As returning students may remember from a couple of stories in this paper and a series of emails sent out by Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols last spring, three Bowdoin students were given a criminal charge of forgery in connection with the use of fake I.D. cards in Brunswick. As one of those three students, I can say the situation blossomed quickly into much more stressful than a disciplinary headache.
Since April, the whole process has had me in a sort of emotional half-nelson. I’ve never really been a troublemaker. Never in high school did I find myself in the principal’s office, and even the odd teenager-y fight with my parents would keep me up at night feeling guilty. So to all of a sudden face the possibility of a felony conviction started an ongoing existential freakout that has been hard to put out of mind.
The fear of punishment has done more than just induce a steady flow of low-grade anxiety. In alliance with an already neurotic personality, it has made me do some serious thinking about how I fit into the communities I belong to at Bowdoin, from my floormates to the state whose laws I’m bound to obey. Ultimately, I’m having to reaffirm a few lessons I thought I understood pretty well.
Probably like many Bowdoin students, I learned through adolescence to take responsibility for my actions and be accountable for my behavior. I’ve taken care of small children full-time at a summer camp, edited a school newspaper, stayed vigilant about grades, and so on. But what is being painfully illustrated to me now, and what I’d like to share with first years as they settle into campus life, is that it’s possible to forget these things in a new atmosphere free of the constraints of high school and parents.
Being successful up to this point in life is not the same thing as being invincible, and there is no great cosmic rule that says you can’t make the Dean’s List and be convicted of a felony in the same year. It only takes one moment of incredibly stupid judgment to do something that may end up following you for years and years to come. We have the right to relish the time we spend in college, but we can’t expect to get off with “double secret probation” when it comes to breaking the law.
While college kids may inevitably act immaturely—I don’t think anyone would contest that—it’s important to keep in mind that Bowdoin is deeply, and legally, contiguous with its surrounding community. We must be responsible citizens of Brunswick as well our own campus.
Those new to Bowdoin will soon find that it’s not so hard to do. With very reasonable alcohol policies and an understanding ResLife staff, the school goes to great lengths to contain the occasionally hazy judgment of its students. It’s also both easy and rewarding to make a positive impact locally through the McKeen Center, Common Good Day, and numerous other ties between Bowdoin and the Brunswick community.
For now I’m hoping for the best with legal proceedings and eagerly awaiting a return to normal life. I intend to make the most of my three remaining years here without stepping over any more serious boundaries, and I hope the Class of 2016 can easily do the same for four.
Leo Shaw is a member of the Class of 2015.