Since five students were issued court summonses at a Helmreich House party by Brunswick Police Department (BPD) last April, Bowdoin students expressed concerns about hosting parties.
Concern grew into confusion after College House students met with BPD and Bowdoin Security officers during College House orientation. Residents felt that the College’s alcohol and event policy does not align with the culture at Bowdoin.
“There’s this gray area where the College is like, wink wink, you can have parties with alcohol, and you’re supposed to be gearing events towards first years, but you’re not supposed to be serving [alcohol to] first years,” said Francesca Mauro ’22, Baxter House co-chair. “We’re kind of supposed to figure things out for ourselves and avoid getting in trouble.”
College Houses had few interactions with BPD until last April when the Event-host (E-host) at a Helmreich House party called the Office of Safety and Security for a wellness check of a student and Security determined a medical transport was necessary. As with all medical transports, BPD arrived at Helmreich with the ambulance, where the Alcohol Host (A-host), E-host and three students were questioned.
After questioning, the E-host received a criminal charge for furnishing a location for minors to consume alcohol. The A-host received a criminal charge as well for furnishing alcohol to minors even though the transported student did not consume alcohol at the house. The three additional students received civil charges for possession of alcohol by a minor.
Mike Ranen, associate dean of student affairs and director of residential life said the College’s policy regarding parties has not changed since last year. All on-campus parties must be registered with Security and have an E-host. If there is alcohol at an event, students are required to provide an A-host who is over 21 and who may only serve alcohol to students 21 and older.
Mauro said her house is navigating the policy in order to avoid conflict with BPD.
During the annual informational session during College House orientation, residents met with a ResLife staff member, a BPD officer and two Bowdoin Security officers to discuss the alcohol policy and proactive measures the houses can take to reduce the likelihood of interacting with BPD during registered events.
“We still give training about how we feel students can best manage events—if they choose to have alcohol, if they choose not to have alcohol—and how they can best utilize Security as a proactive resource and ways to manage the event which would mitigate the chances of Brunswick police arriving to the event,” Ranen said. “We can’t make any promises that they won’t [arrive to events, but] we can teach ways to manage the event to lower that risk.”
Students felt that the session clarified ways to handle situations such as noise complaints made by the houses’ neighbors, but did not address concerns regarding underage drinking or questions regarding the College’s policy.
“The conversation [about alcohol] just felt so removed from our experience as students,” said Micah Wilson ’22, a resident of Reed House. “The culture right now, as it stands, is that underage people are drinking. You have to at least acknowledge that that is what the culture is for us to be able to have this conversation.”
Students, such as Mauro, believe that the College is aware that underage students are consuming alcohol at College Houses.
“You’re having registered alcohol where underage people are all living,” Mauro said.
Despite insecurity among College House residents, students believe that Bowdoin Security has their health and safety in mind. Kate Walsh ’22, co-chair of Helmreich House, said that the informational session made her feel more secure.
“I think the real emphasis was placed on, as it should be, the safety of people who are utilizing our space and what our role should be in ensuring the safety of students visiting our space and making sure that we trust Security first,” Walsh said. “We know that we can trust Security to come and assess the situation first, and [decide if] BPD needs to be involved.”
Walsh said she felt more secure after learning that BPD was making efforts to speak with Security to better understand the role of the E- and A-hosts at registered events like that the E-host is not furnishing alcohol to minors.
“My understanding was [and] is that the BPD wants to have a meeting to get officers on the same page,” said Walsh.
Although talks are in the works, the College reiterated it cannot make promises regarding liability or consequences of underage drinking in the College Houses. Walsh said that Security also explained that the repercussions are at the discretion of the officer on the scene and that discretion varies, from one officer giving a warning to another issuing a court summons for the same infraction.
“I understand that Bowdoin Security is in a bind right now. But, I need you [to] understand that the position you’re asking us [to be in] as E- and A- hosts also [puts us] in a bind,” Wilson said.