The Office of Student Affairs, in conjunction with BSG President Sarah Nelson ’14, hosted a forum to discuss its new hazing policy Wednesday night. 

Tim Foster, dean of student affairs, Tim Ryan, athletic director, and Allen Delong, director of student activities, took questions and comments regarding the recent changes to the policy, hoping to ease students’ anxiety surrounding the issue. 

The meeting was closed to non-community members and memebrs of the press, and as such, direct quotations from students present cannot be printed here. 

Nelson felt it was important to give students an opportunity to speak with campus administrators on the issue of hazing, which has raised considerable fervor on campus.

“I think it’s really helpful with issues like this [for students and administrators] to interact on a personal level,” she said. “My goal was to break down any communication barriers that may have existed.”

Broadly, students discussed confusion with the policy, with many feeling fearful that any team or student organization hangout can be construed as hazing. Both Foster and Delong reiterated that this is not the intention of the policy. 

“I think the point we want to make—and we try to make over and over, through the case studies, and side conversations—is that groups can have a lot of fun in so many different ways with and without alcohol being involved and it doesn’t constitute hazing,” said Foster. 

Nelson said the feedback from students was that the presence of the administrators helped dispel fears around holding gatherings.

“I had students say to me, ‘I realize now that the administration isn’t out to get me,’” she said.
Delong noted that there is a spectrum of hazing and that the administration’s main focus is to eliminate the more severe acts of hazing. 

“What I’m concerned about are the more harmful activities that sometimes involve alcohol, that involve things of a sexual nature, or dangerous behavior like taking someone out in the woods and dropping them off,” he said.

Delong and Foster stressed their open-door policy with regard to hazing, a provision of the policy that encourages student leaders to discuss events they might throw with administrators. This aims to prevent violations of the policy before they happen.

“If we’re able to talk openly about the kinds of things that are happening, that’s a good sign because it’s the stuff that people don’t want to talk about openly that may be problematic,” said Foster.

“A student said that students seem to be coming to this realization, ‘Oh this thing we used to do, we can’t do that anymore. Now we need to find something else that bonds us and sits within the hazing policy,’” said Delong.  

Delong hosted an event to educate leaders of student organizations last Friday, using a presentation that had also been distributed by the Department of Athletics to its teams. He said that similar themes came up in that discussion.

“Students were able to say ‘Hey, wait, this part I don’t get. I’m in this organization, and how does this part relate to me,’” said Delong.  “People could really stop generalizing and make it specific to their organization.”

All felt that hazing can be eliminated at the College.

“I have so much confidence in the Bowdoin student body,” said Nelson. “I think we absolutely have the power to do that.

“Bowdoin students are confident enough to say, ‘I’m not gonna do that.  That’s not who we are,’” said Delong.

-Eliza Novick-Smith contributed to this report.