Bowdoin’s Office of Residential Life (ResLife) should be commended for considering and acting upon student suggestions for changes to the housing policy aimed at revitalizing the on-campus social scene. However, without recognizing the limitations and potential pitfalls of turning Ladd House into a senior-only living space, this latest change is not likely to significantly alter the role of upperclassmen in the campus social scene.
In recent years, the weekend social scene has shifted away from the college houses. Underclassmen have followed the upperclassmen into off-campus spaces, leaving on-campus nightlife sparse. Ideally, on-campus social life would be vibrant and include all class years. The participation of seniors is key to such a dynamic. But while making Ladd a senior space encourages this change, it will not guarantee it.
If the College’s long-term goal is to provide seniors with more desirable and flexible on-campus living spaces, this is a good step, and we are eager to see how it fits into Bowdoin’s forthcoming plans for new upperclass housing. But if the goal is to reintegrate upperclassmen permanently into the on-campus social scene, ResLife should take a deeper look at the forces driving upperclassmen off campus.
As Dean Tim Foster acknowledged in his September email to the campus community detailing the findings of the working group on upperclass housing, students consider the College’s Alcohol Policy overly restrictive. While students who live off campus are only required to abide by state regulation and the Bowdoin Social Code, those who live on college property have to consider Bowdoin Security’s presence as well. Bowdoin guidelines currently forbid hard alcohol, require students to register parties with the Office of Residential Life and mandate that hosts purchase a predetermined quantity of food and non-alcoholic beverages. Requiring Ladd to comply with these rules will keep the house’s party scene from thriving. Until the College substantively amends this policy, a senior-only college house will only do so much to breathe life into the on-campus social scene.
Additionally, Bowdoin’s current junior class received the news that Ladd would be a senior-only house on January 18. Given the late timing of the announcement, it seems unlikely that a significant number of juniors will now reconsider their living plans for the coming year. As a result, the pilot program, if it is to have a lasting effect on the social scene, must continue past the 2018-19 year, even if the results are less than perfect. This would allow students to go into their senior year planning to live in a college house, as opposed to making a relatively spur-of-the-moment decision.
Ultimately, even if converting Ladd to a senior space does not have the intended result on the campus social scene, ResLife is correct to experiment with the social fabric of the College. ResLife is also correct to listen to students in doing so. Testing alternatives and working through results is key to sustained change.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Harry DiPrinzio, Sarah Drumm, Dakota Griffin, Calder McHugh and Ian Ward.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that Bowdoin students living off campus only have to abide by state law. Students living off campus are also expected to abide by the Bowdoin Social Code. Additionally, on-campus parties must be registered with the Office of Residential Life, not the Office of Safety and Security.