To the Editors:
In an issue last spring, you examined some aspects of the
House System. This is an important step, because this year the remnants
of the previous fraternity system have faded and the new arrangement has
full responsibility for undergraduate life. The patterns established this
year can have a long term effect in setting new traditons.
Originally the Houses (the term used in those days) included
essentially the entire student body with each House a typical cross-section
of the campus. As you know, the fraternities arose because the College
provided neither dining service nor a social setting. Unfortunately the
former system could not evolve into an equivalent of the present system,
because it was caught between a vocal group of alumni elders blocking
any change and an equally vocal group of newer faculty to whom the term
"fraternity" equaled "discrimination".
In setting up this new House System, the Trustees wanted
to enhance the sense of community by providing more student participation
in this social environment. Many Trustees recalled the conviviality that
the Houses had back then, and hoped this would restore some of that.
For many years I was Faculty Advisor to one of the Houses.
And I have watched the changes in campus demography for many years.
When I first joined the faculty, the seniors essentially
ran campus life. As the seniors became more and more interested in their
major program and their post-graduate careers, their interest in leadership
diminished, yet they were unwilling to pass that role on to the juniors.
Now seniors mostly live off campus, juniors study away, and much of the
campus activities are left to the two lower classes. I do hope that somehow
the upper classes will become involved in House activities to provide
Now, for what it is worth, I will suggest some items for
consideration which may help the new system fulfill its intent. Some of
these are a reinvention of former activities.
1. The incoming class needs to be integrated into campus
life as rapidly as possible. The present segregation of the new students
was necessary when there was insufficient campus housing for all students.
Now with much more extensive space on campus, a cross-section of classes
in each major living space will be an advantage. Transitions, as always,
can upset some, but I suggest that proctors should be juniors and seniors
and that rising sophomores have a choice of rooms before rising juniors.
At one time students wishing to retain the same room for the following
year had first choice.
2. One way to establish a sense of House interaction was
to have meals together. Now with the extended cafeteria, that is now impossible.
However, in the dining hall perhaps one table could be reserved for each
House so that members could meet less randomly.
3. At one time there was an Inter-Fraternity Council to
coordinate a wide variety of activity, one of which was House Parties.
If this is reinvented as an Inter-House Council, I suggest that it be
composed of two members from each House, one sophomore and one junior
or senior. Elections need to be early enough in the spring so that the
new Council will have time to organize fall activities.
4. Earlier that was an extensive inter-fraternity sports
program. These activites were coordinated and supervised by a group called
White Key. They arranged schedules and provided needed referees. Also
in conjunction with the Athletic Department, they acted as campus hosts
for visiting teams. Inter-house sports can be a way to enhance House activities
5. When I was Faculty Advisor, each House had at least one
advisor. The advisors usually joined the House for dinner once a week.
The role of Advisor was never clearly defined. The house officers would
often discuss various issues with me. As a faculty member (and elder)
I could help to provide some perspective and continuity. Also, I was not
"official" like a dean. Perhaps each house could persuade a
faculty member to be a House Advisor. (If the students like this idea,
then the position could a credit like a committee member for Faculty Affairs.)
Also the houses would have a Guest Night, and invite two or three faculty
and spouses to join them for dinner and conversation afterward. Obviously
such an event now will require special arrangement with Dining Service,
but it remains a possibility.
6. House meetings are an important function. This is probably
the only time when a majority of the members would be together. Scheduling
now is increasingly difficult. Perhaps one or two of the Common Hours
each term could be a suitable time.
7. House membership. I think that the intent of the Trustees was that each House should be a cross-section of the student body. Thus it is best to have the incoming class assigned "at ransom" to use a favorite malapropism of Jack Magee.
To the Editors:
I strongly believe that a significant difference can be
made by conservation, efficiency and sustainable technology. At Bowdoin,
while we still rely on coal and oil for electricity and heating, we, as
students, professors and staff have the opportunity and responsibility
to do what we can to save energy. There are serious financial as well
as environmental reasons to conserve energy. Bowdoin's electricity bill
for 00-01 was over $1,600,000. If we make a serious dent in the electricity
costs of the school, there will be more money for new professors, programs
and maybe even lower tuition.
Bowdoin facilities management has started installing more
energy saving technology, but as individuals we can make a big difference.
If you are leaving your lights, your stereo, or your computer on all day
and all night you can start decreasing the need for new more coal mining
and oil drilling immediately by stopping today. One frequently asked lighting
question is whether or not to shut off fluorescent lights when leaving
the office. With the improvements in today's lamp manufacturing, a good
rule of thumb would be to turn out your lights if you will be gone 15
minutes or more.
The average computer system (with CPU, monitor and printer)
uses 200 watts of electricity. If that system were left on day and night
everyday, it would cost roughly $17.00 a month or $200 a year (at $0.12/kWh).
If that same system operated only 40 hours per week it would cost $3.84
a month, or $46 a year - that's a savings of over $150 per year. Multiply
that by the thousands of people working and living on the Bowdoin campus
and it adds up quickly! These turn into substantial savings for the average
household as well - as much as $13.00 per month.
People often believe that a computer's life is shortened
by turning it on and off. This misconception has led some people to leaving
their computer on all the time. This was true some time ago - but it is
no longer the case. It is better for your operating system to start off
fresh every day. During the day, if you are just stepping away for a short
time, consider shutting off the monitor, which uses the most electricity.
The offer of the college, includes the phrase, 'to count nature as a familiar acquaintance,' let us take up that offer by acting as informed and conscious citizens, treating nature with the respect it deserves by preserving every drop of energy possible.
-Noah Long '03
Information on Bowdoin's usage as well as computer usage
come with permission from writings by Kiesha Payson, Sustainability Director
for Bowdoin College