When Bates decided to enforce its existing alcohol policy by banning a longstanding Halloween tradition called Trick or Drink, students decided to fight for their right to party. 

In an email sent to students on October 14, Bates’ Office of the Vice President for College Advancement wrote that the college was ending the annual event because it “facilitates binge and underage drinking.” In response, members of Bates’ senior class created a petition stating their intention to withhold senior gift donations unless the administration allows Trick or Drink to continue. 

According to Niche—an organization that rates and ranks colleges—Trick or Drink is an event during which a group of upperclassmen living in off-campus houses host themed parties for the entire campus. Students travel from house to house, imbibing a different mixed drink at each location. 

The October 14 email said that President of Bates Clayton Spencer and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Affairs Josh McIntosh “will convene a group of students, staff and faculty to lead a comprehensive effort toward a healthier campus culture. The decision to end Trick or Drink is consistent with the work this group will embrace.” 

In a separate email sent to students who live off campus, McIntosh wrote that the College will contact lease holders regarding the student conduct process should students attempt to host an event that facilitates binge and/or underage drinking. He also wrote that student-athletes will be held in violation of the Department of Athletics Alcohol Policy, and could be suspended from participating in the Bates Atletics program.

Spencer, who has been the president of Bates since 2012, voiced her support for stricter enforcement of the school’s alcohol policy.

“The status quo that has prevailed the two years that I have been on this campus is not acceptable with regard to alcohol,” Spencer told The Bates Student, Bates’ student-run newspaper. “It has been dangerous; it has resulted in an enormous amount of property destruction, of injury to students and others, and the idea that we are taking a clearer approach to enforcement—that we are actually writing up more—is necessary and has my full support.”

Alyssa Morgosh, president of Bates student body, said that although the alcohol policy has not changed, Bates is “beginning a wider conversation about healthier behavior.” 

Morgosh said this conversation began as a response to two tragic accidents. In February, a student died while abroad in Rome and in October 2012, another student died after falling down a flight of stairs. 

“We have had some student deaths—some alcohol related, some not—and some disruption in the community,” said Morgosh. She characterized the changes as “the administration’s feeling like it is time to do something about it and it is time to make some changes.” 

“The school, in response to tragedies on campus—out of necessity—had to change its stance on alcohol from a relaxed policy that had just a ban on hard alcohol to a very campus-wide, strict policy of no underage drinking at all,” said Ben Smiley, co-president of Bates’ senior class, adding that in the past “if beer was consumed moderately and appropriately in a dorm setting on campus, then there usually weren’t any issues [with college disciplinary action].”

At an open forum held on Wednesday, students expressed their main problem with the cancellation of the event: the fact that the administration did not involve students in the decision-making process.

“Widely what I think the student body is asking for is just a process to involve students along the way as decisions are being made. Students want to be a part of that conversation,” said Morgosh. 

Smiley said that although the forum was a step in the right direction, many students are still not satisfied. He said that their discontent is directed at McIntosh, who has been working to make Bates safer and healthier since his arrival over the summer.

“There is a disconnect with the speed with which [McIntosh] is working and keeping the students up to date as he is going,” Smiley said.

Students have started a Facebook group named “Save TrickOrDrink”  that had 477 members at press time. Senior Sean Murphy created a change.org petition—signed by 577 students and alumni—offering an ultimatum to the administration. Murphy could not be reached before press time.

“The only evident way to make our voice heard on this issue is to withold [sic] all Senior Gifts until a productive dialogue is started between the administration and student leaders, and fun, responsible alternatives are approved,” the petition reads. “We the undersigned pledge to refuse to donate to Bates in any way until this issue has been approprately [sic] and adequately resolved.”

The group of students, staff and faculty that Spencer and McIntosh promised to create to address campus health issues will first meet in November, according to Morgosh. 

Morgosh and Smiley said that the fundraising committee has yet to meet and has not made any decisions about the senior class gift. 

Bowdoin’s Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster declined to comment on both the TrickOrDrink controversy at Bates and the school’s increased enforcement of its alcohol policy.

Regarding the drinking culture at Bowdoin, Foster emphasized the importance of students taking responsibility for their own safety and well-being as well as the safety and well-being of their friends.

“I think our students largely make responsible choices and decisions around alcohol,” Foster said. “I think if you push down too hard on enforcement, you run the risk of driving dangerous and irresponsible drinking underground and that can jeopardize student health and well-being.”

Foster said that although the College’s policies undergo an annual review, the events at Bates are not likely to impact Bowdoin’s alcohol policy.

“There is not a plan to revise our alcohol policy and I actually think that our current alcohol policy serves us quite well, thanks to leadership of students and the good choices and decisions students make,” said Foster. “There’s a culture at Bowdoin that our students have defined—that you step in when you’re concerned about somebody—and that’s really important.”

—Meg Robbins contributed to this report.