“15 Villainous Fools,” Maggie Seymour ’16 and Olivia Atwood’s ’17 two-woman clowning adaptation of Shakespeare’s play “The Comedy of Errors,” was recently picked up by the People’s Improv Theater (PIT) in New York City. The show will be performed at an Off-Off-Broadway venue for two months this summer starting in July.
The 75-minute performance tells the story of two sets of identical twins and their adventures following a boat crash. There are 15 characters in the play, with Atwood and Seymour acting as half each.
"It's just a whole Shakespeare classic dilemma,” said Atwood. “It's a comedy so by the end everything gets sorted out and everybody gets married.”
Seymour’s became interested in Shakespeare during her sophomore year at Bowdoin after taking an acting class with Sally Wood, who made Shakespeare’s voice accessible and understandable. Then, when Seymour was studying abroad in London fall of her junior year, she had the opportunity to see a production of “The Comedy of Errors” at the Globe Theatre.
“It was amazing. The control of the language, the accessibility of the show and the sheer joy that everyone was having was something I was very passionate about and wanted to explore,” said Seymour.
Through “15 Villainous Fools,” Seymour is able to find an intersection between her love of Shakespeare and clowning, a term used to describe physical theater that is rooted in actors finding their inner child or inner joy.
During an improv class Atwood and Seymour were in together, Seymour enlisted the help of Atwood for her honors project, which ultimately became “15 Villainous Fools.” It was first performed at Bowdoin on November 20, 2015 and then put on twice more as part of Seymour’s honors project. The duo further reworked the play and put on one more show for Admitted Students Weekend last April.
"We were revamping the show for the summer tour,” said Atwood. “Having another show at Bowdoin was another really good test run.”
Then, last summer—with the help of Axis Fuksman-Kumpa ’17 as a technician—Atwood and Seymour took “15 Villainous Fools” on tour, participating in fringe festivals. Fringe festivals are week to month-long theater festivals held in various venues across the country.
“It's a place where people mount their shows,” said Atwood. “Most people do one fringe festival per summer. We decided to do five.”
Atwood received a Micoleau Family Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts from Bowdoin, which helped fund the tour, and both Atwood and Seymour contributed their own money to finance travel expenses. Over the summer, the duo performed “15 Villainous Fools” first in Portland, Maine before continuing on to San Diego, Washington D.C., Rhode Island and New York City.
"The hardest one [to get into] by far is FringeNYC. The application is impossible. You have to submit a cover letter, resume, a video or trailer of your shows, reviews if you have them,” said Atwood. “It's a super selective process. We ended up getting up waitlisted and then we got in. That is the reason this play was discovered.”
Atwood and Seymour performed five shows during FringeNYC over the course of a week, four of which were sold out.
"We got stellar reviews and having a nearly sold-out run is pretty impressive with 200-plus shows at the festival” said Atwood.
The success of the “15 Villainous Fools” at the festival caught the attention of the PIT and in December, after Atwood met with the artistic director, the PIT picked up the play. It is slated to begin the first week of July.
Unlike last summer, Atwood and Seymour will stay in New York City all summer to perform their show at the PIT, allowing them more stability and the benefits of having a homebase venue. The duo will be performing 13 shows as of now.
“We’ll be moving in New York in June to start rehearsing in the space, meeting people, starting to market more in the area, building up toward opening night and trying to sell out all the houses if possible,” said Atwood.
Currently, Atwood and Seymour are working on revamping their image, working on graphics, marketing and creating a more professional-looking website. In the summer, the duo will start to focus more on the logistics of the show and figuring out lights, costumes and more.
“Baseline [the show is] the same feel, but I think in a lot of ways it's going to be different just because we won’t be travelling,” said Seymour. “I think we're putting in a lot of work reimagining it but also cleaning it.”
Looking ahead, neither Atwood nor Seymour is sure what will happen with “15 Villainous Fools,” but the prospect of the show being optioned to go off-Broadway is exciting.
While Atwood was attending the National Theater Institute the summer after her first year at Bowdoin, she received a piece of advice from a speaker and often thinks back to what he told her.
“He said that if there isn’t a space for me in theater, I can make a space for myself,” said Atwood.
"I think the ultimate goal is to keep doing theater because that's what we both love to do,” she added. “And we're going to do whatever we can to keep making that happen.”
Editor’s Note: Olivia Atwood ’17 is an associate editor of the Orient but was not involved in the production or editing of this article.
Students rally against executive orders, cabinet nominees
In recent days, Bowdoin students attended protests and organized campus groups to fight against actions taken by the Trump administration, including the president’s executive orders on immigration, which halted travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and limited refugees.
Last Friday, a group of students held the first meeting of Indivisible Bowdoin, an organization based on the Indivisible Guide, a manual written by former Congressional staffers which details how individuals can effectively pressure their senators and representatives to take action.
“There [are] a lot of politically active people on campus. We can put that to good use,” said Dylan Devenyi ’17, one of the group’s founders.
Devenyi and the other group leaders—Olivia Erickson ’18, Liam Gunn ’17, Chamblee Shufflebarger ’18 and Matthew Jacobson ’17—reached out to politically minded groups on campus, hoping to channel students’ enthusiasm and anger into direct political action. The group’s plans include weekly meetings, a Facebook group and email newsletters about contacting representatives regarding various issues.
“Hopefully [we] keep continually reminding our senators and representatives that we are paying attention to what they are doing,” said Erickson.
She cited Maine Senator Susan Collins’ decision to vote against Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, as evidence that constituents’ opinions and efforts can shape how their representatives vote.
The group plans to meet at noon on Fridays. As of press time, their Facebook group has 145 members.
Students have also been organizing to attend protests away from Bowdoin. On Sunday, over 30 students traveled to the Portland International Jetport to protest Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. The protest mirrored similar actions at other airports across the country. Protesters gathered in the Jetport’s baggage claim area, many carrying signs bearing political statements supporting refugees and immigrants.
Many of the students who attended found out about the event at short notice.
“I have a car here, so I went, gassed up, found some people in the [Coles] Tower lobby, filled up my car and we went down,” said Jack Mitchell ’17.
Trump’s immigration ban hit close to home for Ana Timoney-Gomez ’18, herself the daughter of two immigrants.
“The idea that the United States is a nation of immigrants has always been said to me and been of importance,” she said. “Seeing this has been very disheartening and disappointing.”
Mitchell agreed that the executive order was not American in spirit and was ultimately rooted in bigotry. He believed that the implementation of this policy called for more involved action than usual.
“I felt strongly that I needed to stand up in a way more than just calling my senators, which I already have been doing, and posting angry things on the internet,” Mitchell said.
Diane Russell, a former member of the Maine House of Representatives, led the jetport protest. Several immigrant and refugee residents of Maine also spoke, as did the mayors of Portland and South Portland.
Students found the speeches by immigrants to be particularly powerful. Mitchell recalled hearing the story of one Somali refugee who described his arrival and warm welcome to the Portland community.
“He was talking about what a beautiful thing it is how America accepts immigrants and what a storied part of our history it is,” he said.
Many students attended another rally against the immigration executive orders at City Hall in Portland on Wednesday evening.
To help students with transportation to protests, Victoria Pitaktong ’17 started Bowdoin Protest Rides, a Facebook group in which students can share information and find transportation. As of press time, the group has 208 members.
Pitaktong herself didn’t attend the Portland protests. She highlighted that student activism does not have to involve leaving campus.
“Right now there’s a disconnect between national concerns and campus. I see a lot of people are very encouraged to go to protests in Portland and all these things, which is great,” she said. “At the same time, I think people don’t realize that those threats actually apply to students on campus. There are students on campus who are actually distraught by these bans … You don’t have to go all the way to Portland to show your support.”
Pitaktong noted that protesting—especially off campus—can be time consuming and exhausting, particularly in the lives of already-busy Bowdoin students.
“Sometimes it takes a toll on my mental health, and my physical health. But when you think of how much your friends are trying to do this, you have to be there,” she said.
College presidents speak out on Muslim ban
Bowdoin Vietnam War protests suggest precedent for institutional activism
President Clayton Rose, along with 48 other college and university presidents, signed a letter that was delivered to to President Trump on Thursday urging a re-examination and reversal his the executive order executive order on refugees and immigrants.
On Monday, Rose sent an email to the campus that expressed concern about the executive order and its potential to harm Bowdoin community members. He rearticulated the College’s commitment to safeguarding the confidentiality of information about students and staff. The message also announced that the College is providing affected community members access to legal assistance.
Across the country, college presidents have taken similar responses. Wheaton College has perhaps gone the furthest, establishing a scholarship that will cover the full cost of attendance for a student from “a war-torn nation” and giving preference to applicants from one of the seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—targeted by Trump’s executive order. Cornell University, like Bowdoin, has promised to provide legal counsel for affected students and assistance in the event they are detained. Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, wrote an open letter to Trump outlining the ways in which the order could negatively impact the country and affirming the value of immigrants in America.
The events that have occurred since President Trump’s inauguration are an indication that such policies and decision making will continue raise the question of how colleges and universities should respond to political controversies, particularly when students and faculty are affected or taking action themselves.
At Bowdoin, the 1970 student strike demanding the end to U.S. activities in Southeast Asia offers a historical perspective on the potential extent of institutional activism.
In the midst of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and an escalation in the Vietnam War, Bowdoin students were galvanized after the shooting of unarmed student protesters at Kent State University in Ohio. On May 4, 1970, 300 Bowdoin students who had gathered in Moulton Union voted to initiate a strike.
In the days immediately following, Bowdoin President Roger Howell actively solicited student opinion and let it determine the public actions of the College. At an all-campus meeting he initiated the following day, Howell spoke out against actions of the Nixon administration and condemned the government’s actions in Cambodia.
“We should deplore the events at Kent State and we should deplore the climate which has led to their possibility,” he said.
As the students voted overwhelmingly to strike (73 percent for), Howell expressed skepticism about the efficacy of such an action. But he allowed the strike to proceed and was quoted in the Orient the following day saying, “Our voice will have its maximum impact if it is spoken as the voice of the community.”
Following the all-college vote on May 5, the majority of the College’s activities shut down for the remainder of the academic year.
Howell’s actions stand out for the degree to which they differed from responses to student activism around the country. Many administrators across the country were not as receptive to their students, actively resisting student protest or paying it no attention.
According to a Bowdoin-sponsored report by Luke McKay ’07 and Elyse Terry ’11, Howell’s “actions were crucial in establishing a sense of trust and unity, allowing the strike to progress peacefully until its conclusion at the end of the academic year.”
They also allowed students the space to make the most productive use of the strike as a learning experience. McKay and Terry quote Director of Moulton Union and Director of Career Counseling Harry Warren who said that “for many students this was the first realization that ‘if they care enough’ about a cause or challenge, ‘they can … see some changes made.’”
In recent history, Bowdoin presidents have been reluctant to respond to student activism with institutional action.
In an email to the Orient, John Rensenbrink, a professor of government emeritus at the College who was active in founding the Green Party of the United States and the Maine Green Party in 1984, said that, during his interactions with the College, “no president has actually welcomed [student political activism].”
“Many [presidents] were skeptical of the actions proposed and, even more so, of the actions taken—and became almost distraught when the action included sit-ins,” Rensenbrink wrote. “Some, a very few, responded in an acquiescent mood. Some responded in a guarded mode of (‘I so hope we can weather this, wish it were over!’). Some were definitely opposed. Some got very defensive, feeling fenced in and angry. Some found ways to rationalize saying “no” so as not to further upset the apple cart with too much overt negativity. Some, in the end, bowed down to pressure. But, no one readily or ever really welcomed it.”
Rose is the only president of the College since Howell that Rensenbrink has not interacted with on the subject of student activism.
In an email to the Orient, Rose explained his philosophy for institutional political response.
“There is too much uncertainty about what specific policies and legislation could come from the new Administration and Congress to be able to speculate about what I may or may not say or do,” Rose said. “Any actions or statements on my part will be motivated, in the first instance, by those things that challenge our educational mission and/or our [sic] threaten members of our community.”
BSG considers impact of class
Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) members proposed an event to promote conversations about socioeconomic class on Bowdoin’s campus. The suggestion, which was discussed at Wednesday’s BSG meeting, was prompted by a study from the Equality of Opportunity Project republished in the New York Times two weeks ago, which disclosed the socioeconomic composition of the Bowdoin student body.
“I think something we’ve talked about a lot is an interest in trying to help facilitate a conversation on class that isn’t happening at Bowdoin at all,” said BSG President Harriet Fisher ’17. “I think that this report is something people are already talking about and it would be a really good jumping-off point.”
Fisher informed BSG that several BSG members would soon be meeting with three economics professors and a member of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good who are interested in helping to plan the discussion. She also asked for input concerning the format and topics of the proposed event.
Representative At-Large Ural Mishra ’20 presented the results of his meeting with Doris Santoro, chair of the education department, who suggested that BSG facilitate an event in which a panel of professors discuss their experiences of socioeconomic class in college.
Members shared their ideas for facilitating discussion about class, including incorporating an event into first-year orientation and training student leaders to facilitate discussion within their clubs.
“For me the goals would be … making sure that we recognize as an institution the kind of costs that students are incurring to make sure that in the ways we can support students, we are,” said Fisher. “I think we could think about socioeconomic programming events that would raise all of our literacy and language around what kind of class privileges we all exist within and what other people might not have and how we can … be thoughtful of people.”
Following the discussion, nine members volunteered to form an ad hoc committee to continue work planning and programming on the topic.
BSG also discussed providing funding and transportation for students to attend protests. Last week, Multicultural Representative Victoria Pitaktong ’17 started a Facebook group to help coordinate transportation to local protests. Entertainment Board Liaison to BSG Maggie Rose ’17, though, questioned the administration’s role in informing students about protests.
“I would love if Bowdoin would be more on top of it and more engaging and more motivating, making the school and the students more aware of what’s going on in protests, rather than just BSG saying ‘we can provide vans,’” she said.
BQSA members inspired by trans conference
Last week, six members of the Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance (BQSA) attended First Event, an annual conference held in Marlboro, Massachusetts dedicated to the transgender and gender-variant community. The event is in its 37th year, but this was the first time a group of Bowdoin students attended.
Gabi Serrato Marks ’15 served on the event’s steering committee for the Youth and Family program and invited Bowdoin students to attend.
The conference aims to create a sense of community and solidarity among youth who identify as transgender or gender-variant. It also provided a space for participants from across New England to ask questions about gender identity.
“My boyfriend is transgender, and being at the conference was a nice way to be around other trans people, as well as to work on creating more equality and opportunity for trans people,” Serrato Marks said.
Bowdoin students attended panels, discussions and lectures within the event’s Youth and Family program. Serrato Marks spoke at one panel dedicated to relationships and dating. Rayne Stone ’18 said the panel was one of the most meaningful parts of the conference, and hopes to create a similar event at Bowdoin.
“We don’t ever really talk about the specific experience of being trans and trying to navigate dating,” said Stone.
The conference also featured a keynote address by minister and activist Louis Mitchell, who spoke about privilege within the gender-variant community.
“That was something that hit home for me,” Stone said. “It is something that I see happening at Bowdoin … as well as in my own experience as a white-passing trans person.”
Several Bowdoin students who attended the conference said that one of its most empowering and meaningful moments was a fashion show that took place on Friday night.
“Seeing everyone express themselves in a way that made them feel comfortable, even if they don’t feel safe expressing themselves that way at home, was really joyful and it was a really great space to be in,” Stone said.
Students had the opportunity to speak to the husband of one of the show’s participants after the show.
“He was cisgender and straight, but it was interesting to hear his point of view as an ally and a partner,” said Fiona Doherty ’20. “He was very supportive.”
Serrato Marks hopes to make the conference, which was mostly attended by white transgender women, more diverse in future years. Additionally, she plans on working with BQSA to create a program specifically geared towards gender-variant people who are college age.
“There’s this big gap between youth and adulthood … this college-age part was really missing” said Sophie Sadovnikoff ’19. “College can be a really difficult time and a big transition.”
BQSA is working to create a month of activism and awareness during February, called Februqueery. Stone hopes to share the messages of acceptance and pride that students experienced during the conference.
“It’s important to have empathy for other people,” said Stone. “It’s important to have compassion and empathy for yourself, and it’s important to try to recognize your own positions of privilege to use your privilege in a way that is constructive to other people.”
Unchartered clubs recognize student needs, privacy
While the Student Activities Fair on Wednesday presented a vast range of organizations for students to join, two groups—Gender Matters and the Mental Health Group—went unrepresented among the tables as they once again chose to forgo the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) charter process this semester. In doing so, both groups forfeit their recognition as official BSG clubs and their ability to receive funding from the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC). However, leaders say that the privacy that students maintain and the freedom of discussion in these groups are worth the tradeoff.
Gender Matters is a discussion-based group for students who identify as non-binary or trans.
Paul Cheng ’17, who has helped run the group since his sophomore year, points to issues of privacy as a reason the group has never sought a charter.
“Most of the people in our group are not anonymous, but the idea is that if someone wanted to be, we wanted to give them that option to join the group and remain anonymous and not appear on any lists,” Cheng said.
Similar to Gender Matters, the Mental Health Group, a discussion-based support group for students who have had personal experiences with mental health issues, has also been unchartered since its inception in 2015. Leaders cited privacy as a benefit to remaining unchartered. Co-founder of the group Pat Toomey ’17 explained that because mental health issues tend to be stigmatized on campus, he and the other leaders believe that “anonymity is key” in boosting attendance and peer support.
“Anecdotally, we’ve just heard from a lot of people that they have fears of being forced on medical leave or things like that,” Toomey said. “We really wanted to make sure that people who needed to come to the meeting were able to come and not be afraid to.”
In addition to privacy, Cheng said that Gender Matters’ status as an unchartered group allows it to be a safe space exclusively for student who identify as trans or nonbinary to discuss struggles with gender identity.
“Chartered groups need … to not have restrictions on who can join the group,” said Cheng. “[Gender Matters] is a group for nonbinary, trans students, etc., so the idea behind that is we want it to be a group just for those students.”
While the group typically has six or seven members, it rose to the forefront of campus news at the end of last semester in response to a proposed “Gender Bender” party at MacMillan House. Members of the group spoke out against the party in a letter to MacMillan which was then published in the Orient.
Toomey also explained that being unchartered allows the group more freedom in its discussions of mental health.
“We could either charter it and have it be closely associated with ResLife and the Office of Student Life, but in that case we would have to have really set guidelines in terms of what we talked about and how we talked about it,” said Toomey. “We also wouldn’t want students to fear that what they said might get back to the administration, whether that meant ResLife or the Counseling Center.”
The Mental Health Group receives funding for poster advertising and tea at weekly meetings through the Health Education budget, managed by Assistant Director of Health Promotion and Education Christian Van Loenen and Gender Matters receives funding through the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity Director Kate Stern to put on trans visibility day in the spring.
Druckenmiller '75 to give investor's view on Trump
Stanley F. Druckenmiller ’75, H’07, a private investor, and founder of investment firm Duquesne Capital Management will be on campus to present “An Investor’s Perspective on Trump, Trade, and Global Populism” on Wednesday, February 8, which will take the form of a conversation with President Clayton Rose.
Druckenmiller is notable for his status as multi-billionaire, for his role as the chair of Bowdoin’s Investment Committee and for his position as a Bowdoin benefactor and former trustee. His net worth is approximately $4.7 billion and Duquesne Capital oversaw roughly $12 billion upon its closure in 2010. In 1997, he pledged a $30 million gift to Bowdoin, the largest ever for the College.
Druckenmiller cited the environment as one concern under Trump’s presidency.
“The really, really big loser with this administration from my perspective is the climate community and the environmental community and I’ll just say a lot of that will be undoing regulations that many of us fought very hard to put in place.”
Druckenmiller is notable for his defense of the the College’s position not to divest.
In April 2016, Isabella McCann ’19, a member of Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) published an op-ed about connections the Investment Committee members have to the oil and gas committee. This came immediately before a BCA press conference about Bowdoin trustees’ ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Druckenmiller responded with an op-ed in the next week’s Orient claiming that in practice, divestment from the fossil fuel industry would only be symbolic.
Druckenmiller said that significant action regarding the environment should be done in various ways other than divesting a college endowment from publicly traded fossil fuel companies.
“My wife and I funded a study with some other donors regarding methane emission that led to definitive regulations in a number of states for methane,” he said. “That to me is something concrete and something I find much more tangible and I feel has made a difference as opposed to whether the Bowdoin endowment owned Exxon or didn’t own Exxon.”
However, Druckenmiller admires Bowdoin students’ fervor regarding environmental issues.
“Even if they disagree with me, it’s kind of cool to see the students even excited about and passionate about the environment,” he said.
Druckenmiller’s philanthropic work, supports various education, environmental, health, community development, humanitarian and arts initiatives. In 2009, the Chronicle of Philanthropy called him the most charitable man in America for giving $705 million to various organizations.
“I like the intellectual stimulation of [investing]. It also keeps me in touch with policy because I have to read about current events and evaluate policy all day long,” he said.
Being a successful investor, he said, gives him the opportunity to fund organizations that make an efficient and substantial difference.
Druckenmiller does not believe that wealthy people have a responsibility to do philanthropic work. He does not judge other wealthy people for what they do with that wealth but thinks that it is a loss for wealthy people not to do it.
“[Philanthropy is] a privilege and it’s a thing I get great emotional satisfaction out of—more satisfaction than I do making money,” said Druckenmiller.
One of the organizations Druckenmiller is involved with is the Harlem Children’s Zone, founded by fellow Bowdoin alumnus Geoffrey Canada ’74. According to its website, the organization seeks to end generational poverty in Central Harlem through programs that focus on getting children to college, family and social services, health services and community building.
“If you don’t have a college education, it’s something you can overcome but you’re pretty much really behind the eight ball and the odds are stacked tremendously against you,” said Druckenmiller.
Druckenmiller said that Bowdoin is a special place that engenders out-of-the-box thinking and the common good.
“[Bowdoin] drills that common good stuff in you from day one. I don’t think it was responsible for how much I enjoy philanthropy, but it was a long time ago … Maybe it was,” he said.
Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Druckenmiller said that coming to Bowdoin as a first year was a complete eye opener.
“I had my mind opened to a lot of things: Marxist professors, economics, a whole different kind of student [than] I had ever met in Virginia, and it was a very exciting time for me,” he said.
Once he was introduced to economics, Druckenmiller fell in love with the discipline.
“[I] started off as an English major and took economics my junior year just so I could read the newspaper and might have some better idea of what they were talking about,” he said.
Druckenmiller is looking forward to taking students’ potentially tough questions on Wednesday. The event is at 7:30 p.m. in Pickard Theater.
News in brief: Immigration attorneys to answer questions Monday
Attorneys Mike Murray and Sara Fleming of FordMurray Law in Portland will visit the College on Monday to discuss policies and address student concerns in light of immigration policy decisions recently made by the Trump administration. Both Fleming and Murray work in immigration law and have experience with clients in higher education and student visas.
The event will be held at 4 p.m. in Main Lounge in Moulton Union and is open to the community.
Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster announced the event in an email to all students and employees on January 17. Individuals were able to submit anonymous questions for the attorneys via an online survey until January 27.
News in brief: Middlebury achieves carbon neutrality
This December, Middlebury College declared itself carbon neutral. It is the fifth college in the United States to do so, following the footsteps of the College of the Atlantic, Green Mountain College, the University of Minnesota at Morris and Colby College.
“I am thrilled to announce this significant moment in Middlebury’s history of environmental leadership,” Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury, wrote in a statement.
In 2007, trustees from Middlebury resolved to make the college carbon neutral by the end of 2016. To complete the process, the college spent $1.5 billion on improving energy efficiency, built a heating facility that relied on wood biomass instead of fuel and invested in solar energy projects. Additionally, Middlebury is using carbon credits it earned from the nearby Bread Loaf Mountain campus, which is made a pact to conserve in 2014.
Bowdoin, like Middlebury, pledged in 2007 to go carbon neutral. In 2009, a group of students, staff, energy consultants and trustees came up with the Climate Neutrality Implementation Plan, which calls for Bowdoin to become carbon neutral by 2020. Between 2009 and 2014, the College purchased renewable energy credits to offset emissions, a policy that may pick back up as the 2020 deadline nears. The College has also worked on improving energy efficiency, switched from heating oil to natural gas for certain buildings and installed solar panels on the roof of the Sidney J. Watson Arena.
News in brief: New clubs hope to pick up steam in spring semester
This semester, three new clubs will join the ranks of over 100 organizations chartered by the College. They each have hopes of creating spaces and communities for issues and activities not represented by current groups. The groups are dedicated to analyzing feminism through film, discussing socioeconomic status at Bowdoin and producing student-driven TED talks.
Films About Feminism aims to eliminate the negative stigma surrounding feminism through analyzing gender roles in film. Audrey Leland ’18 was inspired to found the club after a successful screening and discussion of the film “Trainwreck” at Helmreich House last year. The club plans to host weekly screenings of selected movies followed by discussions on Friday afternoons at 24 College Street.
“We thought it’d be nice to open up to the wider Bowdoin community and welcome anybody who wants to watch movies with us and look at them through a lens,” Leland said.
Quest for Excellence is a another newly chartered organization. Originally a chapter of Questbridge, a national organization, it aims to provide a space dedicated to student discussion of socioeconomic disparities on campus. The group maintains its national affiliation with QuestBridge.
“Class isn’t something that is rude to talk about, and it deserves dialogue from all sides. And these conversations need to start ASAP, if not already,” said Gerlin Leu ’19, the group’s leader.
Kevin Trinh ’19 formed TEDx Bowdoin after watching TED talks. Unlike other clubs, TEDx Bowdoin had to follow an established TED procedure before it could be approved.
“TED has pages upon pages of rules that we have to follow, and a lot of suggestions that we should be following as well,” Trinh said.
Editor's Note, February 6, 10:55 a.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that Quest for Excellence decided to separate from its national affiliation with QuestBridge. It has been modified to reflect that the group is still affiilated with QuestBridge.
- January 27
Two top administrative positions filled
Four positions remain open
Elizabeth McCormack will join the Bowdoin faculty as dean for academic affairs effective July 1, replacing the Jennifer Scanlon, who has held the interim dean position since the summer of 2015. McCormack will also teach physics. Matt Orlando has become senior vice president for finance and administration effective January 4. He previously served as vice president and interim head of finance and administration and treasurer. Both positions are part of the President’s Senior Leadership Team.
Former Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, who held that position at the College from 2006 until 2015, was also named president of Sarah Lawrence College. She will begin that position in July.
The College is still in the midst of hiring processes for four positions in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. They intend to fill the positions held by Interim Dean of First Year Students Melissa Quinby, and Interim Assistant Deans for Upperclass Students Michael Pulju and Abbey Greene Goldman. Additionally, Bowdoin is planning on hiring a dean of students to replace Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Kim Pacelli, who announced in December that she will leave Bowdoin at the end of this academic year.
McCormack is currently a professor of physics at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she has taught since 1995. She has served as chair of the faculty, director of the Center for Science in Society, director of the STEM Posse Program, dean of graduate studies and as an associate provost, where she worked to support faculty across campus.
“There was an amazingly thorough process that engaged a number of faculty and staff, and she clearly differentiated herself from a really great group of candidates that we looked at, talked to and thought hard about,” said President Clayton Rose. “She brings a record of accomplishments as a teacher, and a scholar, and an administrator and as someone who’s been deeply engaged in the liberal arts for a long time.”
McCormack is excited to join the faculty at Bowdoin.
“The tradition of excellence and the engaged liberal arts model is what attracted me,” she said.
She expects ensuring equitable academic access to be one of the challenges in her role at the College.
“The [challenge] is equitable access, finding ways to brings students in from all different walks of life, but once they are here supporting their success,” said McCormack. “This involves supporting faculty to create inclusive learning environments [and] understanding how students learn best.”
The Office for the Dean of Academic Affairs is responsible for overseeing faculty, including hiring, mentoring and tenure. The office also supports special academic programs and leads faculty discussion on teaching and innovation.
McCormack is also looking forward to teaching physics at Bowdoin.
“As someone who has gotten into campus leadership from faculty, my heart with always be with and my lens will always be through the perspective of a teacher, faculty member, and a colleague,” she said.
At Bryn Mawr, McCormack taught a gender information science and politics course with the English department. She hopes to teach a first-year seminar at Bowdoin that discusses women in science and technology.
“As a woman scientist myself, but also having taught at a women’s college, I’m pretty excited about and interested in the issues young women face today not only as scientists, but as intellectuals engaging with the world today,” she said.
Orlando will continue at Bowdoin as the senior vice president of finance and administration and the treasurer, the equivalent of the chief financial officer of the College, after a national search. He held this position in the interim after Katy Longley left in June.
“[Orlando] has been a member of the Bowdoin community for a long time and many, many of the folks here know him well,” Rose said. “The search was interesting—we did a national search, engaged one of the leading search firms, we looked at a number of candidates, and a number of really good candidates, and it was not a foregone conclusion going into the search that this was Matt’s job. This was a job he earned in an amazing competition with a number of other really well qualified candidates.”
Orlando will oversee capital projects and the campus master plan.
“Most of these ideas involve funding, whether that comes through donor funding or operating revenues,” Orlando said. “We do have finite resources. We are blessed with a really big endowment, but the dollars in the budget are all spoken of to some degree. We’ll have to figure out how to make room for these new incremental costs within the budget.”
Orlando is excited to take on a larger role at the College.
“I think that it will be a really exciting chapter in the history of Bowdoin. I know it sounds cliché, but I genuinely believe that and am excited to be a part of it,” he said.
Editorial: 'We are the college, if we want to be'
In an email to the Bowdoin community on January 30, President Clayton Rose wrote that President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees “has the potential to harm students, faculty, and staff at colleges and universities across the country—including here at Bowdoin—and also to put their family members at risk.”
The immigration order immediately affected Bowdoin students, faculty and staff from the seven implicated countries, and on Monday Rose wrote that the College is working to provide these community members access to legal counsel.
In an email to the Orient yesterday, Rose said that, with regard to Trump’s policies, “any actions or statements on my part will be motivated, in the first instance, by those things that challenge our educational mission and/or our [sic] threaten members of our community.”
Rose’s statements and the actions the College is taking to support its students are valuable. But Rose and the College have a responsibility to proactively speak out against Trump’s actions, separate from their impact on Bowdoin as an institution. In short: Bowdoin needs to do more.
The administration has a significant degree of power that, if leveraged effectively, can be used for proactive resistance.
As students, our role in this is most important. If we want our college to speak on our behalf, we need to hold it accountable and make explicit demands.
Public opposition is a step in the right direction, but we can call on Rose and the administration to put pressure on our Maine and federal representatives. We can demand that the school schedule more programming addressing contemporary political and social issues. We can demand that professors find ways, in and out of the classroom, to convey knowledge and skills to do good in the Trump era.
In May of 1970, students at Bowdoin voted to strike in opposition to America’s military action in Southeast Asia. President Roger Howell Jr.’s actions that spring are notable because they matched the school’s public policy to student political demands about an issue unconnected to the interests of the College.
But the student demands came first. Members of the Bowdoin community have already taken action, such as participating in women’s marches and last week’s protests at airports. But if we are serious about pressing for change, the intensity and frequency of our actions and demands need to increase. As the Orient editorialized on May 6, 1970, “What we ourselves have often failed to grasp is that we are the college, if we want to be.”
If we’re unified in our demands and speak as as a student body, Rose would be wise to follow the example Howell set in 1970 and align the College’s actions with the voices of its students.
A Bowdoin alumnus signed E.B. wrote in the May 1970 edition of the Bowdoin Alumnus, “What was the alternative to the suspension? To have conducted business as usual? To have told seniors, many of whom are only weeks away from going to war, that they should stick to their books because their President knows best?” Neutrality is not an option, and lack of action in this case is equivalent to neutrality.
The Bowdoin student's guide to living in Trump's America
A day of elation and empowerment for some, a day of anguish and fear for others. January 20 proved our political divide has grown beyond tax rates and states’ rights to conceptions of the American identity. Division has thrived on the impersonal nature of identity politics, sensationalist cable news, bullying, negativity and blatant lies. A vicious spiral is born when we avoid sincere engagement, instead retreating into the comforts of ideological tribalism.
As students we share more of the blame than we care to admit. Too often we assume President Trump’s supporters are racist, stupid or uninformed, yet few Bowdoin students regularly interact with President Trump’s supporters. Nearly half of the registered voters in our country voted for President Trump. Can you name 10 people who did the same? Without contact and connection to opposing thoughts, we cannot comprehend others’ motivations. In this isolating climate, Bowdoin students tend to revert to four common coping strategies: removal, denial, posting and protesting—each inadequate and fraught with problems.
Removal: The worst possible option is cutting off engagement from political news and discourse. Confronting a lost election is difficult and reality can be painful, but civic participation is the lifeblood of democracy. Removal of oneself from the discourse is disastrous. Americans facing the challenges of yesteryear did not surrender when they were down but dug in more deeply. As Bowdoin students, we are blessed with the education and experiences to critically examine multiple perspectives and arguments. Our education obliges us to recognize the political, moral and philosophical problems of our day and to fight for what we believe. To fall into the feeble role of an uninformed citizen because watching the news makes you sad is a disservice to yourself, your country and your educators.
Denial: This is exemplified best by the #notmypresident hashtag and it is your next worst option. Denying your connection to President Trump does not diminish your affiliation to him or his administration. Factually incorrect, the handle attempts to remove your personal responsibility for his policies and any duty you have to challenge them. Sixty-five U.S. representatives went further, boycotting the inauguration. Skipping an inauguration disrespects one of our country’s greatest feats: the peaceful transition of power. Anyone denying the president’s legitimacy sets a precedent of disregard for future disputed elections.
Posting: Sharing a New York Times, Buzzfeed or Huffington Post article on Facebook may boost morale and offer the sensation of resistance. In reality social media sites usually stand as echo chambers of agreement, validation and witty soundbites. Opposing comments frequently face enmity. When online debates do materialize, civility is limited, bullying encouraged and resentment the common result.
Protesting: This option beats the previous three. The recent women’s marches were framed positively, their goals well known (though a plan of implementation was not) and they were widely recognized. The marches, as noted by David Brooks, were only a first step; mobilization is a sign of intent, but concrete action must follow. More importantly, they failed to engage the other side, epitomized by the exclusion of a leading pro-life feminist group. The marches began with the participants in agreement and ended with few minds changed.
During the campaign our president demonstrated invincibility to scandal, beating impossible odds and all opposition. President Trump quickly learned that if he maintained the support of his base, the actions of the opposition mattered little. The Republican establishment, never-Trumpers and the person who Obama called “the most qualified candidate in history,” lost not because their messages failed to garner support, but because they failed to change minds. Our student activism appears to follow the same misstep. Removing, denying, posting and protesting on a politically homogenous campus plot no course for compromise, do not facilitate mutual understanding and further entrench each side. Signs, chants, sharing articles, and grouping together only raises the volume of a message already well heard at Bowdoin.
The only feasible path to cope with Trump is one previously introduced by the president of our college, Clayton Rose. Rose has repeatedly pushed us to be “intellectually fearless” and to pursue “difficult conversations.” Now more than ever we must turn away from the comforts of insular thinking and seek challenging dialogue. The tools of engagement are simple: a clear mind and calm spirit. Listen and attempt to understand not only different positions, but also the life circumstances that may have led to them being held. Build bridges of trust, then explain your opinions and reasoning. Empathy and compassion convince far more quickly than the loudest megaphone or the biggest march.
Trump won the election because his campaign transcended politics and connected with voters on an emotional level. To influence the leader one must influence his followers. Dealing with Donald Trump means engaging with Trump supporters personally. Show them you hear them, care about them and seek to understand. Create relationships with those who disagree and the common ground you find will surprise. Bowdoin teaches us that diversity makes us stronger. This is undeniably true. Yet, we must go beyond putting ourselves in the shoes of those who do not look like us and try on the shoes of those who do not think like us. Only then will we become the inclusive community we yearn to be. As Americans, far more unites than divides us.
Editor's Note, February 7, 2017, 2 p.m.: An earlier version of this article inaccurately stated that "nearly half our country voted for President Trump." The artilce has been updated to reflect that nearly half of the country's registered voters cast their ballot for Trump.
Background Noise: The bad beginning: finding sources of optimism for the new year
I read an article recently that depressed me. Of course, I could be referencing any and every article published within the last year, so I will elaborate. It was an Odyssey article.
I assure you I in no way sought out this site nor the articles it contained. I was merely coerced, by a Facebook acquaintance, to a poorly formatted page that told me how twenty is the new thirty. Gosh. A new year is beginning and apparently I’m past my prime.
Perhaps it’s fitting that as I descend into the doldrums of a has-been, the world falls with me. A legitimate doomsday is lurking and Earth, it seems, has given up. CNN’s recent documentary on Obama is titled “The End: Inside the Last Days of the Obama White House.” My dog has picked up the disturbing habit of eating cigarettes off the street (he has also broken into my pill bottles—he is 57 in dog years, and I fear his midlife crisis has heightened). Worst of all, the international community has rung in the new year with a heartbreaking failure, a shameful stab at entertainment: “Sherlock,” season four. “Sherlock”’s team has proved even the greats can fall (though my love for Benedict Cumberbatch burns bright).
The year is off to a thrilling start. Personally, I have developed infections in two ear piercings. Nationally, Donald Trump’s current approval rating wavers between 36% and 43%, lower than any incoming president in recent history (for reference, “Sherlock” season four currently has a 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). I’m continually terrified for the future as projected by the media: even grizzly bears have something to fear. I can’t turn on the television or look at Facebook without questioning the intelligence of so many influential adults and/or wanting to toothpick my eyes.
There seems, however, to be a beacon of hope shimmering in the darkness. I am referring to Netflix’s remake of “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Though the 2004 film was insufferable, this television rendition is dark and smart and silly—even “Bon Appetit” is covering it (culinary news must be slow). The dark comedy is aimed—theoretically—at kids, but its engagement with what snobs call “metanarrative” attracts older audiences. The series, and its adaptation, prove children’s television can, and should be, both educational and entertaining; silly and dark.
Lemony Snicket was a formative part of my childhood, a sort of peculiar, absent uncle who introduced and defined vital vocabulary words, such as esoteric (“I think it refers to things that aren’t used very much—the things that stay in the refrigerator for a long time”), al fresco (“It means outside, of course”), and adversity (“Count Olaf!”). For those unfamiliar, the series follows three siblings of the Baudelaire family whose parents have died in a fire. Basically, the children spend each book evading their legal guardian, Count Olaf, a villain described simply as a “terrible actor.” The stupidity of the surrounding adults enables Olaf’s repeated cruelty, while the children’s own intelligence facilitates their escape.
Snicket—whose real name is Daniel Handler—created a series that is disturbing and didactic and hilarious. His elaborate descriptions, filled with warnings and spoilers, translate easily into the show’s narration. Of course, the remake is not without flaws—it can be tedious, at times hyperbolic—but it successfully embodies Handler’s unrelenting snark and melancholy humor. The whimsical world does not take itself too seriously, its characters full of marvelous maxims (“Wicked people never have time for reading”).
The show sets mature expectations for its young viewers, rather than dumbing itself down to an assumed level of understanding. The quick-witted trio repeatedly outsmart their apathetic caretakers. They are not only exceptionally talented but caring and observant. They remind us: “the adults won’t take care of anything but we will.”
“The Series of Unfortunate Events” was largely responsible for my love—and appreciation—of literature (“A library is like an island in the vast sea of ignorance”). As a child, the series introduced me to empathy, vocabulary, sarcasm and tragedy. Today, it reminds me how “fierce and formidable” we must be in times of misfortune and uncertainty. I can’t help but link the Baudelaire’s concerns to my own frustration and to the frustrations of those around me—of all ages—who feel powerless as few determine our fate. But perhaps, even if there is “no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle” there can still be hope for a happy ending. To share some Snicket wisdom: “At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough, and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.”
The first episode of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is titled “The Bad Beginning.” But let me be clear. The singing in “La La Land” is bad. 3 Doors Down is bad. “The Bad Beginning” is good. It is very good. It has made me laugh when the world seems dark and think when ignorance abounds.
Mixed Review: Double take: recognizing the power dynamics in daily interactions
In early January, my mother and I attended a “Drunk TED Talk” in Brooklyn, New York. The event sold more tickets than there were seats, so many of the attendants had to occupy whatever standing room they could find. For two friends this meant standing right in front of the seats I was reserving for myself and my mom, who, at the time, was at the bar. One of the women clearly did not notice that she was piling her belongings on top of my mom’s purse which I knew she would need to access again before the show began. When I tried to tell her, she abruptly cut me off and in a rather coarse manner said, “Relax, I’m not going to steal the seat,” before rolling her eyes as she turned back to her friend. This irked me, and in response I assertively retrieved the bag from underneath the stranger’s things, admittedly with the intention of conveying my displeasure. I am not sure what I expected to happen, but it turns out that all this did was escalate tensions between our two respective parties.
As the show began, I started to regret how I conducted myself. Yes, she was rude, but I did not need to resort to combative tactics to protect my mom’s purse. So at intermission, I decided to apologize for coming off so aggressively. I had pictured my apology to being reciprocated by this unfamiliar adversary, but it was not. She again was rude and rolled her eyes. Initially I thought, “Well, screw her, she is simply less mature than I am and frankly, I don’t really care if I’ve upset someone like that.” The more I thought about it, though, I realized my immediate reaction was unfair, which led me to two conclusions that I had previously not considered.
The first and more obvious is that the point of an apology is not to evoke a similar sense of remorse from the engaged person in order to relieve oneself from experiencing guilt and embarrassment. I should apologize only because I recognized that my behavior as inappropriate and that I could have acted in a more constructive manner.
The second conclusion was that this woman was operating in a sphere of concern that I was and am not. Many men have the tendency (though not always intentionally) to be not only creepy and intrusive in social settings such as the one we were in, but also aggressive, persistent and disruptive. It is not uncommon for men to engage women, often rather forcefully, in interactions they neither wanted nor welcomed. I know this to be true not only because I have been told, but also because I have both witnessed it and probably have been a part of it. Now, I sincerely had no alternative motive in this instance: my sole purpose of speaking to this complete stranger was to get my mother’s bag. However, her response, though I still believe it was unnecessary, was a (likely) understandable one considering the context. Her crudeness was quite possibly a reaction to a reality that she faces on a daily basis as a woman. In our world of normalized power dynamics, those who get the short end of the stick have the burden of interpreting behaviors as specifically inappropriate or not. Not every accusation of sexism or racism or homophobia is going to be accurate. That being said, it does make sense that such claims will be made.
For those of us who find themselves in the midst of these misunderstandings, it is important to take this into consideration in our pursuit of a solution. Additionally, we must really ask ourselves if these claims do not lack truth. Before getting defensive we should be reflective. Instead of being so quick to defend ourselves we should prioritize self assessment so as to make sure we are not guilty of unacceptable action. If we refrain from doing this, we may justify and thus perpetuate such behaviors. As the beneficiaries of power dynamics, it is anyone in a power position’s responsibility to hold ourselves and each other accountable for potentially taking advantage of our positions in any type of hierarchy. Making sure the world is comfortable for those not in positions of power is part of that responsibility.
On Second thought: Students' political homogeneity results in lack of action and smug attitudes
“The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action,” declared our new commander in chief from the north end of the Capitol on January 20. This action-over-talk motif appears to be a favorite of President Trump, who, in his first week in office, has wasted no time in introducing a flurry of executive orders and then making a point of flaunting them on Twitter and in his speeches.
At first glance, Trump’s attack on “empty talk” is just another iteration of the age-old truism, found in numerous forms like “walk the walk, don’t talk the talk” or “actions speak louder than words.” Unreflectively, we all accept this prescription, holding others to their word and, with any luck, embodying truism ourselves.
Yet, this directive has taken on particular political force in the mouth of President Trump. It has struck an unusually resonant chord in the hearts and minds of American voters. Yes, politicians and pundits persistently peddle in platitudes; this much is not new. And as a disclaimer, I have absolutely no taste for our new president, as both an elected official and as a man. Nevertheless, it would do us well to take a moment to consider why some of these clichés assume greater force at particular moments in our nation’s history.
I would conjecture that the ascendency of the talk-is-cheap rhetoric is in part a reaction to a rather strong tendency in contemporary liberalism towards what Emmett Rensin bluntly labeled as “smug” in his strikingly prophetic piece “The smug style in American liberalism,” published on Vox on April 21, 2016.
Rensin’s piece is worth a read all the way through, so consider this my recommendation. But in short, Rensin argues that between 1964 and 1980, demographic shifts within the American Democratic Party—shifts away from the working class and towards the academic and coastal elite—have brought about a change in liberalism’s “intellectual center of gravity.” Unable to comprehend why the white working class so rapidly abandoned the Democratic Party—which, after all, was its ultimate champion—liberals cultivated “the theory that conservatism, and particularly the kind embraced by those out there in the country, was not a political ideology at all,” but rather sheer stupidity.
“Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt,” Rensin writes. He rather aptly compares this dynamic to that of two recently separated lovers in the aftermath of a particularly nasty break-up.
The essence of this culture of contempt is “a condescending, defensive sneer toward any person or movement outside of its consensus, dressed up as a monopoly on reason,” and its primary symptom is knowing: “Knowing, for example, that the Founding Fathers were all secular deists. Knowing that you’re actually, like, 30 times more likely to shoot yourself than an intruder. Knowing that those fools out in Kansas are voting against their own self-interest and that the trouble is Kansas doesn’t know any better.” The Democratic Party, in its own eyes, abides by “a politics that insists it has no ideology at all, only facts. No moral convictions, only charts.”
Of course, when we know that we just know better than those misguided, unknowing hordes, we are wont to try to convince them of their wrongness—to plainly reason out, with no ideological spin whatsoever, why they are misguided. When they refuse to yield, they only cement their own stupidity.
I believe in the power of persuasion, and I believe that ideas matter. I would be a fool to write this column if I didn’t. Likewise, I shudder at the rise of “alternative facts,” and the prospect of a “post-factual world” seems like a terrible, terrible nightmare. Nevertheless, I am not enamored by the very-real smugness that pervades so much of liberal politics, even here (or, perhaps, especially here) on our campus.
The issue with smugness, aside from being intuitively repulsive, is that it makes us complacent. We content ourselves with knowing the facts, and tweeting about them, while doing little to realize our goals. There is a curious strand of gnosticism at play here, by means of which simply having superior knowledge lifts us above the fray of culpability and blame. So rather than enacting our ideal of virtue or descending into the political arena to work towards a solution, we sit back and virtue signal, waiting for the masses to finally come to their senses and “get woke.” Trump’s brand of action-without-thought populism is in part a reaction to this very attitude. Elite universities, especially rural liberal arts colleges like our own, are uniquely susceptible to the gravitational pull of smugness. Surrounded largely by like-minded students and isolated from national politics in any real sense, we spend four years immersed in ideas. This is a beautiful thing, and one of the most compelling and attractive aspects of our schooling. At the same time, it positions us to become terrifically smug.
“The smug recognize one another by their mutual knowing,” Rensin writes, and the knowing creeps up every so often at Bowdoin: when we know that Bowdoin needs to actively recruit more socioeconomic diversity, when we know that the College must divest from fossil fuels or when we know that “conservatism” is just a codeword for backward intolerance. The issue isn’t with having convictions but with thinking those convictions absolve you from action. A culture of gratitude might make us complacent, but a culture of knowing makes us contemptible.
Rensin acknowledges that liberalism was the “American ideology hitherto responsible for a great share of the good accomplished over the past century of our political life,” and this is still true. But if liberalism in America is to continue to thrive in the 21st century, it must be rescued from its smuggest tendencies. To counter Trump’s doing-without-knowing, we must move beyond knowing-without-doing. So, having put down your copy of the Orient, do you feel acutely the injustice of the school’s socioeconomic homogeneity? Excellent, because I think the admissions office is seeking summer interns.
- January 27
Editorial: Class discussion
The Bowdoin student body is disproportionately wealthy, with a fifth of students hailing from the top one percent of the income spectrum, according to a study by the Equality of Opportunity Project republished in the New York Times last week. The study indicates that socioeconomic diversity at Bowdoin remained largely the same between 1998 and 2009, and data published in the Orient this week shows that the percentage of students receiving financial aid between 2008 and 2015 has remained at roughly 45 percent, despite increased spending on aid.
The data shocked some of us, but others felt it matched their perception of Bowdoin. This discrepancy is important and shouldn’t be downplayed, as it demonstrates students’ varying levels of consciousness regarding wealth on campus. As students at Bowdoin, we spend surprisingly little time discussing class—both amongst ourselves and with administrators, faculty and staff—considering the dramatic impact that socioeconomic status has on every Bowdoin student’s experience, from buying textbooks to navigating social life.
There are also institutional questions that need to be addressed. Of critical importance among these are Bowdoin’s admissions policies relating to class and increases in the overall cost of Bowdoin.
Need-blind admissions are an improvement over need-based admissions but this 1990s policy is outdated and there are other ways of improving our admissions practices. If Bowdoin is committed to educating a more socioeconomically diverse student body, there are enough qualified low-income applicants to allow for such change. In order to achieve that goal, the College would need to go beyond need-blind admissions, which is the most progressive admissions policy regarding socioeconomic class that we know of. By further developing an admissions system that actively seeks qualified low-income students, Bowdoin could distinguish itself as a leader on the issue of class equity in elite higher education.
Since 2008, there has been a 3.2 percent average year-to-year increase in comprehensive fee, accompanied by a 3.16 percent average year-to-year increase in average financial aid gift size. These roughly equal increases cancel each other out and keep the number of students receiving aid flat. If Bowdoin wants to substantially increase the socioeconomic diversity of the student body, it needs to either increase gift size faster than the comprehensive fee or stabilize the comprehensive fee. We acknowledge the efforts the College is making to investigate the budget, but the budget (and comprehensive fee) will almost certainly increase again this year. To achieve a more socioeconomically diverse campus, we encourage the community to focus on the budget and hold the College accountable to keeping the comprehensive fee stable or significantly increasing financial aid spending.
Class affects every student at Bowdoin, and we should more thoroughly investigate how it influences our experiences here. This goal requires efforts from students and administrators alike, working together to bring issues of class to the forefront of conversation and taking steps to ensure that the reality of the student body reflects the College’s goals regarding socioeconomic diversity.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, Harry DiPrinzio, Dakota Griffin, Meg Robbins and Joe Seibert.
- January 26
Holding Fast: The importance of considering the ambiguity of Obama's legacy
On January 10, 2017, former President Barack Obama delivered his farewell address to the nation. It was a classic showcase of the rhetorical skill that brought Obama to the national spotlight years ago, which served him well in his two terms as president. But tension lay at the heart of his message between his attempt to frame the successes of his presidency and his rather urgent call to action to save our democracy in the face of Trump’s presidency. The tension between his promise of change and his ability to keep those promises raises questions about how his presidency will be remembered, especially in the face of the uncertainty surrounding the new administration. I know I am painting with broad strokes here, but I believe Obama will be remembered for his largely successful domestic policies, failed foreign policies and dangerous expansion of executive powers.
As far as domestic policy goes, I believe his record on the economy will be remembered as quite successful. Our recovery from the 2008 recession has been long and slow, but it has been much stronger than recoveries in most other developed countries and employment has rebounded to higher levels. How much of this should be credited to Obama’s leadership is certainly up for debate, but as presidents usually receive blame or praise for the state of the economy when they leave office, I think Obama will be well-remembered on this score.
Obama’s single greatest accomplishment in domestic policy was the Affordable Care Act. Healthcare reform was one of Obama’s central campaign promises in the 2008 election, and whatever you think of the law, everyone can agree that he did accomplish something significant. Twenty million people gained insurance as a result of the law, many of whom would have previously been denied coverage due to preexisting conditions. But the law remains deeply controversial, mostly because of the structuring of the heavily regulated individual exchanges and individual mandate that requires everyone to purchase health insurance. As premiums rise and competition in the state exchanges decreases, it is possible that some of Republicans’ worst fears will come true and the law will end up costing taxpayers more than originally promised. That is, of course, only in the unlikely event that Republicans don’t pull the plug on the law before it gets that far.
In foreign policy, Obama came into office with a fairly promising agenda. He intended to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reorient our priorities away from spreading democratic values through unilateral military action. Throughout his presidency, Obama remained deeply suspicious of military intervention and even used the mantra “Don’t do stupid shit” as a sort of guiding philosophy for his foreign policy.
While no one will disagree with the wisdom of that statement, it is an open question whether this skeptical attitude really helped him develop coherent foreign policy positions in response to international conflict. If we look at his policies in the Middle East, it seems he has not fully succeeded in this regard. There are still American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan—granted, there are far fewer than when he came into office. We have engaged in bombing campaigns and supported various factions in civil wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, all of which are far worse off than they were eight years ago. Obama’s skepticism toward increasing military commitments may be wise, but that doesn’t change the fact the U.S. is today just as involved in military conflicts with no clear aim and no end in sight.
Of course, it is unfair to blame Obama for things out of his control, such as the rise of ISIS and foreign civil wars that would have happened regardless of his actions. But the president does have considerable power to shape the strategic objectives of American foreign policy and take actions consistent with those ends. I believe his main problem was a lack of clarity in his view of America’s place in the world. He rejected the idea that America is endowed with a certain moral authority to enforce democratic values around the world, but his actions in response to the Arab Spring and Ukrainian uprising show that he was just as willing as his predecessor to use American power to shape the world in our image. And despite his skepticism of “nation-building,” our troops are committed to that very task in Afghanistan for years to come.
Finally, the Obama administration has continued to expand the powers of the “Imperial Presidency,” which refers to a president’s executive powers that have grown unchecked for the better part of the past half-century. His ordering of extrajudicial drone strikes, expansion of National Security Agency surveillance capabilities and liberal use of executive orders are a legacy that even Democrats have expressed concern with. Especially now that all of these tools have been handed to Donald Trump, a man whose lack of respect for rule of law and restraint are, shall we say, not exactly encouraging.
All things considered, I believe President Obama had his share of successes and failures, but his inability to bring about much of the change he promised leaves his legacy in an ambiguous position. And although many will remember him more kindly as the Trump presidency wears on, I think it is wise to reflect critically on Obama’s accomplishments before donning our rose-colored glasses.
- January 26
Letter to the editor: Controversial art display
We live in a society where very little is sacred and every element of the human condition is on display or exploited for pure shock value. It seems that either destroying or entirely laying waste to previously taboo barriers and boundaries has become an accepted practice in today’s curriculum. This sentiment was recently on display in the most recent installment of The Bowdoin Orient, and I challenge anyone to read Nell Fitzgerald’s article, “Provocative Student Art Brings Menstrual Blood, Trump’s Face in View” and not be repulsed. I cannot fathom how offended I would be to stumble upon photographs of women’s used menstrual pads while visiting a Bowdoin College men’s bathroom. It begs the question: who validates these graphic and visually repugnant pictures as art? Presumably this was sanctioned by the Bowdoin College Visual Arts Department, so I am assuming there was both consent and possibly encouragement to pursue this project. I strongly doubt any individual who witnessed these horrifying pictures ever drew the sympathetic connections regarding “period angst” that the artist had hoped. Both this project and its presumed objective have failed miserably and has likely fostered antipathy and gall towards its intended subject rather than empathy. Repulsive and disgusting.
Michael W. McCullom ’86
- January 26
Finding a community at 24 College
My first semester at Bowdoin was rife with new experiences. I learned how to write a college-level paper, how to best manage my time and how to live in temperatures below 40 degrees. But built into the routine I constructed for myself was another new commitment, one that occupied my Tuesday afternoons and Thursday evenings, introduced me to a circle of friends that I would never have found otherwise and opened up a new opportunity for me to carve out a role for myself on this campus. And it all centered around the little house at 24 College Street.
I have never before been a part of a queer community like the one at Bowdoin. In just a few months, I have been able to spend time with others who share what has become an integral aspect of my identity. I don’t know why, but I have always been drawn to other queer people and, even on a subconscious level, have found it much easier to get close to others who aren’t straight. Maybe it’s the “gaydar.” Or maybe it’s just human nature to want common ground, to seek out groups of people in which one can feel like they belong. I don’t know why my sexuality and gender identity have such a habit of influencing whom I connect with, but they do.
Lately, many people have pushed back against the liberal collegiate phenomenon of “safe spaces.” Claims that “political correctness culture” has created a generation of young adults that are fragile, easily offended and unprepared for the so-called “real world” have been touted by everyone from journalists and authors to college administrators, such as the University of Chicago’s administration in their letter to incoming freshmen this past fall.
While I recognize the concerns that lie at the heart of these criticisms, I personally believe that in some ways, they are missing the point. Yes, healthy debate and exposure to opposing opinions and viewpoints is crucial to the personal growth and development that a college education is designed to promote, but homophobia and transphobia aren’t opinions. Homophobia and transphobia are not harmless beliefs that just so happen to be “controversial” or “unpopular” on college campuses. Homophobia and transphobia are hate, and it’s wrong to blame queer students for refusing to cater to those who propagate this hate.
My own, albeit limited, experience has led me to believe that critics of “safe spaces” often exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly this phrase means. In order to explore its actual meaning, I will refer to our safe space for the LGBT community on Bowdoin’s campus: the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity at 24 College Street. During the time I have spent in that house, for club meetings, Thursday night “quinners” (queer dinners) or simply visiting with friends and peers, I have not, in fact, been coddled or blinded to the harsh realities of the outside world. That was never the intention of the Center. Instead, I have found a group of people that I can trust, that I can relate to, and with that I feel comfortable sharing parts of myself that I would be scared to share with others. I have found people who share my passions, my interests, my dreams and hopes for myself and for the world. I have found my queer community.
This is what a safe space is meant to be. By spending time at 24 College Street, I am not cutting myself off from others or isolating myself from opposing viewpoints. I have straight friends, too, and I love that I can associate with people who have different perspectives from my own, but who still possess a fundamental respect for me and my identity. Therefore, 24 College Street functions instead as a safe place away from those who do not respect my identity.
There’s no rule that dictates that queer students must subject themselves to homophobia, transphobia and abuse. There’s no principle that states that queer students have to agree with their oppressors in order to be “well-adjusted.” We know we can’t always avoid people who hate us. But we can find places and people that will help us step away, at least for a little while. We can create communities and spaces for ourselves, and we can help each other heal, grow stronger, strategize and work towards a better world without hate. Not a world without opposing viewpoints, or a world where no one is allowed to express their opinions, but rather a world where bigotry is not shrugged off as a personal belief, where prejudice is not mislabeled as harmless ideology and where hatred is allowed to be challenged as freely as it can be expressed.
Ari Mehrberg is a member of the Class of 2020.
- January 26
Culture of gratitude limits Bowdoin's potential progress
When Bowdoin students were confronted with Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast in his series “Revisionist History,” the most frequent response I heard—aside from justified criticisms of Gladwell’s journalistic ethics—was one of incredulity. How could Bowdoin be criticized for its financial aid policies—the same policies that receive so much praise for their generosity? In conversations and in social media, it appeared that it was almost sacrilegious to criticize Bowdoin for not giving more as this contrasted with the prevailing attitude on campus. But the reality of the situation is a little more complicated: as “Inside Higher Ed” reported in July, Bowdoin does not give as many Pell Grants as some of our peer schools, including Amherst and Williams. Further, we do not necessarily have the financial diversity that campus attitude would have us believe: a recent New York Times report listed schools where there were “more students from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent”—out of the 38 schools in the U.S. where this is true, Bowdoin is listed as No. 25.
I see the response to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast as part of the larger problem of Bowdoin’s culture of gratitude. It is one which I see created by the administration and socially enforced by students. Bowdoin drills into us a need to be thankful. Administrators make a point to remind us that not every school does so much to ensure the well-being and happiness of its students—look at all of the resources available to us! This is then reinforced by perks—from lobster bakes to the abundance of talks we have been treated to this semester.
We begin to offer stock responses whenever someone begins a complaint. Criticisms of the unappealing options at the dining hall are often met by others’ reminders of how Bowdoin has such good food generally—after all, we’re ranked as the second-best school for food in the country. Obviously, this is a light example. But the attitude extends to issues of much greater importance—individuals are often loath to criticize Bowdoin’s various services or responses to campus issues, or when they do criticize them, frequently feel the need to qualify their statements by stating how generous Bowdoin is for what it does have. Overall, the prevailing attitude seems to be: what is the point of complaining when things are so good for us?
And, generally, things are good. I am grateful for Bowdoin’s various resources, care for our well-being and all of the various perks. I would not want to see them go away. However, like every other college in the country, Bowdoin isn’t perfect. There is room for improvement on a number of meaningful issues—the diversity of faculty, our role in the environment and our role as a social agent, just to name a few. But this culture of gratitude frequently prevents important change from taking place and breeds complacency. Even more importantly, this attitude frequently stifles even the discussion of potential change. When we reinforce the idea that Bowdoin has done so much for us, it often appears silly to desire improvement.
The logic behind these arguments isn’t sound. Just because we are doing well in some areas does not mean that we cannot still do better. A reminder of the benefits we have at Bowdoin is important—but ultimately so that we can continue to improve upon them. Speaking out isn’t shameful, it’s productive to a better school and society. In this column, I will aim to address not only larger issues on Bowdoin’s campus and beyond, but also ‘the little things.’ Above all, I will advocate for changes, even when they may seem trivial. While this may be seen as irritating complaining—and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with this characterization—I believe that we need constant reminders that we should never be satisfied with the status quo, whether it’s at Bowdoin or in society at large.
Rachel Baron is a member of the Class of 2017.
Students and staff lend helping hands to local soup kitchen
For two Saturdays a month, the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s (MCHPP) soup kitchen is crowded with Bowdoin students and faculty. Madeleine Msall, professor of physics, who was one of the biggest advocates and committed volunteers, now leads the recruitment process for Bowdoin students and faculty. Bowdoin is MCHPP’s largest volunteer source.
Launched in 1983, the MCHPP has since expanded to include nine different services. In addition to volunteering at the soup kitchen, Bowdoin volunteers also work at the organization’s other programs through the McKeen Center for the Common Good—such as Food Mobile and Summer Food Service, which provide food services outside of MCHPP’s business hours.
Three years ago, Msall volunteered with a pilot program outside the College to see if MCHPP could expand from weekdays to include service on Saturday.
“We didn’t have as many people coming for lunch on the weekend as we did during the week, but we had a good core group of people for whom this is needed,” Msall said, “That meant that the soup kitchen needed to expand its volunteer base by 20 percent.”
Msall used her organizational platform at Bowdoin to find volunteers and then committed to the role of head recruiter for two Saturdays a month. While Msall is primarily focused on faculty recruitment for Mid Coast, sophomores Jake Stenquist and Sophie al Mutawaly took on student recruitment for the first Saturday of every month, for students.
According to Msall, there has been a constant stream of students, faculty and staff through the program.
“We’ve had people from the janitorial staff, dining halls, deans, department coordinators, faculty from all different departments,” she said.
The faculty recruitment tends to be focused on the new faculty to give them a chance to get to know Brunswick and other staff members, according to Msall.
The student recruitment has a heavy focus on athletes.
“We’re both on our respective soccer teams, so we have connections with other teams. It’s easier to send it out to a captain for them to distribute to their team,” Stenquist said.
“However, we have a couple professors who send it out to their classes via email,” he added.
Every Saturday, around 25 people run the soup kitchen in two shifts: morning and afternoon. The morning shift is comprised of food and dining hall preparation, while the afternoon shift involves serving the food.
“It’s a sit down meal so people are waited on; they’re not coming through a line with cafeteria trays,” Msall said.
Through the program, the volunteers and the Brunswick community have gotten closer.
“I think the reason I love it so much is just the interaction you get to have with people from Brunswick,” said al Mutawaly. “You meet kids, elderly, all kinds of people.”
Msall expanded on this. “The number one thing it does is it personalizes the problem of hunger in Maine. I think everyone comes away with a greater feeling about what our community is doing in a very personal way,” she said.
Stenquist, who is pursuing a career in the military, said, “I met so many veterans who are community members in Brunswick and I’ve been able to have conversations with them.”
Msall sees the benefit of interacting not only with members of the Brunswick community, but also with members of the Bowdoin community whom she would not otherwise meet.
The program builds a stronger bond between the groups that volunteer.
“What’s nice about Saturday is that it’s all Bowdoin faculty or students. It’s kind of a team-building event,” said Msall.
al Mutawaly echoed this sentiment.
“I had some first years on the soccer team who came to volunteer afterward text me saying, ‘That was so much fun, please tell me every time you’re going, I would love to do it!’”
She aims to continue to build a base of volunteers with this level of enthusiasm. Msall, who is going on sabbatical next academic year, hopes that the program will continue to develop under the new head recruiter, Sara Eddy, associate director of events and summer programs, in addition to al Mutawaly and Stenquist.
Stenquist’s goal is to get more people excited about volunteer work, which he said does not always happen naturally.
“It does need to be spurred sometimes,” he said. “It would be great if that sense of community and wanting to give back to the Brunswick community was there instantly and people wanted to get involved.”
Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program has 1,200 volunteers, 10 percent of which are from the Bowdoin community, according to Msall.
“The volunteers from the Bowdoin community are the biggest source of the volunteers for this local organization; it makes a tremendous difference in the amount of work that they can do.”
This January, the highest number of lunches, 111, were served on a Saturday.
“I don’t know what it was about that particular Saturday, but I was just incredibly impressed by how poised my team was while we ran out of every kind of food,” Msall said.
“It was so great to see that we could feed all these people, and provide something,” she added. “At the same time, I was so dismayed by how many people are hungry in Brunswick.”
Tapped out: Tapped Out: Abbey Ale, a smashing Belgian dubbel semester starter
Alas, dear reader, Jae-Yeon is back from her adventures in the Siberian wilderness (read: Moscow), and she has decided to take the senior trash out in style. In steps Nick, always happy to oblige. After all, what is better than one semi-clueless beer lover? Answer: two semi-clueless beer lovers. We’ll let this column be a beacon of light to those who have ever doubted Nick—his extra-curricular life is not lost, for he is now a distinguished journalist in the nation’s oldest continuously published college weekly. Does he get buzzed in the process? Answer: irrelevant.
But let’s get to the beer. This week we moseyed down to Uncle Tom’s in search of something, anything, better than the dregs of Nick’s end-of-semester PBR-exclusive rager. After all, how could Wisconsin’s finest ever compliment a meal of frozen dumplings and poorly cooked noodles? The foodies would be at our throats. Knowing that a College House basement favorite could not be our muse, we, at last, after great deliberation, settled on a classic, a household name for anybody who frequents a mock Belgian dubbel: Brewery Ommegang’s Abbey Ale.
The beer is hefty—definitely not for beer pong consumption—but it does not sit heavy in the stomach. It is also not offensive in the least despite its full body: the Abbey offers a beautiful balance between richness and drinkability. There was some disagreement over the beer’s smashability, with Nick thoroughly in the “could binge” category, but two or three glasses’ worth of this beer will not leave you with a rock in your gut (pardon the vulgarity).
The beer, upon pouring, released a very full, creamy, tan-colored head of about one inch: PBR, eat your heart out. The color at first seemed light brown, but when held up to the light, a deep ruby was revealed. This is no Smithwick’s, but this beer is, at least in color, an amber ale. The smell of the beer was heavily citrusy—we are confident that it single handedly cleansed our sinuses (#overexaggeration )—and there was a late roasted aroma.
The beer tasted damn good. It started fruity and finished sweet, sitting in the back of the throat for an extended period of time. We could immediately taste both the citrus notes and the licorice root and were both left dreaming of this beer’s potential in front of a fancy cheeseboard. We were inspired to pull some moldy cheddar out of the fridge only to concede that our house was not wont to provide such amenities (not even a mid-range cheeseboard could be salvaged, sadly). But we soldiered on, conquering the 750 mL bottle comfortably. Coming in at $8.60 from Uncle Tom’s, this beer is also, for a drink of this quality, a true bargain. For any aspiring connoisseurs on a budget, this is your beer.
In conclusion, this is a damn fine beer. Even if it’s not to your liking, you won’t be calling for the bucket. It’s not a session beer, but it’s not a double-chocolate and coffee triple stout. This beer will not make you long for Rolling Rock fresh out of the keg—it would not be out of place at one of those beer-tasting tents that pops up twice a year when alums come to town. We enjoyed it from the first sip to the last, and we would recommend it to anyone looking to expand their horizons without having to throw the sink.
Talk of the Quad: #activism
The day of the Women’s March, I received a record number of likes on an Instagram post. As I scrolled through my feed on that day, I saw iterations of the same picture over and over. Each featured a crowd of women, many of who were wearing pink hats and holding signs denouncing Trump and his beliefs in one way or another. Each photo also had a substantial number of likes. As I scrolled through the photos of the Women’s March, double-tapping with wild abandon and delighting over the accolades pouring in on my own post, I had a thought: how many people marched “for the ’gram?” Was I one of them?
Although I loved the attention from my Instagram post, and I did put great care into choosing the most aesthetically appealing photo, I know that I did not march for the ’gram. I marched because of fear and concern and love and because it was my civic duty. The problem is this: when I posted to Instagram, was I reducing my action, and the action of others, to a photo op? How should I feel about the fact that instead of posting a photo focusing on the movement as a whole, I made a post focused on why I, as an individual, was in attendance?
The march was flawed in that it excluded many groups: the focus on vaginas excluded trans women, tickets to D.C. and other locations were expensive, those who had to work or take care of family were not able to participate and the March was not accommodating to those with disabilities. Because it was a crowd filled with middle-class white women, law enforcement was respectful and we were not perceived as a threat. The privilege that allowed the Women’s March to be so successful and so momentous is the same privilege that limited it from being an all-inclusive march. I see the Women’s March as a place of privilege, a place of self-aggrandizement but equally so as a place of empowerment, unity, hope and the conception of a movement that needs to continue. The March was for an umbrella of issues. It was a way to say “We’re here! Listen to us!”
Marches and petitions and action in the future need to be more focused and more specific, but for the first day of the new administration, I think that the Women’s March, although flawed in many ways, was what it needed to be.
Instagram activism is flawed in a similar way. By avoiding controversy as much as possible, marchers and Instagrammers alike were able to receive support and generate positive attention. However, by not addressing the flaws of the March, was I complicit in the exclusion of key groups? Was I reinforcing the exclusionary feminism that I so deeply aim to avoid? And what is the effect of widespread social media coverage of political events? Does seeing Instagrams of protests teach people that they can have a part in the government and in making change, or does it teach them that they can look cute holding a sign? Just as the Trump memes desensitized us from the threat of his actions, do well-framed photos from protests desensitize us from the immediacy of the cause? Is liking an Instagram post enough? Is making an Instagram post enough? Is showing up enough? Probably not. It is a right to march but a privilege to feel safe while doing so. It is a right to have free speech but a privilege to have overwhelmingly positive responses. To not use those privileges would be unfair—I just hope I am using them in a productive way.
Nina Alvarado-Silverman is a member of the Class of 2019.
Talk of the Quad: Birthright, Bowdoin and Me
My bucket list got a little lighter over winter break when I embarked on a long-awaited journey to Israel through Taglit-Birthright. The program gives young Jews the opportunity to go on a free 10-day, organized trip to connect with our faith. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve never felt such a profound and instantaneous love for something—I was overcome by emotion and feelings of patriotism every day. I walked through Jerusalem’s Old City in astonishment and celebrated New Year’s Eve dancing in The Shuk. I climbed Masada to watch the sunrise and floated in the Dead Sea. I reflected in Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall where David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s statehood nearly 70 years ago. I grieved at Yad Vashem, shook to my core by the Children’s Memorial. I laughed with newfound friends hiking in the Golan Heights, dabbled in Krav Maga and ate such delicious hummus it was as if I were tasting it for the first time. I can’t wait to return one day!
Upon my return from Israel, I’ve given a lot of thought to the nature of my upbringing and my connection to Judaism during college. Jews are perennial outsiders, representing 2.2 percent of America’s population. But I had a sheltered childhood identifying with the community of my heritage, growing up and going to school on New York City’s Upper West Side, one of the most concentrated areas of Tribe members outside Israel. I was raised in a strong Jewish family, exposed to the rich cultural and social history of the American Jewry. I attend synagogue on the High Holidays and my parents would like it if I married a nice Jewish girl. I grew up to the music of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. I cherish Philip Roth’s writing and the Coen brothers’ films. A Jewish upbringing has had a fundamental impact on my personality, perspective of the world and the people to whom I’m drawn.
When I made the decision to leave New York City for the boonies of New England, I gave little thought as to how it would affect my relationship with Judaism. So this is what it’s like to be an outsider! You call that a bagel? I’ve made friends with peers who have met maybe a handful of Jews in their entire lives before they landed here. “Jewish” rolls off their tongues like an exotic word, which I am not offended by. On the other hand, there are those who find nothing exotic about Judaism. I suppose that’s what you can expect from any college drawing from a large, diverse national applicant pool. I’m not trying to assign blame, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve never fully come to terms with it. And there have been painful moments. Bowdoin’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, a human rights organization possessing what I would characterize as a flawed one-sided narrative, attempted to make the College endorse a cultural and academic boycott of Israel per the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign. I am a proud, open-minded supporter of Israel and believe in a two-state solution, but engaging in a conversation about this emotional, complex conflict on a liberal campus is like hitting your head against a wall. The petition divided the campus and felt like an attack on my very being. Let’s at least talk directly to each other and look for common ground. As my grandmother used to say, “It couldn’t hurt!”
Even during my wonderful study-abroad year in Paris, I faced the same issues of being a stranger in a foreign, non-Jewish land. Sure, it wasn’t exactly a hardship to give up bagels for baguettes, and the broad, varied demographics of the City of Light felt much like New York City. But the facts speak for themselves: France’s Jews are fleeing the nation at record levels as surging anti-Semitism and Islamic extremism haunt the nation.
I fear the surge in American anti-Semitic acts during Trump’s presidency becoming the new normal. Trump’s alt-right chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, is a noted anti-Semite. Bernard Henri-Lévy recently wrote of the president, “He seems to see Jews as the caricature of the New York establishment that, for decades, took him for an agreeable but vulgar showman.” These are dark days and I’m searching for glimmers of hope. As I navigate my place in the world I want to believe we’re not as divided as it appears. I’m not going to give up pushing for change and I hope you’ll join me. I believe in the resilient American character which President Obama underscored last year, declaring, “We are all Jews.” It’s a lovely thought and I wish it were so. Maybe good Chinese food could then be found outside New York City. But I happily settle for seeing Bowdoin Hillel friends who joined me on Birthright, smiling as we recall memories and inside jokes from an unforgettable ten days.
Gabriel Frankel is a member of the Class of 2017.
- January 27
Behind the Name tag: Hidden hobby: from hard drives to hot rods
Crystal Hall, associate professor in the digital humanities, has fond memories of participating in the Brunswick Memorial Day Parade. She rode alongside her father and Rene Bernier, laboratory instructor/support manager and Science Center manager, as they gave rides in their World War II Jeeps to veterans. These experiences piqued her interest in cars, and as soon as she was old enough to hold a screwdriver, she began helping her dad in his garage.
Hall began seriously working on cars when she was 13.
“We restored my Jeep before I got my learner’s permit so that we could go off-roading with it,” she said.
Hall is currently in the process of creating a hot rod from a 1934 Dodge, a car of particular sentimental value as it is the same type of car her grandfather drove. She has restored one and half cars with her dad, but the ’34 Dodge will be the first hot rod she has built.
Creating a hot rod is the process of drastically improving old cars—different from restoring cars, which is taking an old car and bringing it back to working order.
Building a hot rod can be time-consuming and frustrating. For Hall and her father, it is more like a jigsaw puzzle.
“The biggest challenge with the hot rod is that you have a completely blank canvas to work with,” said Hall. “My father and I are very meticulous about history and historical accuracy and being very precise in our work, but there isn’t a blueprint for how to make this hot rod, so it’s really challenging our creative side.”
As a professor whose main focus is working with computers, working with cars allows Hall to clear her mind and get her hands dirty. Unlike coding, where the products are on a screen, the results of restoring cars are tangible and immediate.
“It’s satisfying to code, but it’s a completely different satisfaction to clean something, paint something and put something together,” said Hall.
Through her work restoring and building cars, Hall has noticed improvements in other areas of her life. She credits these improvements to the intelligence her dad has shared with her.
“Watching him think and problem solve and the different ways he approaches problems has helped me to be more flexible and open to different ways of solving problems,” said Hall. “When you are coding, that’s the best thing you can ask for.”
Another benefit of creating a hot rod is having the ability to build it exactly to one’s needs. With the ’34 Dodge, Hall is planning to install a Corvette engine and transmission as a nod to her dad’s favorite type of cars. She is planning on picking a Porsche color for the car as a nod to her long-lasting infatuation with Porsches.
“That’s where the amalgamation of parts and pieces of different places comes into play,” Hall said. “We’re picking from the things we really like and the flexibility of being able to put them together.”
Hall and her father plan to begin the assembly process of the Dodge in September and hope to have it up and running by next summer. They went on a road trip to retrieve the car parts and plan to go on another one when the hot rod is finished.
“I have a feeling hot rods are in my future for a long time,” said Hall.
- January 27
Bottom of the Barrel: Ellis "La Forza" Palmieri '17 joins us to uncork a taste of Italy
Senior year is all about friendships—and crippling stress but I digress—so what better way to start our first wine column of the year than to invite our dear friend and housemate Ellis “La Forza” Palmieri ’17, co-captain emeritus of the much-vaunted Bowdoin Rugby Football Club, to join us. Ellis spent all of winter break in Italy, and that mere fact alone means he already knows more about wine than either of us.
With our internationally travelled friend on the mind, we selected a Bell’Agio Chianti 2015, proudly bearing both the wicker-basketted bottle oft associated with wines of its kind and the candles used at the Cub Scout Spaghetti Dinner fundraisers at which Will used to work. A wine that displays its national and regional origins so proudly is perfect for this, we thought, seeing as such a wine must truly try its best to represent its roots well. We hoped to impress La Forza with our eye for fine Italian vintages, knowing that his potential disappointment in it would leave us in the lowest of spirits.
This wine smells of dust despite its young age. Smelling this wine dims the lights of whatever room you’re in to the luminosity of a single lit taper. All sounds take on the din of quiet conversation. Suspense lingers on every sniff. The taste reveals the wine to be a heavy hitting red, reminiscent of certain boxed varietals found in regions across our great nation. Tasting reveals a change in equation. Nuance is not on the table. Justin was quick to note that the wine tastes like what he imagined wine tasting like when he was at the table with his parents at various Italian eateries. You’d think the buttery grapes would glide you to the hill towns of central Tuscany. However, upon second and third sip, it appears your journey has been redirected to somewhere of a different tone. Tuscaloosa, perhaps? Or could we be detecting notes of Happy Valley, Pennsylvania? The mouthfeel left by the bev was vinous, to say the least. Seconds after the garnet liquid passes down your throat the taste of what one can only identify as wine lingers.
With that, we’ll leave you with this:
The Palmieri Review
Many thanks to Big Billy Schweller and JJ “Drama” Ramos for the feature in this week’s article. As they’ve already informed you, I spent my winter traversing the wine country of my homeland experiencing only the finest of this succulent red fruit. The aforementioned journey across Italy became a sort of spirit quest to reestablish my innate connection to the grapevine.
If I learned anything from my dear mother (Hi Mom!) who was more than generous, and more than quite insistent, that I partake in the tasting of fine Italian wines, I would say that the Chianti proves underwhelming among the ranks of its peers. While the Chianti is able to pose as a good wine to the lesser-versed wine drinkers that sit to my right and left, the true Italian wines of Amarone and Brunello are the heavyweight fighters when it comes to Italian wines. To settle the long standing family debate over which carries more weight, I’ll use this credible and well established wine forum to be the first to publish the final verdict—Amarone is a better wine than a Brunello. Chianti is nice if you like grape juice, but the real wine drinkers won’t go wrong with an Amarone.
Tonight's Soundtrack: "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?"-Frankie Lyman & The Teenagers
Justin: "This wine would gain a full star rating if I had an Italian delicacy to pair it with. RIP to the ball Scamorza left home over break 1/21/17-1/22/17."
Will: "I can't say I'd buy this wine to drink again, but I can say I'd buy this wine to keep a few bottles in my room for the aesthetic."
- January 27
An Autistic's guide to autism: How autism awareness has changed the way schools educate students
When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. The diagnosis was fairly new at the time—it had only been a diagnosis under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) for seven years at that point—so my mother and father had to bring me to a specialist in order to diagnose me. Neither of them had ever heard of autism before, let alone Asperger’s. While they were glad to have a reason as to why I didn’t behave like other children, they still didn’t understand how they could help me overcome the challenges I faced.
Even with my diagnosis, there were few resources available to parents to help them understand their autistic children. The spectrum model of autism was a recent phenomenon at this time, and of the few people who knew about autism, many still thought of it as describing a very narrow set of characteristics. Awareness for autism in general was almost non-existent, especially in a sparsely populated state like Maine. My parents had to work hard to find resources to help me.
One of their biggest hurdles was acquiring educational accommodations for me. The local elementary school I attended didn’t have a special education program to speak of. Although my Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.) entitled me to academic accommodations, my elementary school was reluctant to provide the services I needed to succeed.
Looking back, I think I understand why the school made it difficult for me to receive accommodations. While I remember that the school’s reluctance was in part due to poor administration, I feel that the problems stemmed in large part from a lack of understanding as to why I needed what I was asking for.
For instance, when I was young, one of the things that worked best to calm me down was chewing on something. Gum wasn’t allowed at the school, and my parents didn’t want me chewing on my own clothes. Instead, I chewed on straws, which were available in plenty at the cafeteria. The number of times an administrator stopped me in the hallway to tell me to take the straw out of my mouth, and the number of times I or someone else had to then explain that I had been given permission to do so, went beyond young Benjamin’s ability to count. Small incidents like this were typical, and symptomatic of the larger issues I experienced at the school. Administrators and teachers alike didn’t understand that, while my behaviors may have been odd, they were effective ways for me to function in a school environment.
Since then, autism awareness has improved exponentially. The schools I work with now are all eager to learn more about how they can help their autistic students and many already have strong programs designed to help students on the spectrum. If today’s level of autism awareness and education was around when I was a child, I don’t feel my parents would have had nearly as much trouble getting me the accommodations I needed.
Speaking of parents, autism awareness has also resulted in more resources for parents with children on the spectrum. Public schools, universities and other non-profit organizations are providing a number of services to parents that didn’t even exist when I was a child. While the state of education for autistic children is far from perfect, it is certainly better than it was when I was four. A lot has changed in 15 years.
- December 9
The WOMEN OF ’75: Studying and being studied
The women coming into Bowdoin in the Class of 1975, the first coeducational four-year graduating class, were met with sparse representation in the classroom with respect to their peers, faculty and studies.
“In my Biology 101 class, there were only two women [out of] 50 or 60 kids,” said Amy Pearlmutter ’75 in a phone interview with the Orient.
“The first few years, it felt like both the five or six women faculty members and the women students were extremely visible—a sort of fishbowl effect,” said Helen Cafferty, a German professor who arrived at Bowdoin in 1972.
By the time the first coeducational class graduated, there were nine female faculty members at the College.
“All of my professors [except one] were male,” said Patricia Pope ’75, who transferred to Bowdoin from Smith College. “But at Smith College, all of my professors were male too. I thought that was ironic.”
Though the Twelve College Exchange brought women into Bowdoin’s classrooms in previous years, the male-dominated faculty reacted in a variety of ways to the influx of a class that contained 65 women.
“A few of the professors were a bit leary,” said Debrah Burk ’75 in a phone interview with the Orient.
“I had a professor where all of the examples were always ‘he’ and ‘him’” said Christa Cornell ’75.
However, Cornell said that she also had positive experiences with professors.
“Professor [John] Rensenbrink was one of my favorite professors, in government, and I think he really opened my eyes in a lot of ways to how the system was sexist,” she said. “He was very, very open to changing the system and how to get rights for all.”
Several women of the Class of 1975 interviewed for this series said that the classics department was less welcoming to women than it was to men.
A March 9, 1972 letter to the editor in the Orient from football player Jed Lyons ’74 expressed his perspective: “First they demand their own field hockey team, then they insist upon private locker rooms, equal representation on the Student Council and admission to Classics 12 [...] Where will it end?”
The ways that Bowdoin institutionally prepared for women in the classroom focused on making few changes until the administration could see what students needed, like other aspects of the coeducation process.
An August 1970 Memorandum from the Ad Hoc Committee on Coeducation to President Roger Howell wrote “the goal should be no net increase in faculty,” and recommended that “some departments will have to shrink in order that others (presumably those whose course offerings are most relevant to women undergraduates) are permitted to expand.” It also recommended that the faculty’s Committee on Curriculum and Educational Policy (CEP) closely monitor the curriculum.
In August of 1976, a Special Committee on Coeducation released a report that there were no large shifts in specific department enrollment due to the addition of women.
“You know, it was an interesting time in terms of integrating into the academic side of it,” said Helen MacNeil ’75 in a phone interview with the Orient. “We had a lot of professors who were really bending over backward to make sure we got whatever support we needed, and there were some feminist female professors who were adamant that we all excel far beyond the guys ... in some cases I thought, like ‘Really? Can’t we just do our best?’”
Ultimately, the largest change that would occur to the curriculum directly related to coeducation was the creation of a women’s studies program, and later, major. This was also reflected in a national trend of the recognizing of the new field of women’s studies.
The first women’s studies program that received official approval was at San Diego State University in 1970. The field rapidly expanded in the 70s and 80s. By 1987, Amherst, Hamilton, Trinity, Wesleyan and Williams—colleges that, like Bowdoin, were historically all-male and became coeducational in the 60s or 70s—all had either a major, interdisciplinary major or minor in women’s studies.
Since 1974, Bowdoin had offered women’s studies courses on an “ad hoc” basis, according to a Women’s Studies Program Committee report published in 1987. These were classes offered in other departments that explored themes of gender and feminist theory.
“On campus there was this feeling that we needed to have some women’s studies courses and women’s focused courses in the curriculum even though we didn’t have a program yet,” said Cafferty, who was one of the first professors to teach an official women’s studies class at Bowdoin—a class on German literature with a focus on women.
In 1980, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) was proposed by the Bowdoin Women’s Association and Women’s Resource Center Committee. Its creation was tied to a desire for an academic study of women.
The WRC proposal in the December 22 Orient said: “We feel it is essential for all members of the Bowdoin Community—students, staff and faculty—to have access to the existing and growing body of diverse and exciting scholarly and creative work by and about women ... We feel that the proposed Resource Center will be a place for the Bowdoin community to develop a critical approach and explore meta-traditional ways of learning, thinking and knowing.”
A women’s studies program was not formally created until 1988 despite a demonstrated institutional desire for a program as expressed in the 1981 Report of President Willard Enteman’s Commission on the Status of Women.
This use of the Women’s Resource Center as a place of scholarly learning and seminars carried on through the creation of a women’s studies major in 1993.
The 1987 proposal to the CEP by the Women’s Studies Program Committee, chaired by Cafferty, asked for a formal women’s studies program and a minor in the department, and urged the WRC to “institute faculty seminars and workshops to aid faculty in developing women’s studies courses and in redesigning their courses to include a gender component.”
Part of the 1990 proposal for a major in women’s studies stated “a Women’s Studies major will confirm Bowdoin’s commitment to coeducation.”
Over time, the name of the major has changed. In 2005, the department became the Department of Gender and Women’s studies, and last year it became Gender Sexuality and Women’s studies, to encompass the former Department of Gay and Lesbian Studies.
Overall, the academic study of women and gender has become more centralized into the department and less focused in the WRC. In 2009, the women’s studies faculty members moved their offices from the WRC to the Boody-Johnson house.
Cafferty said in the early years of coeducation at Bowdoin, “women faculty [were] peeking out in the wilderness.”
“There’s a sense of normality now, at least from my ancient perspective, compared to the beginning,” she said.
Editor's Note, December 11, 3:29 p.m.: The original version of this article incorrectly identified the professor in the photographs. This article has been updated to reflect that the professor is Matilda Riley, not Melinda Riley.
- December 9
Passion for fashion: Hugh Mo '17 runs Instagram style blog
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Hugh Mo ’17, grew up in a world filled with urban streetwear and constantly evolving trends. In June 2016, he developed a blog, @_mostyle_, where he has since built a base of 11.2 thousand followers, establishing himself as a prominent “fashion influencer” within the massive and wide-reaching network of Instagram.
Initially, Mo’s posts focused on the aspects of fashion that he had encountered online, at home in New York City and abroad in Australia. After returning from his time abroad, Mo found himself re-entering the online world of fashion through sites such as Grailed—a one-stop-shop for men’s fashion, and Facebook—which served as a huge resource for Mo.
While his blog includes many different aspects of fashion, he has a particular love for and interest in sneakers.
Mo’s favorite parts of directing and developing his blog include the connections and friends he has made, as well as the chance to make inroads into the industry in which he hopes to one day be an influential member.
“I started a Facebook group to engage with the community of ‘fashion influencers,’ making friends with people as far as Singapore and Australia,” said Mo. “I just wanted to start something on my own—meeting companies, talking to people in the fashion world, getting closer to the industry that I can see myself working in.”
Specific brands that Mo highlights in his blog are St. Laurent and Fear of God—which he describes as the most visible brand among celebrities. Hoping to spice up his blog, he wants to include female fashion trends and advice for men on a budget.
“We’re trying to incorporate women’s fashion into my blog,” said Mo. “Personally, I think it’s getting a little sterile with just me in it. More collaboration content will make my page more interesting.”
“I love fashion and the idea of the business side of fashion. Trends are always moving, always changing,” said Mo.
Mo’s original and unique style had caught the attention of friends and other Bowdoin community members before his Instagram received thousands of followers. It was these people who suggested that he share his passion and creativity with the rest of the world.
Mo started the process of taking his style to the web with WordPress but later transitioned to Instagram.
Once he returned to Bowdoin for his senior year, Mo found a photographer, Darius Riley ’19, who could help him gain more influence in the Instagram world of “fashion influencers.”
“I wouldn’t be where I am right now without my photographer,” said Mo.
Riley met Mo through a mutual friend and he offered up his photography services to help with Mo’s new blog.
“I had no true prior experience, just watching videos and playing with the camera,” said Riley.
One of the elements that sets Mo’s blog apart are the distinctly “Maine” backgrounds. On Thursday afternoons, Riley and Mo venture around campus or into Brunswick, searching for spots that work with the photoshoot that they’re planning for that day. On these photoshoot outings, Riley brings his camera and Mo comes prepared with a bag of outfits that he has scrupulously planned out for his upcoming blog posts.
“I always ask him, ‘What do you want to focus on with this outfit?’” said Riley. “I feel like I have a lot of creativity. The only constraint is the focus for the next post.”
Riley’s favorite aspects of photographing for Mo center around his goal as a photographer: to capture what he sees with his naked eye. Using the app Lightroom, Riley edits his photos to bring about what he defines as the truth in the photo, an element that the camera is not always able to capture.
“I love editing. Showing Hugh the before and after pictures, even seeing them myself is just…woah, it’s always so amazing...making [him] stand out, even when the picture may seem simple,” said Riley.
Follow @_mostyle_ on Instagram to discover and explore Mo’s style blog.
Darius Riley ’19 is a photographer for the Bowdoin Orient.
- December 9
Exploring maine: Looking at nature as an antidote for the cold winter season
This week was the first snowfall in Brunswick, always the most welcomed. December has a way of wiping everything clean, as if the very environment is preparing for the New Year’s proverbial clean slate. This New Year feels shaky; our next semester and my final semester at Bowdoin will begin as our country begins a new chapter, a slate that feels dirty before it’s even arrived.
The Maine winter changes our ability to interact with our environment and marks an enormous (if oft-despised) part of what makes this place what it is. The cold and the snow are some of the most common topics any non-Mainer will raise with a Bowdoin student, and we’ve all probably spent about a cumulative week of our Bowdoin experience bemoaning the weather—because it was 25 degrees last night, and I wear a coat when it’s 65.
On Monday as the snow fell like a slow exhalation, I went to the Commons to take a walk. Not yet icy but already sparkling, the paths are familiar and new again. Stopping with my friend by the pond, he threw dead branches against the slushy ice to watch it splatter with satisfying cracks.
The pine branches are dressed in layers of crystal, the bare twigs of deciduous trees white-capped like tiny waves. Shake them hard and the snow will explode into flurries before trembling down to settle on the ground.
My Maine winters come in contrast to 18 years of Brooklyn winters, with their rare moments of stillness amongst the grey slush and the immediate sweat upon stepping from the cold streets into the heated subway cars. New York winters are ice skating in the parks and scurrying to coffee shops; they are as cozy and crowded as the city can be. They’re also grimy.
My Maine winters have been wearing sweaters and two coats and at least two hand-knit scarves to hustle across campus and burst into a building to finally feel the blood rushing back into my face. They have been running out onto the frozen ice at Simpson’s Point with the same giddy feelings that bubble while swimming there in the summer. They have been waking in the dark of 5:30 a.m. to drive to Popham and watch the sun stretch up and out over the untouched swathes of snow reaching the foam on the beach.
Winter is also the exploration of inward places, the mornings spent watching snow through the window and just staying inside, the nights doing homework huddled under blankets because your off-campus house has “horsehair” insulation (which doesn’t seem to do much insulating at all). Winter is both the squirrels conserving energy in their drays and the dogs ploughing wildly through the snow on the quad.
Finding the ways to connect and commune with this place in its literal darkest times has brought a stability and cyclicality to my time at Bowdoin. Also, after visiting Texas in July and realizing that oppressive heat makes it just as impossible to be outside for longer than five minutes as the cold does, I’m trying to see even the temperature as an equal part of the whole season.
No matter the season, and even no matter the turmoil of that particular season, I think nature can be an antidote—even if that antidote is best taken from inside a cozy house. The ingrained symbolism of seasons is not lost on my cosmological sentimentality as fall becomes winter, which looks forward to spring.
This winter will be marked by uncertainty and fear and radical changes. I want it to also be marked with the reaffirmation of the determined beauty of the natural world, and as much good, old-fashioned playing in the snow as my toes can take.
Arts & Entertainment
Sister act: Purity Pact diversifies campus comedy scene
In an effort to bring comedic dialogue around femininity and politics to campus, Callye Bolster ’19 has established Purity Pact, an all-female stand-up and sketch comedy group.
The club was chartered with the College at the end of last semester. There are already 16 members, all friends and classmates Bolster recruited. She is not planning on holding auditions to expand the group this semester.
Bolster got involved in comedy while she was living in Chicago last summer. While attending various improv and stand up shows, she noticed how male dominated the comedy world is. She wanted to start an all-female group to push against this norm.
"An all-female group is a political statement in a way," Bolster said. "It gives you license to do more edgy, controversial humor.”
Purity Pact is one of three student-run comedy groups established within the past year, following the improv group Office Hours and Bowdoin Stand-Up, which is currently the in the process of being chartered.
“We have a pretty good comedy scene on campus,” said Bolster. “But it's pretty apolitical for the most part. We should talk about things that matter to us outside of Bowdoin, so I'm excited to bring that kind of comedy to campus.”
Millie Vergara ’19, a member of Purity Pact, recognizes the importance of comedy in current politics and wants to create an environment where students are able to interact with the topic.
“I think comedy is a really important medium and it's really useful in spreading messages and ideas,” Vergara said.
"I'm excited to have a space for more political comedy on campus, because I feel like, right now, a lot of Americans get their news or at least a good portion of their news from comedy,” Bolster added.
Purity Pact is currently in the midst of writing sketches and skits, most of which focus on issues of gender and politics. Bolster is hoping to host comedy pub nights on campus beginning at the end of the month.
"There's definitely a strong theme around gender that is coming up a lot in the context of campus, but also in bigger ways,” said Bolster. “Because we are an all-female group, that definitely comes up a lot, but I do think that we'll move beyond that as time goes on."
Ultimately, Bolster hopes that creating Purity Pact will give women on campus a platform to share their stories, thoughts, and feelings in a humorous manner.
“I think that this is going to be another way … that signals to first-year women that [Bowdoin] is a place where women's voices matter and where they are listened to and where women are funny,” said Bolster. “A lot of people don't come from places where that is the case."
Worth its weight in words
“There once was a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always.” So begins "The Phantom Tollbooth," Norton Juster’s 1961 classic, and the book I have concluded has influenced me more profoundly than any other.
The question seems deceptively simple: what is the book or other work of literature that has most influenced you? I believe everybody has at least one—even self-proclaimed non-readers—but I also think they can be hard to spot and even harder to talk about. The works we choose to read reflect our individual psyches within our social and intellectual worlds.
"The Phantom Tollbooth" is one of the most literal explorations of an individual person within his social and intellectual realms, and that is perhaps why I love it so dearly. As Milo travels through the city of Dictionopolis, through the Doldrums and towards the Sea of Knowledge, he finds the world anew through intellectual engagement, heavy sarcasm and pure whimsy. He sees the beauty of the princesses Rhyme and Reason, he comes to term with expectations and he crunches on the tasty, delicious letters in the Word Market.
We, like Milo, are surrounded by words, and those words are taking on new shapes: memes and lengthy opinion pieces flash across screens, the news is stuffed with “alternative facts” and online self-publication is an ever-growing tool for disseminating information. Being an engaged, thoughtful and critical reader is continually more and more important. What we read can shape our ideas, opinions and understanding of the world. Princess Rhyme says it best: “It’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.”
The written word responds to its reader like a painting responds to its viewer; every reader draws her own meaning from a text or her own particular emotions from a story.
I first read "The Phantom Tollbooth" some time in elementary school. I was hard-pressed to choose it for this column over other books that have been incredibly influential in my life: Albert Camus’ "The Stranger," "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison, Anne Frank’s incomparable "The Diary of a Young Girl." The runner-up was "Communion: The Female Search for Love," by bell hooks, which transfixed me with its masterful rendering of gender politics and intersectional feminism. I have recommended that book to so many people that my personal copy has long since fallen into others’ hands.
But my infatuation with "The Phantom Tollbooth" can be summed up in one quote. That quote frames my vision for this column, which will focus on coercing other people into giving me book recommendations (including from childhood!), and then reading those books, thinking about them, (hopefully) enjoying them and writing about them.
Some recommendations I’ve gotten for this column so far include "Bossypants" by Tina Fey, "To The Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf and "Holes" by Louis Sachar. They are as different as their recommenders, and all deserving of a good read.
My favorite quote is as follows: “You can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and not get wet.” That sea encompasses "Communion," "The Stranger" and so many other works of literature. My conclusion in this mixed-up world is that reading is good, and learning is good and giant clock dogs are also really good. If you haven’t read "The Phantom Tollbooth," it is wryly funny and charming and could possibly change your life—try it.
Take me to the costume shop: an inside look at theater's wardrobe wonderland
Behind the intricate designs and bright lights of every Bowdoin production there is a little-known outlet that makes it all happen: the costume shop.
Located on Federal Street and originally operated by student theater troupe Masque and Gown, the costume shop is home to an extensive array of costumes including frock coats, tuxedos and Victorian-era clothing—which is now too fragile to wear on stage, but provides designs for the shop's handmade period costumes.
Manager Julie McMurry, who has managed the shop for the last 13 years, oversees both the management of the shop and its costume production. Oftentimes, if the requested costumes are contemporary in style, the shop will first purchase the outfits and then do specific alterations depending on the show.
If the costumes require specific detail or are based on a time period other than our own, student employees at the shop will create the costumes themselves, sometimes from original patterns.
For student employees like Axis Fuksman-Kumpa ’17, a shift at work can include drafting pieces, sewing and fitting, in addition to painting, stitch work, lacework and appliqueing.
“Getting to see [the work] as part of a production is just an incredible experience because we work for so long on these pieces,” she said.
A costume shop employee for the past three years, Fuksman-Kumpa is no stranger to the inner-workings of Bowdoin productions as she has been an outfitter of hair and makeup for almost every mainstage production during her time at Bowdoin.
Fuksman-Kumpa's time at the costume shop has brought her a great sense of satisfaction, specifically when viewing her work as an opportunity to add depth to the characters on stage and bring them to life.
“[It’s] so incredible … getting to see people wear [my costumes] and getting to see them become art,” said Fuksman-Kumpa. “Just seeing it [all] come to fruition is such an incredible and powerful experience for me.”
Fuksman-Kumpa has also utilized her experience at the costume shop to conduct her own independent study with the theater department, in which she made her own creature-themed costumes and expanded her interest in special effects makeup.
In a series of short videos chronicling fictional creatures in nature, Fuksman-Kumpa pursued an unconventional approach to costuming that she felt is underrepresented in many of the theater department's productions.
"I wanted to really try to push myself to do more creature costumes [and] more prosthetic work,” she said.
Although working at the costume shop is a lesser-known employment opportunity for students, McMurry emphasized that there is no experience necessary.
“Across the board [our student employees] seem to really enjoy working here, because it uses a different part of [their] brain, and even though it's definitely work, it’s very creative and they can talk and be social in this environment,” said McMurry. “I just love the enthusiasm that students bring when they come and work here.”
"There's always zany stuff going on. I've spent a lot of nights at the theater washing fake blood out of stuff after murder scenes, I've had to make wigs out of yarn and clothes out of curtains for certain plays. I've had to make little blood packs and prosthetic wounds," Fuksman-Kumpa added.
The costume shop will be providing costumes for Masque and Gown’s "Blown Youth," which will be hosted at Pickard Theater from February 16-18, as well as for the theater department's show "Eurydice" that will be hosted at Wish Theater from March 2-4.
- January 27
NYC-based alt-pop duo Cults to perform this weekend
Over 500 students have purchased tickets to see the band Cults in concert tomorrow. Tickets went on sale at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, and within 30 minutes, the first 100 tickets were sold. As of now, seating is “limited,” according to Entertainment Board (eBoard) co-chair Brendan Civale ’17.
Over the past four years, Cults, an American indie band, has risen to prominence in the alternative music scene. The group is best known for its hits “Go Outside” and “You Know What I Mean,” which it will perform in Pickard Theater at 10 p.m. tomorrow.
This will be the second concert hosted by eBoard this year; the first concert featured Louis the Child, performing to a packed audience in Smith Union in October. The Winter Concert will not be the last concert, however—the 152nd Ivies weekend in April will feature more artists, which are yet to be announced.
Co-Chairs of eBoard Civale and Arindam Jurkhan ’17 were very pleased with the positive student reception on campus. With this event, eBoard sought to replicate the success of last year’s BØRNS concert which sold out in four hours and also bring a different style of live music to campus.
“For Ivies, we ask students what kind of artists they want, and it’s usually hip-hop, rap, EDM or some loud party music,” said Civale. “But we also want to appeal to a lot of people on campus who might want a slower, indie act. We knew how well BØRNS did last year, so we wanted to bring a performer that had a similar vibe.”
Despite Pickard’s limited space, eBoard insists it is the only place that the concert can take place for financial and security reasons.
“It’s the only venue on campus where you can sell tickets,” said Civale. “Also, crowd control for the administration and security is much easier there. In [David Saul Smith] Union, there are 40 entrances and exits; in Pickard, there are two [entrances].”
Students are generally pleased with eBoard’s decision to host another concert after Winter Break.
“It’s a really great idea to do a concert in the winter because otherwise, Bowdoin doesn’t get a lot of musical acts until Ivies in April,” said Christina Moreland ’17, who will be attending Saturday’s concert. “BØRNS was very successful last year. Everyone really enjoyed it, so I’m glad the eBoard has decided to continue the new tradition.”
- January 27
To the Crossroads: The Beatles vs. Migos and the triumph of trap
Though I’ve never really paid much mind to the hype and buzz surrounding the award show season, this year something happened at the Golden Globes that drew my attention. While accepting an award for his show “Atlanta,” Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, gave a shout out to the trap group Migos. In a later interview, Glover continued to praise Migos, touting the band as “the Beatles of this generation.”
Reactions to this comparison have been varied, ranging from my mother’s “who are the amigos?” to my falling out of my chair crying in a giddy fit of assenting laughter. The comparison confused a lot of people, and rightly so—the Beatles are rock and roll legends, remembered as the progenitors and patron saints of pop music by pretty much every suburban parent in the world. Migos, on the other hand, has only been relevant for about four years. Regardless, this isn’t the first time the comparison has been made. Back in 2014, Complex Magazine ran an article on its website documenting the memeification of the claim that Migos is better than the Beatles. It seems like ever since Migos erupted onto the scene with “Versace,” people have been (with varying degrees of sincerity) comparing the hip-hop trio to the Beatles.
However, up until this point, nobody with the musical clout of Grammy-nominated musician and famed George Clinton impersonator Donald Glover had ever publicly made the comparison in earnest. Gambino’s endorsement gave credence to what had previously been a tongue-in-cheek Twitter meme. Therefore, I think it deserves some serious discussion.
Comparing the groups based on their musical prowess is tricky, since members of Migos are not, strictly speaking, musicians. Whereas the Beatles performed and recorded with live instruments, Migos’ tracks are primarily composed of electronically produced eight-bar loops. Instead of judging the music on its technical merits, I would suggest a comparison rooted in the phenomenological experience of each artist. What is important is not the theoretical proficiency or instrumental virtuosity of the artist, but the subjective, emotional response of the listener. I don’t know about you, but personally, I get more goosebumps during “Bad and Boujee” than I do during the entire “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. So, Migos: 1, Beatles: 0
Moreover, although neither group is exceptionally innovative musically—the Beatles’ rock was derivative (an opinion shared by the musicologists at Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London) and Migos has yet to revolutionize the trap scene—each group has had a profound impact on popular culture. The Beatles’ influence is fairly evident in the fact that people still foam at the mouth over their music. They have five feature-length films, dozens of albums and members that have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame multiple times. Their clout is almost unquestionable; but that being said, it came over the course of decades. For a group as new as it is, Migos wields a considerable amount of influence. The group has spawned a multitude of internet memes, created the infamous “dab” and has been at least partially responsible for the proliferation of trap music in American culture. What’s more impressive is that Migos did it, for the most part, without the support of a record label. Migos: 2, Beatles: 0
This is the aspect of Migos’ fame that I find the most admirable. The majority of the group’s music has been released independently. The trio has had one major label release, with another upcoming, but a lot of its most popular music, i.e. “Versace,” “Fight Night,” “Handsome and Wealthy,” “Look At My Dab,” etc., has been released on mixtapes. It is common for artists in the Atlanta-based trap scene to operate in this fashion, so what I’m about to say about Migos also applies to many of its peers. When I look at Migos, I don’t see just another hip-hop outfit rapping about guns, drugs and the mistreatment of women. What I see is the re-appropriation and commodification of black body politics. Hip-hop record executives—the overwhelming majority of them rich, white men—have profited for decades off the commodification of black stereotypes, selling stories of life in the ghetto to kids in the suburb. Migos sidestepped the middlemen, making its paper selling hood dreams directly to those same suburban kids while still staying relevant in the streets. The Beatles don’t have shit on that. Migos: 3, Beatles: 0
- January 27
Student-curated exhibit gives snapshots of American photography
Art History students dug into the College’s archives to curate a photography exhibition that opened on Wednesday. Each student in Assistant Professor of Art History Dana Byrd’s “Snap, Shoot, Instagram: A History of Photography” class presented collections of photos inspired by a specific theme in the history of photography on the second floor of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.
The class’s concentrations ranged from the evolution of photographic technology to the representation of women and indigenous peoples. Although Byrd has taught the course three times, this is the first time she has incorporated a curation project.
“[Students] translated ideas that may be deeply involved with theory into something that anyone walking by a case can begin to understand by looking at the objects,” she said.
After selecting their themes, students worked with Special Collections Education and Outreach Librarian Marieke Van Der Steenhoven to explore the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives and selected between two and five books, photographs or other items relating to their theme.
Many students had never used Special Collections before taking the course, and Van Der Steenhoven hopes that the exhibition will encourage those students to come back and to invite others in.
“One of the things that I find really exciting about Special Collections here at Bowdoin is that our collections are incredibly diverse and they are here for the students to use,” she said.
Special Collections houses over 50,000 rare books as well as the manuscripts of more than 300 families and individuals.
“Getting to go through all the different sources was really interesting, and to see the sheer volume of objects in the collection is really impressive,” said Ethan Bevington ’19.
After looking through the artifacts in the Special Collections reading room, students wrote labels and texts for the pieces they chose to display. Some students found the process of consolidating all of their research into a paragraph under 200 words to be challenging.
“You don’t want to leave anything out, but you don’t want to make it too long so that people are nervous to read it,” Emily McColgan ’17 said. “You have to find a balance.”
Byrd hopes that students’ descriptions and curatorial work will teach visitors to the exhibit about the history of photography and encourage them to consider the art form in new ways.
“It’s nice to kind of see the texture of the real object, to look at different historic photo processes as they change over time, to look at different sizes: all of the sort of things you lose by looking at a digital image or a JPEG,” Byrd said.
The opening of “Shoot, Snap, Instagram” also featured a ‘selfie station’ of enlarged reproductions of photographs from the college archives as they relate to the various themes relating to the history of American photography.
The exhibit will be on display until the end of the semester in May.
- December 9
Live from Brunswick: Bowdoin Night Live! satirizes Gladwell, ResLife
With topics ranging from Noam Chomsky to Malcolm Gladwell, Bowdoin Sketch Comedy presented a series of sketches satirizing the Bowdoin experience this week at Bowdoin Night Live! Held in Kresge Auditorium, the club’s final show of the semester provided a unique outlet for comical social commentary on the College and its institutional policies.
Tom Capone ’17, the leader of Bowdoin Sketch Comedy, described the creative process of the show as one deeply connected to Bowdoin students’ experience on campus.
“We spend the entire semester paying attention to what is going on on campus, reading the Orient, trying to be as involved in as many different parts of the community as possible and finding things that either should be made fun of or lend themselves to comedy,” said Capone.
The group is selected through a long audition process aimed at finding a diverse group of students with both comedy writing and acting talent. Only about three or four of the 40 students who auditioned last spring and this fall made the cut. Each of the ten club members wrote two or three sketches, but only the best eight were produced and performed.
The idea of writing, acting and producing sketch comedy at Bowdoin arose from the senior thesis of Simon Brooks ’14. Since then, Bowdoin Sketch Comedy has become a chartered student organization with scheduled performances each semester.
One of the highlights of this winter’s Bowdoin Night Live! was a video satirizing Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast that criticized Bowdoin Dining Services. The sketch, called “The Return of Malcolm Gladwell,” was a play on Gladwell’s generalization of Bowdoin students representing the ‘one percent.’
“I’m kind of hoping that Malcolm Gladwell actually sees it,” he said. “If he were to get angry at it or respond to it that would be the best reception that we could get.”
Callye Bolster ’19, a member of Bowdoin Sketch Comedy, wrote a sketch based on her own frustrations with the interplay between the Office of Residential Life and College Houses regarding parties and alcohol. Bolster, a member of Reed House, said she wanted to address the stress involved in hosting campus-wide parties.
“There are just all of these mixed messages about what we’re supposed to be doing,” she said. “Having the police come to nearly all of our parties that we’re supposed to throw but then constantly getting in trouble … I thought I’d write a skit just making fun of how confusing the process is.”
Capone and the rest of the club believe that while Bowdoin’s improv groups—Office Hours and Improvabilities—provide a great source of light humor on campus, sketch comedy is riskier in its content, which can edge on making students feel uncomfortable.
“It’s more difficult to digest something that cuts close to the truth, but that’s the form that I’m the most interested in and the group has worked the most to produce,” Capone said. “[We] touch very briefly on subjects that are not explicitly stated within the skits but implied and hopefully point out the absurdities of things that happen on campus.”
- December 9
Arctic Museum sled takes center stage in Fickera's '18 dance installation
Gina Fickera ’18 was surprised that, as a junior, she had never been to the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. Though historic, the museum is often under-utilized by students, so Fickera took it upon herself to showcase its treasures in a site-specific dance piece she choreographed as part of her independent study.
Using the Inuit sled that Peary and MacMillan used in their expedition to the Arctic as the centerpiece of her independent study, Fickera aimed to encourage a more diverse audience to frequent the space.
Fickera decided to focus on the sled because of the ability to translate the language people use to describe the sled’s movement into dance. In the video of her performance, the dancers are seen sliding across the floor and falling to mimic the sliding and curved nature of the sled.
Advised by Professor and Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance Sarah Bay-Cheng, Fickera explored how site-specific dances can reject the confines of the traditional concert stage.
“The location itself becomes an integral part of the experience of artistically telling a story,” said Fickera.
After narrowing down from a list of 10 spaces by recording herself at each spot, Fickera decided to stage her dance in Hubbard Hall.
“[I did] whatever the space told me to do and [noted] how my body naturally responded to that space.”
Hubbard was ultimately the most appealing to Fickera because of its aesthetic, Inuit artifacts and history and culture in relation to Bowdoin.
“Working in a site-specific setting allowed for a deeper exploration of new choreographic possibilities and takes into consideration all interdisciplinary actions of a location that make it uniquely itself,” said Fickera.
The goal of her study was to explore postmodern movement artists through improvisation and the choreography was mainly improvisation-based. Dancers Melissa Miura ’19 and Joy Huang ’19 accompanied Fickera.
According to Fickera, museums have collaborated with performers since the 1960s.
“These performances blurred the line between theater, dance and art gallery installations,” she said.
The main difference between traditional and contemporary stages is the use of space. Because the traditional stage contains a fourth wall and a concealed audience, Fickera said that working in the Arctic Museum was a disorienting but exciting experience.
“I knew I was growing as a dancer,” she said.
“We generated some movement on our own and from there we strung the pieces together,” said Fickera.
Early one Sunday morning, two hours before the museum opened, they teamed up with Andres Aguaiza ’17 to film the sequence.
The video will be featured on the museum’s website and may be submitted into several film festivals. It will also be performed with the sled on stage in the Dance Department’s Concert next spring. According to Fickera, her independent study was an opportunity to give back to Bowdoin and to the museum.
“Now that I’ve had this experience, I believe that museums and dancers mutually benefit from each other,” said Fickera.
- December 9
New dance group offers inclusive space, bridges various styles
Noticing the need for a more community-oriented and diverse dance group on campus, Arah Kang ’19 and Joy Huang ’19 decided to create ReFRESH, a group dedicated to exploring movement through various styles of dance. Kang and Huang came up with the idea over the summer and ReFRESH began offering classes at the beginning of the semester.
“We wanted [it] to be a very inclusive dance community,” said Kang.
Last year, both Huang and Kang were part of dance groups on campus. Huang continues to perform with Vague, a jazz dance performance group. Kang was a member of Intersection, an Afro-Latin dance group. ReFRESH joins eight other dance groups on campus. They noted that the other dance groups on campus are audition and performance-based and wanted to create a group where anyone could come, regardless of experience.
“There is a lot of talent from students on campus who aren’t necessarily in the dance groups and we reach out to them,” said Huang.
ReFRESH offers dance classes once a week for an hour. At the beginning of the lesson, the instructor—a Bowdoin student—creates a 30-second combination. The rest of the class is spent working on the combination and free-styling. So far, they have offered classes in contemporary, hip-hop and bachata dance, all taught by different students at Bowdoin.
“We thought it would be cool for us to start something where you could have peers teaching peers and different styles,” said Huang.
Huang and Kang have used this semester to gauge interest in the group and develop their method. The turnout of the classes has been steady so far although they are hoping for more participants next semester.
“The biggest challenge is just getting enough people to come to make it a good community,” said Huang.
Sarena Sabine ’19 has been attending ReFRESH classes since they started. Part of her high school dance team, Sabine ultimately decided not to pursue dance at Bowdoin during her first year. She found that she missed the community aspect of dance and the range of genres, so she began to look into new dance groups on campus. ReFRESH provided just what she was looking for.
“Every week, there’s a new piece, a new song and a new style of dance,” said Sabine. “Different people bring in their talents, and collectively we have been able to try out a bunch of things.”
Huang and Kang have also created multimedia concept videos with the group. In one video, they projected various colorful images onto themselves and danced to “Breezeblocks” by alt-J. In the future, they are hoping to explore the intersection between various types of artistic mediums by creating more videos.
Huang and Kang ultimately want to create a safe space where people feel comfortable to go, learn a new dance style and hang out with other people who are passionate about dance.
“Dance is such a great source of joy and a stress reliever, especially in an environment like this class,” said Sabine. “It’s been a great addition to the Bowdoin dance community.”
- December 2
Curtain Callers bring music to the morbid in 'Heathers the Musical'
Exploring suicide, sexual assault and gun violence in a suburban high school setting, Bowdoin’s student-run musical theater group Curtain Callers will perform the satirical, dark comedy “Heathers the Musical” this coming weekend.
The musical is based on the 1988 film “Heathers,” a cult classic set in a fictional Ohio high school. Unlike the movie, the show is focused primarily on the relationship between Veronica and J.D., two nerdy outcasts.
“It’s a high school comedy-drama gone so wrong,” said director Holly Hornbeck ’18.
The play centers around Veronica, who is invited to become friends with a group of popular girls at school, all named Heather. As the “Heathers” start to compromise Veronica’s image as the friendly girl, she devises a plan with the rebellious J.D. to kill the cool kids.
“Veronica is super satirical, ironic and ‘girl power all the way,’ so I have some rock-out, strong numbers. I love playing this character who’s just a really strong woman,” said Phoebe Smukler ‘17, who plays Veronica.
This year, “Heathers” will be performed in Kresge Auditorium, a location that allows the show to use more advanced audiovisual equipment. In the past, the Curtain Callers have put on performances such as “Sweeney Todd” in Chase Barn, which is not ideal due to its small size and lack of equipment. Hornbeck hopes that performing in Kresge will revamp the Curtain Callers’ image.
“It’s going to be a way bigger production than Curtain Callers has put on,” said Hornbeck.
Hornbeck decided she wanted to perform “Heathers” because of its popularity and cult following, and received enthusiastic responses when she told people she was considering directing it.
“I wanted an edgy show, I wanted a funny show, but I didn’t want to put on a show like ‘Rent’ because that was too much to live up to,” said Hornbeck.
The show also presents sensitive subject matter such as sexual assault and homophobia in a comical way and discusses the daily, relatable struggles of suburban high schoolers.
“The show does say a lot about, no matter who a person is and how they portray themselves, everyone does have inner insecurities and deeper issues,” said Hornbeck. “I think that the show itself takes these characters that seem so one dimensional, but then you are able to see their deeper struggles within their relationships and friendships.”
The show’s intense, violent topics are presented in such a nonchalant way that Hornbeck and Smukler hope that it will bring about discussion and draw awareness to the fact that these subjects are difficult to discuss.
“It’s satire and it’s dark … It’s definitely an imperfect show, but I do still think it has value as a satirical, dark comedy,” said Hornbeck. “You’ll be able to see the characters go on a journey and mature. It’s a coming-of-age story. I think it’s going to strike exactly the right tone.”
The musical will be performed this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. Tickets are free and not required in advance.
Holdsclaw pushes mental health activism
Women’s basketball legend, Chamique Holdsclaw—decorated with three consecutive NCAA championship titles and an Olympic gold medal—visited campus on February 1 to share with students her decades-long struggle and journey with mental illness in Kresge Auditorium.
Part of the Bowdoin Athletics’ Leadership and Empowerment through Athletics Principles (LEAP) Initiative, the event screened her documentary “Mind | Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw” and was followed by a panel discussion that included the Director of Counseling Services and Wellness Programs Bernie Hershberger, Director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity Kate Stern and the Executive Director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maine Jenna Mehnert.
The event attempted to inform students who suffer from mental illnesses about the support-systems on campus and encourage students with friends suffering from mental illnesses to continue to speak up about the available resources. Holdsclaw stressed in her film and panel that it is easy to forget that suffering is universal and accepting yourself for your flaws, beauty and your struggles takes an incredible level of courage, but it will feel like a world of burden is taken off you.
“People ask about my experience winning championships and Olympics but I can’t probably remember because I was chasing the next thing,” Holdsclaw said. “Honestly life after basketball has been pretty darn amazing. I guess I’m not using basketball to hide it now. I’ve accepted it. I’m finally living in my truth. I’m not changing or anything. I know life is not perfect but I’m finally living. Now I’m appreciating the people, appreciating the situation.”
Holdsclaw discussed how depression can take many insidious forms—obvious as well as subtle—which emphasizes how important it is for people to be more aware and conscious of what others may experience.
“Imagine it this way: to go to bed every night and wake up in cold sweats. The guilt was killing me. It was on my mind 24/7,” Holdsclaw said. “When I went to see therapists I was on the edge of my seat with my mind racing 100 miles per hour.”
The panel traced one of the causes of depression to the unrealistic expectations that society constantly feeds people through various forms, such as social media, and the fact that we tend to unconsciously accept societal norms.
“It was really great to have one of the best female athletes in history come and tell her story that I’m sure most people didn’t even know,” Moctar Niang ’19, a member of the men’s soccer team, said. “It just goes to show that often people are not educated on the matter and my personal takeaway from this is the question of what more things can be done to raise awareness on the severity of mental illness.”
The panel also discussed treating depression and other forms of mental illness, which are tricky to treat, according to Hershberger.
“When you look at depression you also have to look at a whole lot of practices like therapy, prescriptions, acupuncture, yoga, massage, nutrition and exercise,” he said. “Really you have to look at the whole person and see how we can recover from this. You don’t know which one is going to actually make the difference so you have to keep trying.”
The panel agreed that having solid and dependable friends and family who are willing to listen and really care is the single most important factor in counteracting and relieving this pain.
“There are girls on my team who have similar experiences and looking at it from a little bit of distant perspective I feel like I should’ve done something, which is the important part,” said Paula Petit-Molina ’20, a member of the field hockey team.
“You are never alone. I used to think I’m the only one who is going through this but you are never alone,” said Holdsclaw. “Even at your weakest moments there will be someone who will return your call.”
Women's hockey takes on Hamilton
After a four-game losing streak, the women’s hockey team (10-6-3, 5-4-2 NESCAC) recovered with two wins and a 0-0 tie over the past two weekends. This recent run of strong performances sets the team up well as it faces Hamilton (11-5-2, 6-3-1 NESCAC), which currently leads the league, this weekend.
One of the wins was in overtime against Middlebury on January 21, which Bowdoin had not beaten since 2013.
“It was the best feeling ever, especially an OT win and the way the goal was scored,” captain Jess Bowen ’17 said. It couldn’t have been better. We were up right at about a minute left in third period and to get scored on was really hard. And then we only had five minutes in overtime, but when it happened, it was an incredible feeling.”
The win against Middlebury gave the team the confidence it needed to play well against Wesleyan the following Friday, according to captain Madeline Hall ’17.
“I think we had a really, really strong game on Friday. We played 50-60 minutes of good hockey and we didn’t overthink things,” she said. “All six of us on the ice worked together as one unit really well, so we were moving the puck and winning all of the 50/50 battles, which is big.”
Strong goalkeeping by Kerri St. Denis ’19 has been another reason for the team’s success. In the second match against Wesleyan, St. Denis made 31 saves en route to her sixth shutout of the season.
“In a way, a goalie can be like the quarterback of the team, sort of the backbone,” Bowen said. “When [St. Denis] makes some great saves, you feel the need to step up your game, protect her and to put goals in the net because she’s preventing them from going in. So it’s been a really good situation.”
Hamilton’s goalkeeping is also extremely strong. The Continentals’ goalie, Sam Walther ’18, has matched St. Denis’ .95 save percentage this season and will pose a large obstacle in this weekend’s games.
“Their goalie is what has been keeping them in the games and winning games so I think crashing the net, being aggressive in front of the net, getting shots in and creating quick and good scoring opportunities is going to be really important,” said Hall. “And making sure she messes up her confidence and loses her confidence right off the bat so that she can’t gain it back throughout the period.”
Going into the Hamilton series, Bowen believes that the greatest challenge is going to be playing a full two games and carrying momentum throughout the weekend.
“If you play teams twice and play two really good teams, usually one game is better than the other and that’s just the nature of our schedule when playing teams twice in a row,” she said. “But Hamilton has been doing really well lately so we know it’s going to be one of the harder games thus far. It’s pretty important.”
Hall thinks that the players needs to focus on themselves and their strengths in order to play their best because all of the teams are so close in skill level.
“Hamilton is coming off of a really strong weekend. They beat Middlebury twice, so they’re going to be feeling confident,” she said. “But we just need to not take that into consideration at all. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or when we’re playing, but instead we just need to focus on ourselves. We’re trying to just play hard because whoever shows up to play that day is going to be the team that wins.”
The team will play its first game against the Continentals tonight at 7 p.m. at Hamilton.
Squash teams gear up for NESCAC tourney
Both the men’s and women’s squash teams are seeded seventh and will play Hamilton College in the opening rounds of their respective NESCAC tournaments tonight, both of which will be played at Amherst.
The men’s team enters the Championship with a 3-10 record after losing its last three matches. However, the team played fairly well in January—including an 8-1 win over Hamilton. After starting the season with five straight losses—four of which were 9-0 shutouts—the men’s team picked up its play and won three of its next four matches.
The midseason progress can in part be attributed to the team staying healthy.
“Improved roster health has been a huge factor for the team’s success,” said Head Coach Tomas Fortson. “Our goal [for the championship is] to compete well while applying some of the improvements each player is working on. Hopefully we’ll win all of our competitive matches.”
The women’s team fared slightly better the men’s this season, finishing 4-8 on the year. The team won three matches in a row, including one over its NESCAC tournament opponent Hamilton, before getting outplayed last weekend by Brown University and the University of Virginia—two teams with much larger programs.
Having an injury-free team is especially important for the women as there are only 11 athletes on the roster, compared to the men’s 13. Nine players must compete in a match.
The women’s team plays at 4:30 p.m. today while the men’s team will kick off its tournament run at 6:30 p.m.
Large first-year class brings healthy competition to nordic ski team
The nordic ski team has had an impressive start to the season, posting great showings in its first two carnivals at St. Lawrence and University of New Hampshire (UNH). Between the women’s and men’s sides, five skiers finished within the top 30 at UNH.
“I think that we started out the season pretty strong,” said captain Hannah Miller ’17. “We have a lot of first years this year and we weren’t entirely sure how they would perform this season, but they’ve been doing very well.”
This year, first years make up half of the team, which has grown significantly over the past three years. Head Coach Nathan Alsobrook attributes this growth to an incredible level of proficiency and competitiveness among the team’s new members.
“My policy for recent years is that people who meet a certain level of proficiency or achieve a certain level of competitiveness can be on the team,” Alsobrook said. “We’ll find a way to make it work with the numbers.”
While the first years bring new opportunities for improvement, Alsobrook is aware of the drawbacks of having a larger team.
“The team is larger this year, and on one hand it presents logistical challenges with extra athletes that need to be managed. [Yet] I wanted to give them a chance to find out who will rise to the top,” he said. “It’s a little bit outside my comfort zone in terms of the numbers I had, but I think that it’s been a really positive situation to allow everybody to challenge everybody at practice and create that healthy competitive environment.”
This new environment seems to have paid off, as the team has produced several standout performances this season. Last weekend at the UNH carnival, Miller placed within the top 15 in both classic and skate. At the St. Lawrence carnival two weeks ago, captain Mac Groves ’17 placed 10th individually.
Alsobrook is hopeful about the performances of the first years.
“Definitely the first years are making an impact,” he said. “Top 30 is sort of the gold standard for the team. That’s where you score qualifying points for the NCAA championships, so that’s a good benchmark for our team. Russell [O’Brien ’20], Lily [Johnston ’20] and Orion [Watson ’20] have all broken into the top 30 so far this year, so that’s a really good accomplishment for them as first years.”
Heading to the next few carnivals, the team hopes to focus on the little things that can improve its standing.
“The focus right now is improving the small things that we can do, like staying healthy and getting enough rest,” said Miller.
But the team also has its eyes on long-term goals.
“One of our big goals this season is this thing called the Chummy Broomhall Cup,” said Graves. “It’s a championship race for all the Maine schools and one of our main goals is to win that.”
The Polar Bears will vie for the Chummy Broomhall Cup in late February. Next, the team is competing at the two-day UVM carnival in Stowe, VT today and tomorrow.
The relegation zone: The Kante Black Hole: Chelsea soars while Leicester struggles
Here’s a relatively uncontroversial statement: Chelsea will win the Premier League title this season. Even after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with fellow title contenders Liverpool, the Blues hold a nine-point lead at the top of the table with 15 matches remaining and have been the league’s most consistent and terrifying side.
Here’s a slightly more controversial statement: Leicester City, the defending champions who overcame 5000-to-1 odds to claim a fairytale title, will struggle to avoid relegation this season. The Foxes sit in 16th place, 2 spots and 2 points ahead of the relegation zone, tied on points with Swansea City. It seems ever more likely that Claudio Ranieri’s men will scrap it out for the rest of the season to avoid being the first team in England to be relegated in the season following a title since 1938.
Leicester’s troubles this season are numerous and well-trodden. Striker Jamie Vardy, last year’s snarling, trash-talking player of the season with 24 goals, has banged in just five so far this season. Riyad Mahrez, their maestro on the wing, has likewise been ineffectual after a monster showing in Leicester’s title campaign. Despite these difficulties, probably the largest factor in the squad’s drop-off this season—and Chelsea’s dominance—has been the loss of French midfielder N’Golo Kante, who was traded to Chelsea for £32 million this offseason.
Kante’s impact to Leicester’s championship side is hard to understate. As a hard-tackling, Energizer Bunny of a pivot in central midfield last season, he was relied upon for his aggression and shielded the Foxes’ backline while breaking up the flow of opposing attacks. Despite not quite winning the plaudits of Mahrez or Vardy last season, Kante led the league with 156 interceptions and 175 tackles. It was his constant energy and presence in the center of the park—Ranieri said he “must have a pack full of batteries hidden” away—that allowed their attackers to flourish.
The two clubs’ fortunes this season are inextricably linked to gaining and losing Kante. While Leicester has a Kante-sized hole in its midfield this season, Kante has been nothing short of a black hole in Chelsea’s midfield, gobbling up opposing attacks under new manager Antonio Conte, albeit playing a somewhat different role. He’s still breaking up attacks at a dizzying rate, leading the league in interceptions through mid-January, but has shifted his role from the destroyer who helped spring quick Leicester counters to more of a controlling player in Conte’s dominating 3-4-3 formation.
Since its 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal in late September, Chelsea has been lined up in the same 3-4-3 formation that Conte used while manager of both Juventus and the Italian National Team. The switch to this formation—which sets Kante playing alongside Nemanja Matic in central midfield—has reaped massive rewards. In the Chelsea midfield, Kante’s energy and motor allow him to shield the back three, while also controlling and balancing the pace of the game from the middle of the park by distributing to the wingbacks and attackers. As a result, he’s making fewer defensive stops—which consist of interceptions, blocks and clearances—per game this season. Instead, he has been a more effective passer with nearly 90 percent pass accuracy.
In Tuesday night’s draw against Liverpool, Kante made an astounding 14 tackles, and yet it seemed like a performance where the stats didn’t tell the full story. As Leicester observers last season so often noted of Kante, he covers the ground of two players, something on full display Tuesday. He was first to seemingly every loose ball in the midfield and was critical in disrupting Liverpool’s offensive rhythm, even as the Reds dominated possession and pressed Chelsea.
Barring a miracle, it’s hard to see any side catching the Blues at the top of the table, especially if the team avenges its early season loss and dispatches of a hot-and-cold Arsenal side in a massive match on Saturday. As it stands, N’Golo Kante is on his way to repeating as Premier League champion and may well be the most valuable—if underappreciated—player in the league.
highlight reel: This week in sports: 1/27-2/2
Nothing but net.
Women’s basketball heads into the weekend on a three-game win streak after beating UMass-Boston (8-12) 83-59 on Tuesday. The dominant win featured five players—Lydia Caputi ’18, Taylor Choate ’19, Abigail Kelly ’19, Kate Kerrigan ’18 and Ally Silfen ’17—with at least 10 points each, continuing to highlight the team’s depth and dynamic offense. The Polar Bears will return to league play against Hamilton (9-9, 2-4 NESCAC) today and Middlebury (14-5, 4-2 NESCAC) tomorrow.
The men’s indoor track and field team won the Bowdoin Invitational III on Saturday with standout performances coming from Joseph Staudt ’19, who won the hurdles and high jump, and John Pietro ’18, who won the shot put and weight throw. The women’s team placed third behind Colby and Coast Guard with a number of individual winners, setting both teams up well for the Maine State Meet, hosted in Farley Field House tomorrow.
Getting the rebound.
Men’s basketball bounced back from a close 87-82 loss to Colby (10-9, 1-5 NESCAC) last Saturday with a hard-fought 78-72 win over Husson on Tuesday. The game featured a standout performance from Hugh O’Neil ’19 who led the team with a career-high 23 points and 13 rebounds. The team will take on fellow NESCAC competitors Hamilton (14-5, 3-3 NESCAC) and Middlebury (16-3, 4-2 NESCAC) at home on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Best of the best.
Men’s ice hockey Coach Emeritus Terry Meagher will be presented with the Parker-York Award by the New England Hockey Writers Association (NEHWA) in April. Recent honorees include Travis Roy, who founded the Travis Roy Foundation to raise awareness for quadriplegics and paraplegics, and Don Cahoon, the all-time winningest coach in UMass hockey history. During 33 years at the helm of the Bowdoin men’s ice hockey program, Meagher led the team to 542 wins, sixth all-time among NCAA Division III coaches, and was honored as Division II-III Coach of the Year three times.
- January 27
Women's hockey dominates at Frozen Fenway
On January 12, the women’s ice hockey team left the comfort of Watson Arena for the prestige of Fenway Park, where they played in the first-ever match between two NESCAC women’s teams at Frozen Fenway, a series of outdoor hockey games at the park.
The Polar Bears decisively beat conference-leader Connecticut College (11-4-2, 7-3-0 NESCAC) in a 3-0 shutout despite challenging ice conditions, securing Head Coach Marissa O’Neil’s 100th career win.
Participating in Frozen Fenway was historic for not only Bowdoin’s program, but the NESCAC as well. As a result, the biggest challenge going into the game was the team’s mindset, according to captain Kimmy Ganong ’17. To help prepare, the team worked with Dr. Tiff Jones, a sport and psychology consultant hired by Bowdoin this year.
“We met with [Jones] a few times leading up to Fenway just to get the mindset of what it’s going to be like playing at Fenway and playing in such a big arena,” Ganong said. “So she did a lot of work with us on that and helped us be on the ice and not get caught up in the ice or not get distracted by fans.”
O’Neil agrees that the team’s mental preparation was extremely important leading up to the game, but she didn’t want to take away from the players’ excitement for the event.
“It’s a huge game, it’s a conference game, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” O’Neil said. “We weren’t trying to dampen the mood by just saying ‘You need to focus on this.’ You need to have perspective on it. It’s an incredible opportunity, so we wanted [the team] to enjoy that excitement and enjoy being with one another.”
The most visible challenge the team faced was playing outside. On the day of the match, it was warm and rainy, which led to an inch and a half of water on the ice, quite similar to current campus conditions.
“It was like playing on a pond, but the pond wasn’t frozen,” said Ganong. “You can find pictures online that show our goalie standing at the net and there are just rings of water [on the ice]. It was definitely something we had to adjust to because our ice here is always frozen.”
According to O’Neil, the ice conditions actually helped the team relax before and during the game.
“They play better when they can be playful and not overthink too much so [the ice quality] sort of helped in their mental preparation,” she said. “I think the absurdity of trying to pass in puddles helped calm their nerves.”
Ganong believes that the main reason that the Polar Bears won the game was due to their ability to adapt to the conditions.
“The game was a lot slower and the ice was wet,” she said. “You had to almost lift all your passes so that they wouldn’t get stuck in the water. The ice was bumpy, but we all did it. We all adjusted and I think that is a big reason we won.”
The turning point in the game, according to O’Neil, was the team’s first goal.
“[Connecticut College] had us on our heels at times and there were a lot of momentum shifts,” O’Neil said. “But we scored on a low-angle shot that really seemed to be a turning point for our team.”
“We had great goal-tending by Kerri St. Denis [’19] up to that point, but in terms of momentum, the table just kind of turned when we scored that first goal. Then our kids led just a relentless pursuit the rest of the way,” she said.
While O’Neil’s 100th career win is a notable accomplishment, it didn’t overshadow the team’s success, according to O’Neil.
“I never focused on that and same with our players with their individual achievements,” she said. “It’s all about our team and always will be. But it was pretty incredible that it just happened to be on that night.”
Although the excitement surrounding the game is over, Ganong believes that this will still be a landmark event in the women’s hockey program.
“I do think it gives more notice to Bowdoin and for the future players that may come here, just hearing that we played at Fenway and we won, I think it’s really, really special for the program and for Bowdoin athletics as well,” she said. “To have a women’s team play there and to have teams from campus come down in support of us and have alums from years past come—all in all, it was just great for the College.”
The team will travel to Wesleyan this weekend for a pair of NESCAC games on Friday and Saturday.
Editor's Note, Friday, January 27, 4:50 p.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that Dr. Tiff Jones was hired by the College as a sports psychiatrist. The article has been updated to clarify that she is a sport and psychology consultant.
- January 27
Siwady '19 swims at short course world championships for Honduras national team
Last month, Gabriel Siwady ’19 represented Honduras in the 13th International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Swimming Championships in Windsor, Canada and recorded the fifth best time among college students in the 1500-meter freestyle.
The international short-course (25 meters) championship is held every two years and hosts some of the world’s best swimmers from more than 150 countries, including Olympians Lilly King and Tom Shields of the United States, as well as Katinka Hosszu of Hungary and Chad Le Clos of South Africa.
Siwady has competed at junior international championships as a part of the Honduras national team since he was 15. This was his first time competing at the senior level.
Eight swimmers represented Honduras in different events, all of whom Siwady previously met back home or at other international championships.
“Honduras is a very weak country in athletics, we don’t have the best swimmers in the world,” he said. “We don’t excel that much, but I was able to still perform well, despite that.”
He participated in two events: the 1500-meter freestyle and the 200-meter butterfly. In his stronger event, the 1500, he beat his personal record with a time of 16:32.62.
“If you train hard and you prepare well, in the moment you can accomplish your goals if you think about them everyday,” Siwady said.
Though Siwady has been swimming competitively since he was five, the international stage can still be daunting. However, he embraced the high stakes and elite competition.
“I like that [the meet] has all the elaborate introductions,” Siwady said. “They play music when you are about to step on the starting blocks. I just liked seeing people from other countries, seeing fast Olympic swimmers who broke world records.”
Siwady believes his experience competing at the junior international level mentally prepared him to feel comfortable and succeed when competing at the senior level.
“My first time [was in 2013], so I wasn’t used to competing at a global stage so I was little more nervous,” he said. “I had prepared well and performed well in that one too, but the whole experience was very new to me. This time around I really knew what I was doing, where I had to go and who I needed to talk to before my race.”
Siwady plans to continue representing Honduras during his time at Bowdoin and hopes to compete on an even more competitive stage.
“I’m thinking about participating at the Olympics,” he said. “It depends on how I am with jobs after college, but it is a good objective to have.”
- January 27
Women's swimming and diving marches, races in solidarity
On Saturday, as hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered to participate in Women’s Marches across the country, the Bowdoin women’s swimming and diving team took a moment during their division meet to show solidarity with the movement.
At the end of the meet, all female-identifying members of the four NESCAC teams—Bowdoin, Colby, Wesleyan and Trinity—were invited to partake in a mixed relay. Instead of competing as separate colleges, swimmers and divers from all teams lined up and completed their final event together. Using a variety of strokes for varying distances, the women forewent competition and swam in sync with one another for nearly five minutes before concluding the meet.
“I think it was just really cool that we got participation by almost all of the women at the meet,” said women’s captain Isabel Schwartz ’17. “It was really powerful to see everyone lined up behind the blocks, giving each other high fives at the end of the relay and seeing everyone try to swim together.”
The four teams also chose to begin the meet with a small-scale march from the locker rooms onto the pool deck. Instead of walking out as separate teams, the women entered together, led by the teams’ captains and followed by an integrated group of swimmers and divers from all the teams.
Once gathered on deck, the captains read a statement about the march and then had a moment of silence to honor the events of the day.
Colby women’s swimming captain Cat Padgett ’17, who spearheaded the event, first suggested it when athletes, including Padgett herself, realized the Saturday meet conflicted with the women’s marches. Determined to participate in some capacity, Padgett and her sister—a Wesleyan swimmer—reached out to other NESCAC captains and together, with the endorsement of their coaches, planned the event.
Bowdoin’s women’s team captains, Erin Houlihan ’17 and Schwartz, were excited about organizing and participating in the march as a united group of female athletes.
“It was really important to find a way to participate that was particularly meaningful [to me],” said Houlihan. “I am definitely passionate about a lot of the issues, but swimming is also really important to me. It was really cool to be able to stand up for what I believe in with all these other female athletes.”
While the captains coordinated logistics, both Schwartz and Houlihan made it clear that the event was both team-driven and garnered the support of their parents and male teammates.
“The men’s team gave us a lot of positive feedback,” said Houlihan. “[They] were lined up along the pool cheering and when we finished the relay almost everyone jumped in [the pool].”
The unity and solidarity of the swimmers throughout the entire meet was deeply felt by all.
“It’s always cool when there’s something bigger than swimming out there, when four teams who are normally competing come together at a meet to do this one thing,” said Houlihan. “It means swimming is important to us but there are things that are also really valuable besides competition.”
- January 27
Indoor track and field season opens with early success, sets high expectations for next meets
Over break, both the Bowdoin women’s and men’s indoor track and field teams started off their seasons strong at a pair of home invitationals.
In the first invitational, the women’s team placed first, edging out Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) by half a point in a tight, seven-team field. The men placed second behind WPI, and the following week again took second place, losing only to MIT, but placing higher than Tufts for the first time in five years. The women’s team placed fourth at the competitive second invitational.
“I think that the way the men and the women are covering all the events this year has been different than in some years past,” said Head Coach Peter Slovenski. “It is much better for the team when we have good athletes in all events, which we are not always able to do.”
There were a wide array of standout performances between the two invitationals, including sweeping the 4x400 relay at the first meet. At the second invitational, Joseph Staudt ’19 broke his own field house and Bowdoin record in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.30 seconds.
Helping round out the women’s roster this season is a massive group of first years—19 in all—led by Morgen Gallagher ’20, who placed first in the long jump during the team’s first meet.
“Our entire first-year class has really been stepping it up this season,” said captain Pamela Zabala ’17. “I think it is a testament to their hard work during preseason.”
Even though Bowdoin is a relatively small school compared to its competition, Slovenski is confident that the teams will find success in the postseason. He believes that both teams can win the Maine State meet on February 3-4 and two weeks later follow it up with top 5 finishes in the New England DIII track championship. He also hopes that several individual athletes will qualify for nationals along the way.
That being said, their success is dependent on recovering from and preventing injuries.
“A big priority for the teams’ success is to have people who are healthy stay healthy and getting some of key members back from injuries up to competitive form,” Slovenski said.
This Saturday at 1 p.m., the Polar Bears are hosting another invitational, this time facing the Coast Guard Academy and Husson University. Both teams are feeling very confident.
“It will be a good tune-up,” said captain Matthew Jacobson ’17. “I feel confident that we should get the win, but it is mostly a tune-up for the state meet. Some guys will run some different events to work on some different technical things and get mentally and physically prepared for the bigger meets. It will be a fun meet.”