The results of the latest installment of the Orient’s semi-annual approval ratings survey overwhelmingly suggest that Bowdoin students are disillusioned with the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. Many students responded to the Orient expressing discontent with the deans’ handling of recent hazing incidents, and were generally dissatisfied with the administration’s lack of transparency.

Dean Tim Foster’s recent email to students outlining staffing changes within the Office of Student Affairs is demonstrative of the ambiguity that often accompanies administration communiqués to the student body. A similar lack of clarity has defined the administration’s response to multiple hazing incidents this year, leading many students to regard the deans as foes rather than friends. Despite continued discontent with the current policy, exactly what constitutes hazing remains uncertain, and there is no sign the administration plans to change its procedure any time soon. Many students are unsure about what falls under the College’s expansive definition of hazing. It is understandable that the administration does not want to report the details of hazing incidents, but leaving the student body in the dark as to what actually constitutes hazing only hinders efforts to prevent future occurrences. There have been many programs geared toward educating club and sports team leaders on hazing over the past few years, and perhaps the situation would be improved if that information were made widely available to all students—not just those in charge of student organizations.

Student reactions to this year’s hazing incidents underline the fact that the deans’ judgments often seem like they come out of left field. Their decisions reflect a disregard for the norms of our campus, given that the broad definition of hazing encompasses activities that are considered both ordinary and safe. The dominant opinion among students is that the deans are far removed from student life. Periodic appeals to connect with students do not do enough to engender a sense that the deans are on our side. While some students will certainly get to know administrators, for most, the deans appear to be little more than talking heads who sign campus-wide emails.

Responses to the approval ratings survey indicated a growing frustration with the insistence of the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Safety and Security on treating Bowdoin students like children. Though almost every student enrolled at Bowdoin is a legal adult, the College’s procedure for determining what constitutes hazing undermines the ability of the students involved to choose whether or not to participate in group traditions. As college students, we should be capable of making smart choices, even in the presence of subtle pressure from our peers.

Solving these problems is easier said than done. Currently, deans hold office hours in order to provide students with the opportunity to voice their concerns. However, few students attend these sessions, and when they do, they may find it difficult to discuss contentious issues face-to-face for fear that the conversation may affect future disciplinary relationships. BSG is moving to address the ambiguities of the hazing policy, but whatever the assembly authorizes must ultimately be approved by the administration. The College is entitled to act in loco parentis in order to ensure student safety and well-being. But going forward, the administration must do so with a measure of transparency that allows students to understand its decisions.

​The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Nora Biette-Timmons, Garrett Casey, Linda Kinstler, Sam Miller, Sam Weyrauch and Kate Witteman.