A student's letter to the editor printed in last week's Orient regarding the early termination of an on-campus Halloween party has garnered attention in local media and prompted discussion among students, administrators and residents regarding the relationship between Brunswick and the College.

Junior Samir Sheth wrote that Brunswick thrives "financially and culturally" on the presence of Bowdoin, and broadly referenced multiple occasions in which the Brunswick Police Department (BPD) has been involved in shutting down campus parties in reaction to noise complaints made by residents of the town. Sheth suggested that students boycott Brunswick businesses in response.

Sheth submitted the letter to the Orient through its online letter submission form at 2:31 a.m. on October 31. At 11:30 p.m. the previous night, October 30, BPD was involved in shutting down a party at the Pine St. Apartments student residences after receiving several noise complaints from area residents.

On Monday afternoon, the Brunswick Times Record published a report titled "Bowdoin College, town continue to grapple with alcohol-related medical emergencies." The article mentioned a variety of incidents involving the College, citing events going as far back as February when a student was arrested on an assault charge after allegedly striking a nurse at Parkview Adventist Medical Center. Toward the end of the article, the reporter referred to Sheth's letter as a secondary example of a purported feeling among some Bowdoin students that "Brunswick is creeping into the 'bubble,'" previously demonstrated in that article through references to student opinions quoted in the Orient's November 5 article "BPD shuts down Pinefest after noise complaints."

On Tuesday, President Barry Mills posted a column on the Bowdoin Daily Sun in response to "suggestions of tension between Bowdoin and the Brunswick community." Mills referenced Monday's Times Record article as well as the article and letter printed in the November 5 Orient. Noting particulars of word choice and structure, Mills asserted that Times Record article might lead readers to believe that a "genuine town/gown problem" exists in Brunswick, an idea he refuted throughout the column. He also wrote that the reality of student "drinking at Bowdoin is nowhere near the problem experienced at other colleges," despite what "headlines and inflammatory language" might communicate.

"The fact is that there really isn't a divide separating Bowdoin College and Brunswick," Mills wrote.

In addition to its mention in the Times Record and the Bowdoin Daily Sun, Sheth's letter garnered a considerable amount of attention; the Orient is running five letters to the editor in this issue that respond directly to his letter and as of Thursday evening 38 comments were made on the online posting of the letter, far exceeding any number of comments previously made on a single article on the Orient website.

On Monday, Sheth contributed a 904-word comment to the virtual discussion, responding to other comments and clarifying his thoughts on the matter.

"As many of you have noted, calling for a complete separation of Bowdoin and Brunswick as I did in my letter is extreme and asking for Bowdoin students to hurt innocent Brunswick residents financially is mostly unwarranted," Sheth wrote. "My intent when writing this letter was to draw attention to our codependency and to remind readers that Bowdoin brings more than loud students a few nights a year."

When contacted by the Orient, Sheth declined to comment.

In an effort to gauge a sense of the current relationship between Brunswick and Bowdoin, the Orient spoke with a range of individuals about the topics brought to light by Sheth's letter, Monday's Times Record article, and Mills' column.

Town and gown

"I've lived on Longfellow Ave. on the very edge of our campus for 15 years now and we have chosen to remain here because of just how special this College and town are—together," Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. "[Brunswick] is not a College town, it's a college within a town and that's what I think makes [it] special and different from places such as Williamstown, Hanover, etc."

"It's very clear from my conversations with students and the dialogue that appears in the online Orient that [Sheth's] views do not represent those of the student body," wrote Foster.

"What I do believe is that the Brunswick community is an integral part of the Bowdoin community. I feel very privileged to have that community and I think we as students should foster that connection," said sophomore Taylor Cochran.

"We find Bowdoin College students to be incredibly respectful," said Erica Davis, a resident of Jordan Ave. "We've had nothing but good experiences." Davis and her husband Mike Davis moved to the area two months ago.

Professor of English William Watterson, who has been a resident of Brunswick for 34 of the 37 years he has worked at the College, spoke to what he sees as a disconnect in the perceptions some Brunswick residents hold about Bowdoin students.

"I think there is a really misguided notion in many people's minds in Brunswick that everyone who goes to Bowdoin College is wealthy and privileged and spoiled, and none of those things is true," Watterson said.

"...[If] you have anger or resentment based on an economy and the perceived socioeconomic privileges of Bowdoin students, I suppose there is a temptation to engage in retaliatory rhetoric," Watterson added. "I guess it's more than rhetoric...the police actually get called and the police come in."

While a student, Brunswick State Representative Alex Cornell du Houx '08 spent a lot of time volunteering within the community with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

"It was great to see how the town and the College worked together," through those experiences, he said, citing the collaboration between the town and the College on the recently-launched Brunswick Explorer bus as an example of the continued and increasing partnership between the two.

BPD Commander Marc Hagan was born and raised in Brunswick and has worked at BPD for 20 years.

"I grew up in this town, I've heard it all before. There are always going to be some people that don't like the College, there are going to be people at the College that call Brunswick residents 'townies,' that's always going to happen," said Hagan. "I don't think there's a big issue. My concern at the end of the day is the safety of not only Bowdoin students, but the other people that live in town."


"I was probably sound asleep and didn't hear it," said Jordan Ave. resident Ralph Knowles when asked if he'd heard any noise from Pine St. Apartments on the night of October 30.

Knowles said that he has lived in Brunswick since the 1960s and that he has noticed noise coming from the College as a resident of the area, though the noise he has heard has occurred chiefly "around graduation."

When asked if he's ever made a complaint to BPD due to noise, Knowles said, "No, I'm quite tolerant, but I haven't been happy about it."

"We haven't been bothered by [noise from Bowdoin] at all," said Erica Davis. "We've been impressed by the quietness of Jordan Ave."

Cornell du Houx said that he received a personal call from a Brunswick resident on the night of October 30 complaining about noise from Bowdoin, the only such call he has ever received.

"It's unfortunate when we see this conflict, but there are so many aspects where the town and the College work together that really should be the focus, rather than one negative night," said Cornell du Houx.

Hagan reiterated his feelings from last week that the shutting down of Pinefest was a routine task for the BPD.

Hagan was unable to confirm where all of the October 30 noise complaints that the BPD responded to originated from. Brunswick Security responded to the initial noise complaints that evening, which came from Pejepscot Terrace, a retirement community located off of Jordan Ave.

When asked if he'd noticed an increase in noise complaints made to BPD involving Bowdoin recently, Hagan answered "no."

Watterson spoke to the occurrence of Brunswick residents making noise complaints to the BPD.

"I'm not sure that the phenomenon has escalated, but the coverage has. I guess my view of it all is that this is all pretty much small potatoes," he said.

Hagan had a similar take regarding general news coverage in Brunswick, "The change that I have noticed over the years...[is that] there are a lot more things that make the paper, not just Bowdoin College issues."

-Erica Berry and Charlie Cubeta contributed to this report.