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BOC, due better

September 27, 2019

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

The outdoors have a financial accessibility problem. The College touts Maine as a valuable resource that professors and students should use as a forum for discovery and experiential learning, and the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) is part of that. Assuming we value an outdoor education, this resource must be available to all students without hindrance, regardless of their financial situation.

The BOC should lessen the burden on students receiving financial aid—about half of our campus community—by creating an easier system to waive its $50 membership fee that doesn’t require a face-to-face request.

As of now, students get one “free trip card” at the start of the year. After that, with the current system’s paper form, waiving dues requires a conversation with either of the Outing Club Assistant Directors, Tess Hamilton ’16 or Anna Bastidas. Students in need of financial aid shouldn’t have to navigate Bowdoin differently than those who aren’t—this system forces them to do exactly that.

A student could be facing this situation as early as September of their first year, when they may not feel comfortable approaching authority figures on campus about their needs. Students may also be uncertain whether their financial circumstances would be sufficient to allow for exemption.

Like the recently discontinued Out of the Zone program (OZ), the current process for waiving dues exemplifies a system that fails to expand access to a traditionally inaccessible space, in the same spirit as the effort to compensate LT participants for missed work-study hours during trips. The next step is bridging the gap between the resource and its actual availability.

The precedent for rectifying the current system exists already. The BOC could utilize a private opt-in system, with an in-email check-box indicating whether or not a student requires financial assistance. This self-reporting, followed up by verification with College records, is the same structure that the Office of the Dean of Students uses to deal with financing meals over breaks.

Here’s our math:

According to an article published by the Orient in October 2018, the BOC receives 9.2 percent of the SAFC’s roughly $700,000 budget, or about $64,400. This money comes directly from a student activity fee paid by every student at the College. In effect, 9.2 percent of that $528 fee goes to the BOC, meaning each student contributes about $50 regardless of their involvement.

Roughly half of Bowdoin students are on financial aid. Assuming the same fraction of BOC members are on aid (which, demographically, is a generous assumption given the lack of accessibility in outdoor recreation), 200 of the BOC’s 400 members are on financial aid; in short, the BOC collects $50 from roughly 200 members, meaning they receive an additional $10,000 from dues. Given that some students already have their dues waived, this number is likely even lower.

In the larger scheme of Bowdoin finances, this is a fraction of the resources on this campus. The capital for the $8 million renovations of the Whittier Football Field was sourced “entirely through private donations from several individuals.” Many of the College’s scholarships and projects are funded by the donations of generous alumni. To gather enormous amounts of money for a football field renovation but allow financial need to inhibit some students from participating in their recreation of choice is an optically unfortunate juxtaposition.

If we value our outdoor spaces and strive to equalize the way students approach all aspects of life on campus, we should enact a policy that puts in practice the idea that the BOC should be accessible to students of all financial backgrounds.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Emily Cohen, Brianna Cunliffe, Roither Gonzales, Alyce McFadden, Nina McKay, Reuben Schafir and Jaret Skonieczny.


Before submitting a comment, please review our comment policy. Some key points from the policy:

  • No hate speech, profanity, disrespectful or threatening comments.
  • No personal attacks on reporters.
  • Comments must be under 200 words.
  • You are strongly encouraged to use a real name or identifier ("Class of '92").
  • Any comments made with an email address that does not belong to you will get removed.


  1. Dylan Atencio says:

    I would absolutely love it if the Orient would please not make it seem as though there’s some serious financial burden involved with the Outing Club. This only serves to further aggravate stereotypes about the members and to deepen some stupid abstract divide between “BOC people” and everyone else.

    First, it’s ridiculously silly how a short, casual face-to-face meeting with Anna or Tess is being portrayed as such a serious obstacle. There’s no complex paperwork or bureaucratic hoops to jump through, all you have to do is just show up and ask. The worst thing they can do is say no–and if you need money, they’re not going to say no.

    Now it’s very true that in order to do this, you have to make the grueling five-minute trek over to the BOC–but you have to do that to pay your dues even if you’re not on financial aid.

    Go pay your dues, or go spend thirty seconds asking for money, it’s pretty straightforward

  2. Jonathan Harris '05 says:

    Agree with Dylan. The 50 bucks is very reasonable and is basically asking that the students invest some of themselves in the club. If it was free for all, there would likely be many sign ups for early trips with no-shows. If a student demonstrated their passion/interest and couldn’t pay, asking is not too much of a request.

  3. Class of 2010 says:

    If you are 18 years old and do “not feel comfortable approaching authority figures on campus about [your] needs,” then this extremely low-stakes interaction will be a good pedagogical experience that will serve you much better than clicking a box in an email will.

  4. Bowdoin (Indoors) Alum says:

    I came to Bowdoin excited to try the BOC but never joined. I didn’t get any financial support from my family, so $50 represented a significant part of my semester fun budget. Yes, there were meetings– but I was working 20 hours a week on campus and taking five classes so I could finish Bowdoin early while also trying to take advantage of this magical place and people. My time was extraordinarily tight.

    Psychologically, it was always hard to know whether to ask for financial help at Bowdoin because there was always a sense that somebody else needed or deserved it more.

    Could I have solved this? Sure. I clearly didn’t care enough to make the BOC a priority — but had there not been a financial gatekeeper, maybe I’d have casually tried that kayaking trip I always wanted to or joined all of my friends at the cabin junior year.

    My issue is with commenters who lack both the experiences and the mindsets to envision a different campus experience or relationship to money than they had, reflective of the larger isolating privilege on campus.

    If you don’t know that $50 is a lot: it is. Try listening.

    • Class of 2010 says:

      I burnt my hands making pizza at Jack Magee’s on Thursday nights. If your issue with my comment is based on your assumption that I come from privilege, try a different approach.

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