Polar Pad Rentals, a student-run business providing deluxe rental mattresses and futons to Bowdoin students, has been shut down indefinitely by the College's administration. The business was launched and advertised to students through an all-campus email sent on June 30. By the end of July, after conversations with other senior staff members, Director of Student Life Allen Delong informed student founders Adam Fitzgerald ’16, Billy Valle ’16 and Tommy Garry ’17 that Polar Pad was not an entrepreneurial endeavor that the College could support. 

Discussions between Delong and the founders of Polar Pad regarding the future of the business will continue through the end of September. Although Fitzgerald and Valle are currently abroad, Garry is on campus and acting as the interim head. 

Polar Pad is a franchise of a company called Roomie Rentals, which was started by three Dartmouth alumni and now has many successful branches at colleges across the country. The most successful branch is at peer school Middlebury, which is why Fitzgerald, Valle and Garry were particularly excited to introduce the rental service to the Bowdoin community. 

Delong cited several issues that factored into the decision not to support Polar Pad. Generally the process for student-run businesses is to meet with Delong to pitch the idea and then proceed from there. Delong said he first heard of Polar Pad when the campus-wide email was sent out in June. However, Garry claimed that his business partners had talked to the administration before summer began. 

One of the administration’s main concerns involves the College’s solicitation policy about the role of commercial enterprises , such as Roomie Rentals, on campus. 

“There are very few if any corporate icons at Bowdoin and that’s by design,” said Delong. “There are a lot of people, corporations, businesses and philanthropic groups who would love to have access to Bowdoin students, and we really are cautious about who has access to our students.”

Though Delong mentioned that Fitzgerald, Valle and Garry have been very transparent with him, he remained wary of the business’s connection to a “bigger entity that is not just our students.” 

“That doesn’t mean that we never would go with students who are involved in a franchise,” said Delong. “But it does get a different degree of analysis.”

Another primary concern was that Polar Pad would be a burden to staff that work during the busy student move-in and move-out periods. 

 “The students who proposed it were adamant that it wouldn’t [add work for staff] and I trust those students,” said Delong. “But I also trust the people who are cleaning the rooms, who are painting the rooms, who have to make sure that beds are put together for the next occupants. And in the end, I need to listen to them.”

Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster added that affordability also played a role in why the administration chose not to support Polar Pad. Mattress and futon rentals cost upwards of $249 a year.

“The idea of haves and have nots—of ‘I’m going to upgrade because I can afford to upgrade’—that’s just not the Bowdoin way,” he said.

Foster emphasized that this was by no means the main reason for shutting down the business, but said that it was a factor. 

The Polar Pad business model states that when one of its rental beds is brought into a dorm room, its staff will disassemble the existing bed and store it under the new rental. There is no guarantee that students will keep the College-issued bed there throughout the year, however.

Delong was concerned that students might choose to store the bed in a separate facility. By move-out time, tracking that bed down could be difficult and it would be unclear who would be responsible for the potentially missing bed—Polar Pad or the student. 

“Frankly, we the College don’t want to get involved in that,” Delong said. 

Garry expressed disappointment over the administration’s attitude towards Polar Pad. 

“The three of us were really interested in entrepreneurship and we were really excited about [Polar Pad],” said Garry. “Bowdoin doesn’t really have anything like this… I think it could definitely be something that adds to the culture here and shows the ingenuity and creativity of the kids here.”

Before the administration announced that they would not support the business, Polar Pad had received upward of 20 orders, according to Garry. All clients have been fully refunded.

Delong noted that he gets around three to five entrepreneurial pitches a year. He has faith that Fitzgerald—his primary student contact throughout this process—will be back with another idea in the near future. 

“[Adam] is a person who’s been bit by the bug,” said Delong. “So even though the answer was no about this one, I fully expect that he’s going to have another pitch, and I look forward to having that conversation with him.”