Accommodating potentially 1,500 students, faculty and staff in a space meant to seat 630 could be a recipe for disaster. However, thanks to much foresight and organization, Bowdoin Dining Service was able to provide refuge and electricity in Thorne Hall during this week’s power outage.
Campus Power Outage
On October 30, a severe wind storm knocked out Bowdoin's power for nearly 48 hours. The Orient looks at student and staff responses to the incident.
Thorne was one of the only places on campus with power during the outage on Monday, due to its backup generator, so many students camped out in the dining hall to eat, work and take advantage of the electricity. Dining staff even distributed around 20 power strips to help students charge their devices.
While the dining staff do not typically serve this large of a crowd, they were well-prepared for the challenge because of their extensive emergency plans.
“[Emergency situations like the power outage] happen all the time, at least once or twice a year, so we’ve done it a lot of times,” said Michele Gaillard, associate director of dining.
“We were already aware [of the storm]—everybody’s antenna was up, my phone was next to my bed, same thing with all of our staff,” said Mary Lou Kennedy, executive director of dining and bookstore services. “I got the call first … to say that there was no power at Moulton, so we start[ed] talking about what they can do, what can’t they do.”
Dining was able to act quickly because of its preparedness. A full, hot breakfast at Thorne and a cold breakfast at Moulton Union was served to students on Monday morning. Dining was even able to keep Moulton open for express lunch, despite a lack of power.
While students sought refuge in Thorne, dining staff still felt the effects of the storm and outage. All staff members managed to make it into work Monday, but they were worried about their own families and homes.
“We tried to keep the hours down,” said Kennedy. “People were still dealing with power outages at home, so they were trying to deal with that on top of getting in here.”
Storm damage also prevented Thorne from receiving its daily food shipment.
“There [was] a tree blocking the driveway [to Thorne], so we couldn’t get deliveries,” said Kennedy. “This is the first time I ever remember [the delivery service] not being here. They couldn’t get the trucks past certain roadblocks.”
Moulton closed after serving express lunch on Monday, leaving Thorne as the only open dining facility on campus. This meant that the dining hall would have to provide about twice as much food as normal.
Dining adapted well to these challenges, transferring their Moulton and Smith Union employees to Thorne, increasing its total staff to accommodate the influx at Thorne.
“Even though students perceive that Moulton is one operation and Thorne is another, we’re really not,” said Gaillard. “We’re really one operation, and we work together very well.”
Because of the additional staff from Moulton and Smith, most of the employees in Dining were able to work their regular hours. However, with double the number of students to feed, employees faced particularly taxing shifts.
“We went in expecting [to stay late], but … we did end up staying until the same time that we normally do,” said Dylan Dilla ’18, the student manager in Thorne on Monday night. “When I actually started working, it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “It was essentially like when we have a dinner rush, except instead of lasting for 15 minutes, it lasted for two and a half hours.”
Most of the people in Thorne were related to the College in some way, whether they were students, faculty or staff. Dining does not go out of its way to encourage Brunswick community members to eat at Thorne.
“Our mission is the students,” said Kennedy. “So we don’t open our arms and say, ‘come here,’ because it’s hard enough for students to get through the serving line.”
After Dining closed the servery around 8:30 p.m. Monday, Security took over to supervise students spending the night in the building. However, numerous Dining employees stayed into the early hours of Tuesday morning preparing food and continuing to facilitate Dining’s efforts to keep students comfortable. Housekeeping also came in especially early to clean up before Tuesday breakfast.
“We’re very visible with the food and everything, but there’s a lot of invisible work going on that supports us,” said Kennedy. “We could not do this work without all of that … so many people that really are committed to have everything operate as well as possible.”
Aisha Rickford contributed to this report.