A committee charged with examining chem-free housing published recommendations this week for how to improve the system. If adopted, the proposed changes would alter the residential and social landscape for first year students.
Under the current system, Hyde Hall is a chem-free living space and all incoming first year students who elect to live chem-free are placed there. The College, however, has no strict definition for the term chem-free.
As the committee pointed out in its report, "For some it means choosing not to drink in their residence hall while for others it means never drinking alcohol or being around drugs or alcohol of any kind."
The committee recommended adopting a "floating floor" trial model, which would spread chem-free floors throughout the first year residence halls. A pilot program that anticipated this model last year placed a chem-free floor in both Appleton and Winthrop Halls. In the full trial model, Hyde would no longer be exclusively chem-free.
No changes will be made until the Office of Residential Life and the dean of Student Affairs have considered the proposals as well as student input.
When the Office of Residential Life surveyed all first years in the Class of 2014, they found that many chem-free students indicated a preference for the floating floor model.
"There was a majority of students in Hyde that talked about how they felt that the students in Appleton and Winthrop had a little bit of an advantage socially on campus" said Mary Pat McMahon, director of residential life.
Some members of the community, however, do not support the proposal.
"Doesn't that defeat the purpose of chem-free housing?" asked Tung Nguyen, a first year Hyde resident.
The report took the concerns of Nguyen and other like-minded students into consideration, and promised not to make any changes with undue haste.
"For members coming into community who have certain personal, religious, family or cultural perspectives, this has deep-rooted significance," said Ben Farrell, associate director of residential education and the chair of the committee. "I'm not looking to make changes the Bowdoin community is not ready for. I went into this without a fully formed opinion."
The committee believes that the proposed changes would address problems it identified with the current system, including a stigma against Hyde residents that can lead to a "social rift" that lasts throughout a student's time at the College.
"People ostracize Hyde," said Hyde resident Cleo Daoud '15, "They tell me, 'Oh my God, you're so normal. I can't believe you live in Hyde.'"
The report also noted that the current system leads to racial and ethnic segregation, since a disproportionate number of international students and students of color choose to live chem-free.
The College House system would also undergo changes as a consequence of the proposal. Currently, each of the eight first year residence halls is affiliated with one College House. Hyde is paired with Howell House, which is also chem-free.
The committee suggests maintaining the floating floors' affiliation with Howell House. As a result, Hyde would be left without an affiliation, so the brick affiliations would have to change in some way.
McMahon cannot say if the proposed changes will be put into effect, but she is adamant that one piece of the system will not change.
"Howell House plays an immense role in the connections between faculty, staff and students. Nothing is going to change with Howell House," she said.
The committee on chem-free housing will hold meetings on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. and on Tuesday, April 3 at 4 p.m. to discuss the proposals. Both meetings will take place in Main Lounge of Moulton Union, and will be open to the community.