On Wednesday, President Mills sent out a campus-wide email highlighting an incident on October 10 when an intoxicated Brunswick resident made homophobic and sexist remarks before punching a student outside of Joshua’s Restaurant and Tavern. This violent altercation sticks out as an anomaly in the otherwise peaceful relationship between the College and the greater Brunswick community.
The dispute outside Joshua’s is not indicative of deep-rooted us-and-them tension. Most of the faculty and staff live in town, send their children to Brunswick schools, pay Brunswick taxes and shop at Brunswick stores. Many restaurants on Maine Street now accept students’ OneCards, and town auditors are a familiar sight in class. The relationship between Bowdoin Security and Brunswick Police Department is a symbiotic one that encourages cooperation between the forces. Incidents like those we covered this week are perhaps an inevitable consequence of living in a place where people are not all the same. It is important to address and try to make sense of these individual acts of violence and bigotry, but it is also important to remember that they do not characterize our town-gown relationship as a whole.
In March of 2011, someone vandalized a white board in Coles Tower. Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster sent a campus-wide email soon after the incident was reported, explaining what had transpired, and condemning the act as “targeted hate speech.” Several days later, a community-wide forum was convened to discuss not only the event but also other instances of bias. The following fall, our editorial board applauded Bowdoin’s active response to the incident, contrasting it with the hands-off approach the Williams administration took immediately following a hate crime on their campus. We saw a similiarly supportive reaction from Bowdoin this week: yesterday, a closed meeting at 30 College Street brought multicultural campus leaders together to discuss moving forward in the aftermath of the week’s reports. A follow-up forum on Sunday will further the discussion.
Brunswick is not an intolerant community, but at Bowdoin we are largely insulated from overt demonstrations of bigotry. However, it’s not uncommon for students to report hearing derogatory or sexually explicit language yelled out of the windows of passing cars. There are certainly students who feel unsafe both on and off campus, and we do not want to minimize the very real concerns students and faculty have brought to light.
The best thing to do in the aftermath is to move forward, which we will only do by continuing dialogue. We should not stay away from Joshua’s or anywhere else in Brunswick—intolerance thrives when stereotypes go unexamined and unchallenged.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Claire Aasen, Erica Berry, Nora Biette-Timmons, Marisa McGarry, Eliza Novick-Smith, Sam Miller and Sam Weyrauch.