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Housing focus groups gather student, community opinions

April 14, 2017

The College working group on off-campus housing has been gathering opinions from a broad range of students with a goal of formulating a comprehensive off-campus housing policy to present to the administration later this month. Since forming in February, the group has hosted focus groups, general surveys and two public forums.

At open forums, several neighbors of the College discussed issues that arise from Bowdoin students living in the community. Concerns included the lack of regulation for parties and drinking, as well as low student investment in maintenance of rental properties and noise and disturbances resulting from late-night parties.

At focus groups for College House members, students noted how off-campus houses have changed Bowdoin’s social scene.

“The party scene last year had significant turnout [at College Houses] every week and off-campus groups asked to use our facilities all the time. There wasn’t the same amount of people living off campus or throwing parties in general. This year, we almost have to beg teams to use our space,” said Phoebe Bradberry ’19, programming director for Baxter House. “Baxter and Ladd [Houses used to] throw a campus wide almost every weekend—now there are only two per semester for each house.”

Amber Rock ’19, vice president of MacMillan House, noted the exclusive nature of off-campus parties.

“[Focus groups] were mostly focused on creating ways to make a more inclusive way of living off campus,” Rock said. “Because the problem is that when College Houses don’t throw parties, it leaves off-campus parties, which are inherently exclusive. It makes it harder for first years that don’t have somewhere to go.”

Students also voiced potential solutions, including improvements to on-campus upperclass living, particularly the creation of larger, house-style spaces capable of accommodating between eight and 12 students, as well as firm regulations or guidelines for students who choose to live off campus.

In addition to the forums, where students met with working group members, the working group also circulated surveys among students, faculty and neighbors of the College. Survey results and comments from the meetings will be used in the creation of the group’s final off-campus housing policy recommendation, which will be submitted to the administration later this month.

For the 2017-2018 academic year, the College will allow only 200 students to live off campus; the working group’s recommendations may impact future policy.

Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster announced the new limit on the number of students permitted to live off campus as well as the formation of the working group in an email to the student body in January. Prior to this announcement, Bowdoin was one of only two colleges in the NESCAC without any official off-campus housing policy, despite having the second highest rate of students living off campus.

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