Though gazing up at the stars and down at the campus from the roof of a College building may be scenic, it is also a serious violation of campus policy.

On March 15, 1996, a 20-year-old University of Maine-Orono Student, Cameron Brett, plummeted three stories to his death after climbing on the roof of Ladd House (formerly Chi Delta Phi) during a party on Bowdoin's campus. His death sparked a series of new and stringent measures within the College community, which included the administration's decision to shut down the Chi Delta Phi and Alpha Kappa Sigma fraternities and, in March of the following year, eliminate the entire fraternity system.

The College also began policing roof access more strictly, citing safety and possible damages as major concerns.

"The roofs on campus are all flat roofs, not designed for the purpose of occupants," said Assistant Director of Facilities Management Jeff Tuttle. "They are constructed from rubber membrane and insulation, and the roofs can be crushed and damaged easily."

According to Tuttle, the administration has ramped up roof security even more in the past five years, partly to limit the school's liability in case of an accidents. Student access to roofs was certainly less restricted in earlier years when the ban was not as rigorously enforced, as there were accessible roof entrances in residential dorms and other buildings.

Now, the repercussions for accessing campus roofs can be harsh. Two years ago, two current male juniors—who asked to remain anonymous—learned firsthand what could result from rooftop exploration.

During Ivies Weekend 2010, the then-first years climbed through a conference room window in Moulton Union, to meet up with another friend seated on the rooftop.

"We literally just sat there and looked at the stars," the junior male said. "We just saw our friend on the roof as we were walking back to our dorm, and he told us to come up." However, the three first years were reported to Security by a fellow classmate, who was studying in the Chamberlain Room. The following day, Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols informally told the the men that they could not drink for the remainder of Ivies Weekend.

Two weeks later, the offenders met with Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Janet Lohmann and the men were placed on social probation until the end of the following semester. The men said that the dean cited recent instances of danger that came from roof access, and emphasized the school's safety concerns.

In an email to the Orient, Lohmann stated that unauthorized climbing incidents are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, like all other violations of the Social Code. She also noted that only a very small number of students have been caught on the roofs of College buildings in recent years.

"The health and safety of students and the community are at the forefront of any decision," she wrote.

Yet some peer schools are not as concerned about roof access. Cassandra Celestin, a junior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., described a very different roof culture.

"I can only speak for the people I know, but though we're not technically allowed on the roof, people do go to the roofs often," said Celestin. "I haven't heard of any one instance of people getting in trouble."

Indeed, though Wesleyan's Code of Non-Academic Conduct prohibits "the unauthorized appropriation or 'borrowing'" of community space, including roofs, Celestin says that Wesleyan students frequent the roofs of two buildings on campus. The roof of one building, the main science building, is always accessible, she said.

The other, the oldest building on campus, which is seven stories tall, is frequently locked, though students do find ways of gaining roof access on particularly clear, warm nights

Wesleyan's permissive stance toward roof access makes repercussions for roof access at Bowdoin seem much more severe. But with Bowdoin's history, administrators maintain that banning rooftop recreation is necessary to ensure safety.

This article was edited for correctness on December 2, 2011.