Bowdoin Student Government is struggling to implement its ideas and programs, is encountering difficulty in communicating with the student body, and is divided over its current state of affairs, an Orient investigation has found.

Of 25 proposals made by the winning officer candidates during campaigning last April, only six have been successfully realized, with the others either abandoned or proving more difficult to implement than initially thought.

BSG officers do point to some accomplishments, but nearly all conceded the group needs to do a better job communicating its plans and goals to students. Most officers are confident that BSG will be more visible in the second semester after spending a good deal of time on internal affairs and procedural issues during the Fall.

"It's been a difficult semester," President Hal Douglas '05 said. "We entered with a lot of expectations of ourselves."

Douglas mentioned as challenges working "without a paper trail" and working in an organization without an "institutional memory."

He also hinted at a disconnect between some members and the goals of the BSG. "As with any student organization, I have found that you get individuals that are there not for the right reasons, which are to promote fun, represent a constituency, and to promote change," he said, adding that he felt some were on the BSG for the "name recognition" or to build a resume.

Nonetheless, he feels BSG has made a "great deal" of progress this semester, "the fruits of which," he added, "will be evident in the Spring."

Vice President of Student Government Affairs DeRay McKesson '07 agreed that the semester has been challenging. "We're nowhere near where we need to be," he said.

"Honestly, there hasn't been a lot we've been doing except entertaining a lot of ideas."

Other BSG members had a more wholly positive view of the semester. Vice President of Student Organizations O.C. Isaac '06 admitted "things started rough," but later said he has "only positive things to say about BSG."

Vice President of Academic Affairs Timothy Ballenger '05 called the BSG a "very talented group" and singled out Douglas as an "excellent leader" who "works well with everyone."

"Everything is going extremely well," Vice President of Student Affairs Alex Cornell du Houx '06 said. "We're a little more proactive than last year."

Yet worried that the body is not reaching its potential, McKesson said, "I'm a firm believer that better isn't good enough."

The BSG constitution

The BSG constitution has done little to facilitate the process of making student leaders' ideas a reality.

The current constitution was adopted three years ago, when it combined three semi-autonomous organizations?the Student Executive Committee, Student Congress, and Student Activities Fares Committee?under the aegis of "Bowdoin Student Government." But the Constitution seems to leave more questions unanswered than answered.

BSG Treasurer and SAFC Chair Sue Kim '05 said the constitution is "pretty flawed," and Douglas called it a "monster." Officers complained about the committee system and ambiguity about a number of procedures, including how to handle absentee members. Kim noted that the position of SAFC chair is relatively undefined in the document.

McKesson said that past BSG administrations had worked more smoothly because the process was less formal, and that under Douglas the process has become considerably more structured. McKesson made structure a major campaign theme in April, identifying the need to strengthen the constitution and enhance officer and committee roles.

Some accomplishments

Despite the disagreement about the student government process, the BSG has initiated or continued a number of smaller programs since the start of the semester.

"We haven't done very big projects, but very small things that in the long run add up," said Katerina Papascoma, a first-year student representative.

According to Douglas, the group's accomplishments include expansion of the shuttle service to Portland, providing daily newspapers in dining halls, a revamped BSG office, a bartending class, a new course review web site, "superfan" T-shirts, a raffle for a platinum parking permit, study breaks, approval of several new clubs, and a BBQ at the Homecoming football game.

Cornell du Houx listed among BSG's efforts a food drive for charity, an "adopt-a-family" program, running buses to athletic events, and "thunderstix" at athletic events.

Facilities V.P. Derrick Wong '07 said that his expansion of the shuttle service to Portland is "working fairly well," but admitted he has had problems advertising the service.

Wong also mentioned his efforts to start a "grocery run program" that would provide a shuttle between Moulton Union and Hannaford's on Maine Street. He felt this program "has not been well-received." According to Wong there was to be a $1 charge, though an email sent out this week indicated that the service would be free.

Treasurer Kim believes she has made "the SAFC allocation process a less harrowing experience." She said the SAFC office hours have also been extended and she has reserved a specific amount of BSG funds for creative activities.

Poor record on April campaign proposals

During the April elections, candidates for the BSG officer posts made statements outlining their qualifications for their desired position and their goals if elected. An inquiry into the proposals made by the current officers shows that few of them have been enacted, and many have proven unrealistic.

"It is very clear in those statements that we weren't aware of what our roles were," McKesson said. On he and his colleagues' records of following through he said there was "no way to beat around the bush."

One of McKesson's proposals was to revamp the BSG web site. Yet at press time, the site's most recent update was from February and still listed the 2003-04 officers.

Asked when the web site would be updated, McKesson said he has "no clue."

Student Affairs V.P. Cornell du Houx listed a number of ideas in his candidate statement, including delivery from the pub. On that particular proposal he said that he faces an "uphill battle" with Dining Services.

"We're trying to make it happen, but it's not the easiest thing to do," Cornell du Houx said. He hopes the delivery system will be in place by next semester.

Another one of Cornell du Houx's proposals was to secure discounts for students at the movies. "[Movie discounts] is not one of the highest priorities right now, but it's still an idea that's out there," he said. According to Cornell du Houx, such a move would be part of an extended one-card plan.

Cornell du Houx also proposed that students be notified if their car were to be towed.

"We looked into it, and things ran into a slight problem," he said. "Even if we could notify everyone, it would be at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. There might be some way to work something out, but it's going to be very hard."

Finally, he offered to work toward more late night dining. This idea, he said, "is in committee." He added that expanding the program would be extremely expensive and that "if it's between this and expanding the use of polar points, it's polar points."

Admitting his commitments to several other organizations hindered his ability to fulfill the responsibilities of his position, he said he felt "lucky in that certain people on the [Student Affairs] committee stepped up while I was dedicated to getting Kerry to win." Cornell du Houx served as leader of the Maine College Democrats during the recent election season.

Ballenger made three proposals in his candidate statement last April, none of which have yet been achieved. These included quarterly progress reports from the BSG to the student body, promoting more innovative course offerings, and including more students in faculty searches.

Ballenger said that the quarterly progress reports is an issue he needs to "take up with Academic Affairs."

Asked what he considers his best individual achievement this semester, Ballenger answered that as a group, "BSG has worked well in organizing issues."

Wong's statement included three proposals, including a bicycle rental initiative. He said that he "hasn't really looked into [a bicycle rental program] at the moment."

Wong also proposed to extend hours at such campus hot spots as the convenience store in Smith Union. He said he "hasn't really pursued that" and has found that the current hours "are fairly reasonable." He also wanted to expand gym hours, but said that the Athletic Department is reluctant to keep the gym "open for no one."

Douglas proposed to get "missing meal equivalency rates transferred to Polar Points beginning in the fall," but cites difficulty with Dining Services in achieving progress. Other unrealized Douglas proposals include starting IM capture the flag, subsidized movie passes, a campus debate series, and a water balloon fight.


One of the most common campaign themes last April was working to provide more communication between the BSG and students.

In addition to working on a new web site, Ballenger said BSG is working on new polling to assess students' needs. "Quarterly progress reports will show what the BSG is doing and will be on the website. It will show how we fit into the scheme of achieving the common good at Bowdoin," he said.

Douglas admits that BSG is not "maximizing communication" and that "there are ways to make BSG more accessible." He noted that the group's Tuesday night meetings are open to all students, and that he wanted BSG to avoid appearing "exclusive."

Douglas sent several "check-in" emails to the "all-students" email alias early this semester, but after the class officer elections those emails "vanished."

MacMillan House representative Charlie Ticotsky '07 said there definitely needed to be more communication. He suggested publishing the minutes of BSG meetings in the Orient and guaranteed there would be BSG office hours "either next week or the very first week we get back from break."

McKesson said the root of many of BSG's problems is that it is not an accountable organization. He said BSG cannot rest on faith in "good people," and several of his colleagues expressed hope that increased communication would create more accountability.

Isaac said that his Student Organizations Oversight Committee web site, with descriptions of student organizations, would be up by the end of this week. In general, he felt there has been "better communication all around" this year. (See related story.)

Works in progress

Isaac said the "huge budget" BSG has left means "lots of things this spring."

According to Douglas, BSG is setting up a series of jointly-sponsored coffeehouses with the Inter House Council in an effort to provide a consistent chem-free weekend option in the social houses. He is also looking into movies during Super Snack, conducting a survey of first years, putting a dry-erase board for BSG updates in Smith Union, creating a new meal plan option, and holding a winter carnival in February. Echoing a theme from his April statement, Douglas still feels he needs to make BSG more "socially active."

This semester has seen "intensive planning," Douglas said. "It's always preparation, preparation, preparation."

Ballenger said he'd like to do "some kind of ceremony-initiative do an event in recognition of professors of the semester."

"This semester I've been planning to see how much I can do because it's all bureaucratic," Ballenger said.

-Monica Guzman, Brian Dunn, and James Baumberger contributed to this report.

See also: "Students lack knowledge of BSG officers, operations"