Recently, questions regarding the state of town-gown relations have been thrust to the forefront of the collective consciousness of Bowdoin and Brunswick. Two weeks ago, the Brunswick Police Department (BPD) shut down Pinefest, an annual party held on the Saturday of Halloween weekend at Pine Street Apartments. Last week, the Orient ran a letter from one frustrated student, which sparked an all-time high number of online comments in response, from students at Bowdoin and members of the community alike. Earlier this week, the Times Record, the local daily paper, ran an article that painted a town-gown relationship strained by alcohol. As part of his column on the Bowdoin Daily Sun, a blog run by the College, President Barry Mills dismissed the suggestion of unusual tension between Bowdoin and Brunswick. Do we have a serious issue?
We think not. Bowdoin and Brunswick have traditionally enjoyed a strong and mutually beneficial relationship. The recent discussion on the online version of the student's letter was, for the most part, constructive and has served as an outlet for people to voice their concerns on the inevitable strains of college-town relations. The comments show quite clearly that the opinion voiced by one student, in one letter, is an outlier. The letter does not represent the view of Bowdoin College or of the Orient; the vast majority of students do not feel bitter toward Brunswick or its residents. We hope that the letter was not misleading to those outside the Bowdoin community.
While the dissolution of Pinefest highlights how town-gown relations can be difficult at times, it should not be blown out of proportion in the local media. We do not exclude ourselves in this effort. Our lead article last week, "BPD shuts down Pinefest after noise complaints," was cited by the Times Record as evidence of strained relations but was not intended to be inflammatory. The article featured students who were displeased with the way in which the party ended; it also gave voice to the BPD and Security who felt that the matter was handled routinely. It is important that all outlets of media pursue balanced reporting.
Among the comments readers posted in response to the letter, some questioned the Orient's decision to run it in the first place. We stand by our choice; the Orient prints letters regardless of whether we or anyone else agrees with them.
While it would be naive to say that there have never been or will never be incidents between the College and the town, they are just that: incidents. A few isolated problems do not mean that the relationship as a whole is strained. Overemphasizing small instances of tension undermines the big picture: Relative to similar schools, Bowdoin has an outstanding relationship with the local community.
Bowdoin benefits from the shops and restaurants of Maine Street, the film screenings at Eveningstar, the farmers market on the Town Mall, and the excellent care provided by local hospitals. Brunswick residents benefit from access to the speakers brought to campus, the hockey games, the art museum, and the ability to audit classes. We urge College students and town residents alike to focus on these blessings of proximity and cut each other a little slack. Ultimately, we are all residents of Brunswick, Maine.