reform did turn out to be a trend for BSG, particularly through 2007 into 2008. In March of 2007, BSG voted against a constitutional amendment that would have allowed students without previous experience on BSG to run for BSG president if they attended a certain number of meetings before the election. Some members thought it essential that a student fully understand how BSG works before becoming president, while others thought it only fair that all students be allowed to run for president of the student body.
Yaffe to petition for BSG eligibility, April 13, 2007
In April of 2007, sophomore Ian Yaffe contested the presidential eligibility stipulation again by submitting a petition for candidacy to BSG, without having previously served on BSG. His request led to a campus-wide referendum of the constitutional amendment, which failed when put to a campus-wide vote because the necessary 30 percent of the student body did not vote. As a result, Dustin Brooks '07 ran uncontested for BSG president in an election with lower-than-usual election turnout—the Orient calculated 484 students in total. Then-BSG president Mckesson said, "the low voter participation this year is only a problem if it turns out to be a long term trend."
The issue of presidential eligibility arose again in February of 2008, but was voted down in April. The Election Reform Commission (ERC) was assembled to investigate election practices and recommended to BSG that the previous-service requirement "be removed to increase the pool of applicants for the presidency," the Orient reported. While the ERC report said experience is important, the trend of presidential candidates running unopposed was troubling. The proposed amendment failed when it went to the student body referendum, however, with only 278 students voting in the polls—just over half the number of votes in the 2007 referendum.
ENDORSEMENTS & DIALOGUE
Over the course of the decade, one of BSG's most prominent roles has been to take firm positions on issues facing the campus and issue endorsements to the College on behalf of the student body.
BSG rejects student resolution on Iraq, February 28, 2003
In February of 2003, BSG refused to endorse a resolution against preemptive military action in Iraq, brought to the group by the Bowdoin Coalition Against the War in Iraq (BCAWI). After collecting 924 signatures across campus, BCAWI requested that BSG endorse the petition, stating that the resolution "represented a majority of the campus," the Orient reported. Despite a packed meeting, BSG could not agree to represent students' political views, whether or not those views were the majority opinion.
Bridging alcohol divide a challenge, December 2, 2005
In response to growing campus concerns about the social scene division on campus between drinkers and non-drinkers, BSG sponsored a discussion on the issue, with representatives from BSG, Residential Life, the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, sports teams, Howell House, the health center, and other students. Students involved with the discussion mentioned issues of inclusion at College House parties, attitudes of drinkers towards non-drinkers, and the general role of alcohol on campus and at parties as topics of importance.
BSG endorses formation of new Academic Bias Incident Group, February 3, 2006
In February of 2006, BSG passed a resolution proposing the formation of an Academic Bias Incident Group (ABIG) in a tight 12-10 vote, the Orient reported, to address allegations of academic bias on campus. Although the larger Academic Bill of Rights (which suggested creating the ABIG) that was proposed failed in a BSG vote, BSG said this would be an important outlet for students believing they had been discriminated against in the classroom. A BSG survey of 649 Bowdoin students found that 98 reported feeling discriminated against in an academic setting for political, religious or sexual beliefs. In response, then-Dean of Academic Affairs Craig McEwen—who would chair the group according to BSG's recommendation—said he had decided against creating the ABIG. McEwen said the group "would do enormous harm to the freedom of expression in classrooms on campus," as students would feel their comments were under surveillance, the Orient reported. BSG was quick to clarify that the ABIG was meant to function like the College's Bias Incident Group, in which students could discuss "concerns of academic freedom," rather than an Academic Bill of Rights. In the Orient's editorial from February 10, 2006, the editorial board pointed out that the ABIG discussion was tied too closely to the Academic Bill of Rights, "an inherently partisan document," and suggested BSG move on from "national politics" to more constructive issues.
Incident prompts campus concerns, September 14, 2007
BSG sent an e-mail discouraging "exclusionary actions" and announcing an open discussion about "safety and inclusiveness" to the Bowdoin campus in September of 2007 in response to an "incident" at Smith House. While the Orient could not confirm rumors, a September article reported allegations that a female student was verbally harassed outside of the house. Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster said he heard an allegation "that a scale was on the porch and students needed to weigh themselves to gain entry." After hearing this, BSG invited discussion and discouraged acts that "have assaulted some students' sense of safety and elements of their identity." Similar discussions were raised for two consecutive weeks by BSG in October of 2008 following Ladd House's Playboy Mansion-themed party, centered around gender roles, sexuality and activism. BSG brainstormed a number of topics, including heteronormativity and the perception of women on campus, to use in a public discussion on campus.
BSG passes language resolutions, November 9, 2007
In an attempt to bring Arabic language instruction to campus, BSG unanimously approved a resolution on Arabic instruction and language tapes in November. The resolution identified benefits and issues with instruction atBowdoin and suggested options such as "night classes, small seminars, and a combined program with Bates and Colby," the Orient reported. College officials announced plans to begin offering Arabic instruction in the fall of 2008, according to an Orient article from April.
BSG reflects on Credit/D/Fail vote, February 8, 2008
Members of BSG played a significant role in bringing a discussion against changing Bowdoin's Credit/D/Fail policy to the faculty and administration. First, in February of 2007, BSG voted to recommend replacing the College's Credit/D/Fail grading policy with a Grade/Credit/Fail policy, instead. Ultimately, the policy was never changed. In the February of 2008 faculty meeting, however, the faculty passed a motion to prevent students from using the Credit/D/Fail grading option in courses that fulfill a distribution requirement. Then-Vice President of Academic Affairs Sam Dinning '09, a driving force behind the effort to prevent the change, said 70 students stood outside the meeting to protest, helping to "legitimize our role in the faculty's eyes." BSG members agreed to talk to more students and faculty about academic issues to "effectively voice its ideas to campus in the future," the Orient reported.
BSG health center survey inadequate, members say, December 12, 2008
In November of 2008, BSG discussed results of a 266-student survey on Dudley Coe Health Center with College officials, which included 54 responses reporting cases of misdiagnoses and 21 cases of receiving the wrong prescription. One month later, BSG discussed the possibility of conducting a new Health Center survey in cooperation with College officials, which Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes compiled with Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett. Officials said the original survey was not sufficient, but BSG members were asked to give input for more direct questions to provide more information to the health center.
BSG debates fine points of coed housing, February 6, 2009
BSG raised an issue with Residential Life's housing policy against coed sharing of bedrooms in February of 2009, leading to prolonged discussions over gender-neutral housing. Multiple students on BSG supported the idea of changing the policy, but with certain stipulations. One student wanted Residential Life involve in the discussion; another mentioned that ResLife already allowed exceptions and that making a sweeping change could be problematic. The following week, BSG compared peer schools' policies and discussed what the group's specific policy recommendation to the school could be.
Throughout discussions with BSG until May of 2009, Director of Residential Life Mary Pat McMahon met with BSG members and discussed the problems and benefits of a gender-neutral housing option. By fall of 2009, BSG president Mike Dooley '10 made a gender-neutral housing student committee to discuss other options and support a policy change for Residential Life. A gender-blind doubles lottery option was instituted just after the end of the decade, in February of 2010.