Even one hundred and forty-nine years after the Class of 1867 first planted ivy near the Chapel, the Ivies celebration continues to serve as respite from academics. Despite some obvious differences, the Ivies weekends of yore bear a surprising resemblance to the Ivies of today. In “Tales of Bowdoin,” a collection compiled by former students, President Kenneth C. M. Sills of the Class of 1901 recalls a day when “the expectant mothers, the passive fathers, the pretty sisters” descended on Bowdoin’s campus for a day of oratory performances. Sills describes a tennis match that began at dawn after a night of debauchery, contested between two seniors and two young alumni who were only “slightly clad,” and refereed by one Tim Taylor, who was—even at such a late hour—“rather drunk.” Sills uses the elegant language of a more restrained era, but many current students can read their own Ivies experiences into his account.

From the College’s perspective in 2014, this weekend is primarily about attempting to impose order on chaos. E-Board members hand deliver notices to our neighbors in Brunswick, and some professors even skip town. Rain contingency plans are in place. Multiple emails from Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols have enumerated strategies to “Survivies.” While there is plenty of debauchery already underway, the Ivies spirit has as much to do with breaking the norms of everyday interaction as it does with bending the rules. The near-magical quality of Ivies comes from a meaningful sense of liberation from social divisions within our small community. Today’s party on the Brunswick Quad marks the one moment when a large portion of the student body will gather together informally.  

This communal revelry makes Ivies a uniquely inclusive opportunity for fun. Demarcations drawn by class years, varsity teams, College House affiliations and extracurricular involvements dissolve. First years will find that this last weekend in April is the first significant opportunity to invoke the “Bowdoin Hello” since the early months of the academic year. Above recognizing tradition and celebrating the long-awaited start of spring, we gather to celebrate our common experience as the academic year reaches its final crescendo. 

We see Ivies as a utopia because of the collective release it brings. But instead of saving the date, we might take the experience instructively. We are capable of substituting bacchanalian camaraderie with substantial—and sober—conversation with new friends after the weekend ends. Ivies sets an example and poses a challenge for the last few weeks of this term and our Bowdoin experience more generally. The long-celebrated Bowdoin tradition brings a state of mind that should linger long after the hangover fades.

The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which is comprised of Erica Berry, Nora Biette-Timmons, Garrett Casey, Ron Cervantes, Marisa McGarry, Sam Miller, Leo Shaw and Kate Witteman.