For many current Bowdoin students, this year's census will be the first they fill out for themselves. Next Wednesday, Residential Life proctors and Residential Advisors (RAs) will distribute the 2010 Census to students living in college housing. The College is participating with the Census on Campus program, and through the Office of Residential Life, is working toward its goal of total participation from students living on campus.

Student census participation is unpredictable, given the confusion that living away from home can cause for students and their parents or guardians, according to the Census on Campus Web site.

"Historically, the highly mobile college student population living on and off campus has been hard to count, in part, because many people believe that college students are counted on their parents' questionnaires. However, students living away from home will receive their own questionnaires, so to prevent students from being counted twice (or not at all!) in the census, they and their parents need to know this," the Web site states.

The forms to be distributed on campus are Individual Census Reports, which are used to count people living in college and university housing, among other kinds of residences.

The survey contains seven questions, asking for the subject's name; sex; age; if they are of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin; race; and gauging whether the individual lives in their current residence "most of the time." These differ from the questionnaires sent to private residences, which are comprised of 10 questions and in addition to the questions on the individual report, survey the occupancy and the ownership of the residences.

The census aims to gain an accurate headcount of all people living in the U.S., citizens and non-citizens, even illegal residents. The premise being, that if the government knows demographic information, funds can be optimally allocated and individuals can be properly represented.

Some students were bothered by what they perceived as the narrowness of the census' categories for self-identification.

First year Jay Tulchin called the census an "invasion of privacy [and] racist, but necessary."

Senior Sofia Siegel, who lives off campus and has completed the census sent to her residence, said that she was, "suprised how limited the choices were for identifying race" on the census form. Though she appriciates the goals of the census, she was dissatisfied with the offering of racial categories on the form. "There are more choices on the SAT," she said.

ResLife is requesting that students complete their forms and return them to their proctor or RA by April 11, as census employees will be at Bowdoin on April 13 to compile the records. Lisa Rendall, the associate director of housing operations, said that ResLife has tried to streamline the distributing and collecting of student census forms as much as possible, calling the process in 2000 "somewhat confusing."