In the fall of 1964, Bowdoin’s president James Stacy Coles wrote in delight to a friend about the seniors he noticed around the College’s new Senior Center, the 16-story tower that would later bear his name.
“[They] seem to walk about with greater pride,” he wrote. “They have spontaneously spruced up their personal appearance.”
Last fall marked 50 years since the completion and opening of the Senior Center, now known as Coles Tower. Since then, many things have changed on campus. Just as it did in 1964, though, the Tower primarily houses seniors and plays a significant role in the cultural fabric of the College.
Originally, the Tower was conceived as part of a larger program called the Senior Commons. In a senior thesis tracing the history of the program, Benjamin Brennan ’08 wrote that it was “an effort to bring about sweeping social and curricular changes at what was regarded as a very traditional school.”
This was a version of Bowdoin that would be hardly recognizable to students today: a conservative, all-male institution where the vast majority of social life happened inside fraternities. Classes were held every day but Sunday, and women were never allowed in campus dorms.
The goal was to remake the experience of Bowdoin’s upperclassmen, loosening these social restrictions and emphasizing engagement with the outside world. The College felt that its seniors were spending too much time with younger students in fraternities, and hoped to bring them out of fraternity houses and into more contact with one another in the Tower.
“There was this idea that we wanted to find a center for communal life and intellectual life for senior men,” said Senior Lecturer in Environmental Studies Jill Pearlman.
To accomplish this, the College created new, interdisciplinary senior seminars that cut across Bowdoin’s traditional distribution requirements. They arranged for scholars-in-residence to live among seniors, and planned a new dining hall where they would eat together. Seeing this as an innovative, modernizing program, they wanted a physical structure to match, one where seniors would both live and study together.
Hugh Stubbins, a prominent modernist architect, designed the new Senior Center. While the building was the first example of modern architecture at Bowdoin, many of the College’s peer institutions, and larger universities like Harvard and Princeton, had built their own modernist buildings over the previous two decades.
At Bowdoin, students had long desired more modern facilities. An Orient editorial from 1945 lamented that “the only things modern on our campus are our toilets and kitchens.” “College campuses are architecturally conservative—rarely does anything new happen at them,” said Pearlman.
When colleges do decide to pursue new architectural styles, though, the trends often spread quickly.
“Everyone was getting their own modernist building after the war,” she added.
Construction began in 1963. On January 20, 1964, while the fourteenth and fifteenth floors were under construction, an electrical fire engulfed the top of the building. Secretary of Development and College Relations John Cross ’76 was then a fourth-grader living in Brunswick. In 2011, he discussed his memories of the fire in a piece for the Bowdoin Daily Sun.
“We slogged through the slush left by rains that had fallen on heavy snow and joined a crowd of students and neighbors in staring up at the tower and the fire crews that battled to contain the blaze,” he wrote.
Surprisingly, the fire, whose repairs cost $200,000, did not much delay construction. The building opened on schedule for the fall semester in 1964. At the time, it was the tallest building in Maine (it now ranks second, after Portland’s Franklin Towers).
While the physical component of the Senior Center program appeared to be a success, many students saw it as an effort to weaken fraternities and feelings about the academic components were mixed. The College soon struggled to fill senior seminars.
Following the resignation of the Center’s original director, history professor Bill Whiteside, in 1970, the decrease in interest among seniors meant that younger students were occupying many of its rooms.
“It was kind of a model that worked for a little while… But by the time I was a senior, it wasn’t exclusively a residence for seniors any more,” said Cross. “It became sort of another dorm.”
By 1980, with the curriculum largely defunct and the building populated by students from a range of class years, the Senior Center was renamed Coles Tower, after the man who had presided over its creation.
Cross said the name change was “a recognition that the Senior Center program had been replaced by a more flexible curriculum.”
Coles Tower Today
Having outlived its original purpose and numerous subsequent architectural movements, Coles Tower fills a far different role than it did at its creation.
“It still stands out. It’s kind of on its own little island,” Pearlman said. “Like many modernist buildings, it hasn’t aged very well.”
Pearlman was optimistic, though, about the renovations currently taking place.
Today, the Tower is central to the social life of many students in a way that few in the heyday of fraternities would have anticipated.
“The tower is the hub of social life for a lot of seniors,” wrote Matt Friedland ’15, a Tower resident, in an email to the Orient. “It houses a solid amount of the senior class, so a lot of events both during the week and on the weekends happen in the tower.”
“It would be the place from which the Bowdoin Bubble, if it existed, would originate,” he wrote.“It’s definitely a social hotspot,” said Lela Garner ’16, another resident of the Tower. “It’s really easy to access other rooms, not like in Brunswick or the freshman dorms where you have to go and knock on everyone’s door.”
However, the social atmosphere dissuades some students from living in Coles as well.
“It seems a bit too chaotic and hectic for me. I need a quiet space,” said Bintou Kunjo ’15, who lives on School Street. “I think it’s party central.”
While the senior seminars of the 1960s are long gone, classes are still taught at the top floor of the Tower. Visiting Assistant Professor of English Morten Hansen has chosen the classroom in each of his two semesters at Bowdoin.
“The view provides a pretty backdrop and counterpoint to discussions and lectures without being a distraction,” he wrote in an email to the Orient. “My sense is that most students like having classes up there overlooking the campus and the surrounding area.”
Many residents appreciate the building’s social life considerably more than its architecture, however.
“I didn’t love it at first, because it felt quite institutional,” said Garner. “When I walk into my home, I don’t want to see cement walls and lots of doors.”
“It’s definitely as comfortable and home-y as you make it, but you have to put in a good amount of effort to make it look nice on the inside,” wrote Hallie Bates ’15 in an email to the Orient.
Despite reservations among students about the building itself, the Tower’s status as a central location for seniors seems to be having a resurgence.
In Fall 2006, 22 percent of the apartments in the Tower were occupied by quads of all seniors. This past fall, that number had risen to 70 percent.
Associate Director of Housing Operations Lisa Rendall said that it is typically one of the first housing options to fill up in the lottery, along with Harpswell Apartments and the quads in Chamberlain Hall.
Bowdoin to replace all loans with grants
Policy takes effect in fall; current students will not incur further debt
College graduation is often associated with freedom. But with tuition costs at an all-time high, Bowdoin graduates often find themselves shackled by student loan debt years after receiving their degrees. No more.
Eleven may face piracy suits
Illegally downloading Britney Spears's new single may cost some students more than ridicule this semester?$750, to be exact. Eleven members of the Bowdoin community were served with pre-litigation letters earlier this month for infringing on the rights of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) by illegally uploading or downloading music files over online peer-to-peer (p2p) networks.
Hazing investigation concludes ?mild hazing?
An investigation conducted at the end of the fall semester has concluded that several students on the women's squash team were victims of "mild hazing" in 2006. According to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, "in the case of women's squash, there was certainly mild to moderate hazing."
Facilities adds locks to Brunswick Apts.
At 3 a.m. on December 27, 2007, a man and his dog entered an unlocked apartment in Brunswick Apartments where two students were sleeping. The students were woken by the dog, and sighted the man in the doorway before he exited.
Despite a day with classes, King?s birthday observed
Though Monday marked the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, at Bowdoin, classes continued as usual. However, the fact that classes were in session did not stop faculty and students from reflecting on King's legacy, which has a special connection to Bowdoin.
Bowdoin 24th in Peace Corps rankings; 14 alumni currently serving abroad
For the second year in a row, Bowdoin made the Peace Corps's top 25 list for small schools with the largest number of volunteers serving abroad. There are currently 14 Bowdoin alumni serving as volunteers in 12 countries, earning the College a 24th place ranking on this year's list. In 2006, when Bowdoin was ranked 20th on the list, Peace Corps Regional Recruiter Christopher Lins noted that if the rankings were done on a per capita basis, Bowdoin would fall in the top five of all schools in the country.
BSG is workable in spite of resignations
VoIP phones installed in dorms; some quads share one phone
The new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones, introduced in certain administrative offices in November, have now been installed throughout the entire campus. Replacing phones that have been used since the 1970s, the VoIP phones convert telephone signals for transmission over Bowdoin's existing internet network. The switch to VoIP occurred after a year of internal testing at the College. According to Chief Information Officer Mitch Davis, the new telephone network is now the nation's fastest campus-wide network.
Bowdoin Brief: IT installs new public printing system
Public printing at Bowdoin is now easier and more reliable than it has been in the past, according to Information Technology (IT). The College has replaced its four-year-old CS Print system with Pharos Uniprint. "We recognized some clear issues with the system we had in place," said IT Security Officer and Systems Consultant Steve Blanc.
Bowdoin Brief: Powell leaves Bowdoin for Princeton admissions
Senior Associate Dean of Admissions Logan Powell has left Bowdoin to accept a position in the Princeton University Undergraduate Admissions Office. According to a press release on the Princeton Web site, Powell was appointed Director of Admission, effective December 12, 2007. In his new position, Powell is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the undergraduate admissions office and the management of its staff.
Editorial: Replacing Student Loans
In his 1972 hit ?School?s Out,? rocker Alice Cooper articulated the catharsis that grips students each spring when they wave goodbye to the various undesirable aspects of school. For college graduates, however, it is often more complicated: While many might leave behind ?pencils, books, and teachers? dirty looks,? debt from increasingly large student loans tends to stalk them into adulthood.
The Flip Side: Taking issue with taxes on estates, gifts
After observing the presidential debates surrounding taxation, I have been intrigued by the estate tax. As the laws currently stand, one can pass on up to $2,000,000 upon death tax free to their heirs. I have heard a variety of stances regarding the issue.
Bowdoin students should rethink stances on Moosehead plans
To the Editors: Andy Smith ("Need to consider alternative options for development at Plum Creek," December 7, 2007) shows his lack of independent knowledge of the Moosehead Lake Region by submitting a piece whose entire substance consists of Natural Resources Council of Maine-published "talking points."
Medical malpractice suits did not increase for Maine doctors
To the Editors: Brian Lockhart's column "Health care costs rise with medical liability lawsuits" (December 7, 2007) was well written but somewhat off the mark. Mr. Lockhart mentions "increasing incidences of lawsuits brought against doctors."
- December 7
Editorial: Zoning Ordinance
The proposed zoning ordinance that would prohibit two or more unrelated persons from living together in one household unit may have been masked as an innocuous decree intended to preserve the quality of neighborhoods in Brunswick, but its underlying message is clear: Bowdoin students are not welcome by some neighbors outside of the college community. Although the ordinance itself makes no specific mention of students, citizens who spoke in favor of the measure at Tuesday night's meeting repeatedly cited the off-campus student house at 17 Cleaveland St. in their remarks, confirming our fear that this proposal is little more than poorly disguised discrimination.
- December 7
Revocation of funding was inappropriate response to Republicans
Last year, when WBOR faced termination by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for failing to follow legal regulations (not keeping records of its Public Service Announcements), the campus sprung into action, writing more than 600 letters to support the station. Station leadership itself helped to remedy the situation, completing the missing records.
- December 7
Moosehead Lake development demands Bowdoin students? attention
I can assure Mr. Simko ("Bowdoin students have no right to protest Plum Creek development plan," November 30, 2007) that all students who attended the Land Use Regulation Commision's public hearing in Augusta on December 2 have taken time to understand the issue. He accuses Bowdoin students of having no vested interest in the area, but it is Seattle-based Plum Creek, the nation's largest land developer, who is guilty of this charge more than us students.
- December 7
Need to consider alternative options for development at Plum Creek
I am a freshman at Colby College who has been working to stop Plum Creek's development plan for the Moosehead region. One of my friends was sent John Simko's opinion piece ("Bowdoin students have no right to protest Plum Creek development plan," November 30, 2007) by a Bowdoin student, and after reading it I felt compelled to respond. While I am not a Bowdoin student, Simko's criticisms of their activism apply to me as well. After all, I spent the weekend with several of the students he is condemning, and I testified with them at the Land Use Regulation Commission hearing in Augusta.
- December 7
View from the Top: Seniors: Holiday parties are in session
With the semester coming to a close, there are a few things to take note of here...clearly the most important being that it's time to take advantage of the circuit of holiday events. Now that you're a senior, you know what to expect when it comes to holiday fun on campus; where you like to party, when it's appropriate to show, and how extreme to get.
- December 7
The Flip Side: Health care costs rise with medical liability lawsuits
As December rolls around, I thought I might break the seal on campaign issues. I would like to discuss a consequence of medical liability lawsuits on health care that is not very well known. Most people know that doctors' insurance has inflated dramatically as there have been increasing incidences of lawsuits brought against physicians. The rising insurance is often blamed for the skyrocketing health care costs. However, insurance is only a fraction of the problem.
Students return with new perspectives, field experience
While students studying off-campus this spring have just begun their adjustment, students who spent their fall semester away are making the opposite transition back to life at Bowdoin. These students' stories are just a few of this fall's off-campus study experiences.
News from the Field: Nature and nurture work together, and science addresses both topics
The social sciences rest at the elbow of the arts/humanities and the natural sciences. The topics addressed by social scientists are familiar to the philosopher and the musician: reason, passion, and the magnificent depths of the human experience.
Busting Bowdoin Myths: Steam tunnels exist, but not for students
As temperatures drop to frighteningly low degrees, Bowdoin's rumored underground tunnels would certainly be a comfort to use.
The Diddy Gritty: Guide to curing campus fever
As a savvy Bowdoin vet, I know that nothing hurts a good semester more than the seasonal depression associated with the Maine winter.
- December 7
Museum equipped with new top-notch security features
The Walker Art Building, the most recently renovated building on campus, may stand as the most secure building in Maine.
- December 7
Students find rides home through Digest, friends
Upsurges in work and cabin fever are not the only signs that winter break is on the horizon. Posts begin to sprinkle the Student Digest several weeks in advance, politely inquiring about rides to the Portland Jetport, Boston, New York, and other destinations.
- December 7
The Elements of Style: Winter wonderland: season for elegance
It's the most wonderful time of the year! Or so they say.
- December 7
Students encourage toy drive donations
Though it may be hard to see the upcoming holiday season through the looming week of finals, two first years are urging students to think not only of the holidays, but also of others.
- December 7
Squirrels, storms, can leave campus in the dark
When campus squirrels finally begin Operation Takeover Bowdoin, their first step will likely be to cut power to the campus.
- November 30
Safe Ride Confessions
Do you remember what you talked about in the Safe Ride van on the way back from the party last weekend? Probably not. Chances are, though, that your Safe Ride driver does.
Arts & Entertainment
Bisbee nails opening at Portland Museum of Art
Following the accidental discovery of a bucket of entangled nails in 1988, Lecturer in Art John Bisbee has plied the massy metal into diverse and imaginative sculptures. Currently on display at the Portland Museum of Art are pieces that scamper up the wall like double-jointed arthropods while others languidly curve across the floor.
Artist consumes the fruit of her body
Performance art, which emerged during the tumultuous 1970s, is widely regarded as weird, obscure, and nonsensical. Artists such as GG Allin, Blue Man Group, and Yoko Ono are among the most mainstream of the avant-garde genre. Burning paintings, on-stage excrement, and bizarre body distortions are all things one may expect to see at a conceptual art performance.
Lights, camera, activism
The largest environmental film festival in North America is coming to Portland, Maine.
Beer 101: Professor of beer shares his top 10 Winter Break brews
At the end of last semester, I had big plans for the first Beer 101 of this year. I would kick it off with tales of brewery tours or drinking adventures I took over break. But as my break began to disappear, I realized the only two guarantees were that I would be traveling and drinking a good deal, a situation well-suited to being able to try new beers. Never without pen and paper, I chronicled each beer I drank and have compiled my list of the 10 best. None of these beers werepurchased in Maine, and therefore I am unable to provide price or location, although I am sure many of the finalists are available at Uncle Tom's.
Delson crafts NYC novel with humor, wit, and love
The holidays provide an expanse of empty hours, perfect for those who like to combine sloth and intellectual stimulation. Bookworms are content to spend hours sprawled in a variety of uncomfortable positions for the sake of the stories in front of them. Sometimes the Christmas stack yields literary delights, other times you stir from four prostrate hours and berate yourself for not enjoying the crisp air, sunny skies and sparkling snow. (I live in Santa Fe where these things can all happen at once.) "Maynard and Jennica" by Rudolph Delson is the sort of novel that not only keeps you horizontal without complaint but induces visible grins and audible chortles, earning you skeptical glares from family members who try to occupy the same space.
?Dresses? loose at the seams
If the hope for "27 Dresses" was an innovative gown of a film with bold style and a refreshing hue, the audience will have to settle for a reliable, simple, black dress of a movie: never the wrong choice, but not a remarkable one either. Directed by Anne Fletcher, the movie is pleasant enough, but similarly-themed romantic comedies such as "10 Things I Hate About You" easily outshine this fall-back date movie. With its inevitable happy ending and attractive actors, "27 Dresses" certainly succeeds in making its audiences feel warm and fuzzy inside, but it does no more than that.
Wii exclusive ?Umbrella Chronicles? is no match for ?Resident Evil 5?
The real shame of the Nintendo Wii is that it is incapable of running the more technologically advanced games of the current generation. "Resident Evil 4," one of the top games of the last generation, was originally a GameCube exclusive. Yet this generation's Nintendo system can't handle "Resident Evil 5," which will appear on both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. In order to compensate for this travesty, Capcom has released a Wii-exclusive "Resident Evil" game: "Umbrella Chronicles." Although this game cannot possibly compare with a powerhouse like "Resident Evil 5," it presents a fun and mostly satisfying experience that lives up to the "Resident Evil" (RE) tradition.
DJ of the Week: Jess Weaver '10 and Kate Epstein '10
Top five desert island albums? JW: A smorgasborg of regular albums and soundtracks: "Goodnight and Good Luck;" "Before Sunrise;" "High Fidelity;" "O Brother, Where Art Thou;" "Motorcycle Diaries." KE: Paul Simon's "Graceland;" Bright Eyes's "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning;" Postal Service's "Give Up;" Rilo Kiley's "The Execution of All Things;" The Beatles's "Magical Mystery Tour."
- December 7
Sculpture show responds to unique space of gallery
Students in the semester's Sculpture I class dug deep to transform the Coleman Burke Gallery in Fort Andross. The space serves as an excavation site for the final class project of the semester which culminates in the show?titled "Quarry" that open? tonight.
- December 7
Comedy class showcases familiar and surprising laughs
Aleve, Chippendale dancers, Reddi-wip, and a Bat Mitzvah all in one place?
Meagher records 400th career ice hockey win
As the Bowdoin Men's Hockey Team captured its fourth Salem State Holiday Classic in late December, Head Coach Terry Meagher became just one of seven coaches in Division III history to reach the 400-win mark.
Women?s basketball hits hot streak
The Bowdoin Women's Basketball Team appears back on track after seven straight victories, including Wednesday night's strong showing against Clark University.
Men?s track takes first out of 11 at Brandeis
A cool wintry breeze blew through the Brandeis quad on a sleepy Saturday morning, but inside the field house the atmosphere was tempestuous.
Throwing events lead way to second for women?s track
After coming back to campus two weeks early to train, the Bowdoin Women's Track Team benefited from all the hard work, taking second with 127 points at the Reggie Poyau Invitational held at Brandeis University.
Men?s squash upsets Navy at Yale
The Naval Academy Squash Team must have thought it had an easy win coming its way when it faced Bowdoin, resting its No. 1 player for the match. The Polar Bears, who had dropped a tough loss last year to Navy, refused to leave so quietly.
Men?s basketball beats Williams, loses to Middlebury over weekend
The men's basketball team opened NESCAC play with an impressive victory over the eighth-ranked Williams College Ephs last Friday in Morrell Gym.
Skiing runs into problems at St. Lawrence
Despite training over Winter Break in Fort Kent, the men and women's nordic ski teams struggled at the St. Lawrence Carnival in Presque Isle as the members battled stomach viruses, adjusted to a new coaching staff, and faced training challenges for skiers returning from abroad.
Women?s hockey improves as Campbell steps up
When most of the student body left campus at the end of finals, the women's ice hockey team was struggling to find its rhythm. While most students were on the beach or the ski slopes, the Polar Bears went on a tear, with an undefeated record over their last four games and only two losses in their last nine.
Column Like I See 'Em: Say A Lot and You Won?t Get A Lot
Did anyone else happen to see that shadowy figure standing on the San Diego sidelines during Sunday's AFC title game? You know, the one that looked like Darth Vader's flamboyant cousin sporting a white helmet with yellow bolts atop a dark and mysterious skull-like frame?
- December 7
Leary breaks scoring record in 10-5 win
First year Ryan Leary gave fans at Dayton Arena something to celebrate 15:37 into the first period last Saturday against Skidmore, scoring his first goal as a Bowdoin Polar Bear. Leary then earned a standing ovation when he notched a hat trick just 3:28 later. By the end of the game, he would go down in Bowdoin history, scoring six goals in the entire game as the Bears went on to defeat Skidmore 10-5.