Go to content, skip over navigation

Sections

More Pages

Go to content, skip over visible header bar
Home News Features Arts & Entertainment Sports OpinionAbout Contact Advertise

Note about Unsupported Devices:

You seem to be browsing on a screen size, browser, or device that this website cannot support. Some things might look and act a little weird.

OPINION: A misleading light luring us in the darkness

September 18, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

Bowdoin students who are currently living off campus in the Brunswick area are selfishly breaking social distancing guidelines and deliberately jeopardizing the well-being of the community. Their actions can have a serious impact on Bowdoin students, Brunswick residents and Mainers. They are setting a dangerous example for other Bowdoin students to follow. It is imperative that we avoid the path they have chosen and openly condemn their behavior.

Undoubtedly, these students represent a small portion of the larger student body. Many Bowdoin students have worked tirelessly to combat current crises—one of public health and another of systemic and institutional racism. I have seen my classmates and friends join grassroots political movements, organize mask drives for frontline workers and work to make their athletic teams more inclusive and diverse places. Many Bowdoin students have met the challenge of this moment. Yet, many have turned and fled in the opposite direction.

Over the summer, I believed that the students moving up to Brunswick for the fall would keep to the immediate bubble of their household. I was wrong. It is clear that the privilege of being able to spend the semester in an apartment with their friends wasn’t enough for them. For whatever reason, they believe they are entitled to even more. I see Snapchat and Instagram stories and hear tales from my friends. Some even tell me things directly. Regardless of the messenger, the stories are the same. The truth is that Bowdoin students in the Brunswick area are throwing parties, some with highly questionable themes, visiting other houses and blatantly ignoring social distancing guidelines.

Bowdoin’s ability to keep students on campus this semester unquestionably depends on the collective action of those in residence halls. But it also depends on the actions of those living off campus. With the campus status being changed to yellow, the line between Bowdoin and Brunswick is more permeable. Off-campus students could see on-campus students at Walgreens or Hannaford. The consequences of this new line of transmission could be severe. Students, faculty and staff members could become fatally ill. Moreover, a large outbreak could jeopardize those students who are on campus due to challenging home environments. The actions of our off-campus classmates indicate that they do not care about these impacts.

In addition, many Brunswick residents are elderly, making them particularly susceptible to COVID-19. These are the workers that greet us at Wild Oats. The servers who wait on us at Little Tokyo. The fans who show up to our sporting events and concerts. Many of them have even taken in students, like me, through Bowdoin’s Community Host Program. I have shared meals with my community host family and celebrated a friend’s birthday with another. Community hosts have graciously and generously invited me and hundreds of other Bowdoin students into their homes and lives throughout the years. In an email to the student body on August 18, Dean Lohmann stated that, “the College has heard from campus neighbors […] who are concerned about the large number of students who are or will be living in the Brunswick area.” How did some Bowdoin students respond? By willingly and deliberately ignoring their concerns.

Furthermore, it is impossible to ignore the profound effect that COVID-19 has had on the Black community in Maine. Black Mainers account for 22 percent of the COVID-19 cases in a state where they represent two percent of the population. This disparity has wreaked havoc on Black communities the very same ones these students posted about on their social media platforms this summer. It is clear that their posting was simply performative. Their actions do not match their words, and now their true colors are on display for the whole community to see.

I am not perfect. I do not claim to sit here on my high horse and criticize the actions of my classmates without acknowledging my role in the problem. I have yet to call out my friends and tell them that what they are doing is wrong. I have, unfortunately, been complicit in this problem. But now, I urge all of my fellow classmates to join me. It is time we confront our peers about the harm they have been causing.

As we search so endlessly during this time of profound hardship for the light at the end of the tunnel, we often cling to the bright spots in our lives for temporary relief. However, we are now seeing the light our classmates shine for what it truly is: a façade that has tricked us. Their current behavior entraps anyone who sees it and gives them the ability to say, “Well if they are doing it, so can I.” Their actions are shameful, repulsive and oblivious to the crises at hand. So, to my off-campus classmates: I see you. We see you. We will not sit idly by as you abuse your privilege to destroy the Bowdoin community.

Ted Fuell is a member of the Class of 2023.

Advertisement

More from Opinion:

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Catch up on the latest reports, stories and opinions about Bowdoin and Brunswick in your inbox. Always high-quality. Always free.

Comments

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.

20 comments:

  1. Class of 10 says:

    It’s odd to me that the college is even permitting off-campus living this semester with all of the other restrictions in place. If the goal is to create a carefully-controlled environment on campus to stay on top of the spread (the Bowdoin Bubble put to practical use), off-campus housing seems like a major wildcard.

    Hope everyone stays healthy. I was one of the many who got H1N1 during the Fall ’09 outbreak at Bowdoin, and it really snuck up quickly on all of us. Naturally, that’s mostly an apples and oranges comparison to COVID in both the disease and the conditions on campus.

  2. Class 21 says:

    If you find that the actions of other students are endangering the community (based on social media posts and rumors from friends), you should reach out directly and say something instead of publishing this highly moralistic and self-righteous piece. Off-campus students are not a homogenous group, and treating us as such is neither appropriate or fair. Many of us were given permission to live off-campus before the pandemic started, and we’re trying to navigate this unexpected situation as responsibly we can. If you have something to say to individuals, by all means say it. But this isn’t the way to do it.

    • Ted Fuell - Author of the Story says:

      First off, I have told people these things directly! And I encourage you to do the same. Second, these aren’t rumors. These are things said directly to me or posted on snapchat stories. Third, “highly moralistic and self-righteous” … maybe. But in my opinion asking people to simply follow proper guidelines isn’t that moralistic. I believe its a bare minimum. Fourth, I do not group all off campus students as a homogenous group. I’m specifically talking about those deliberately breaking social distance guidelines. If you’re staying off campus just with your house, that is another story.

    • Class of '23 says:

      To Ted: I think the point here is not directed at the fact that you’re asking people to follow protocol––and I think no one would seriously object to that––but the rhetoric that you employ, especially in your final paragraph, what with the Us-Them divide (also, who is this ‘us’ and who is this ‘them’?) and the implication that off-campus students who ignore protocol are deceptive and sinister (‘their current behavior entraps [people]’) and that they are deliberately setting out to destroy the Bowdoin community (‘you abuse your privilege to destroy the Bowdoin community’). And why are off-campus students a light at the end of the tunnel/bright spot ‘we’ all search for/cling to?

      But, yes, at the end of the day, I understand and share your concern.

    • another Class'21 says:

      You don’t even have the courage to list your name here. Ted deserves respect for writing this piece with his name on it.

  3. concerned polar bear says:

    I could have have said this better myself. Thank you for using this platform to bring attention to the issues that we all see, and have yet done little to address them.

  4. Off-campus senior says:

    “We will not sit idly by as you abuse your privilege to destroy the Bowdoin community.”

    Oh really? What’re you gonna do about it?

    • Ted Fuell - Author of the Story says:

      According to Dean Lohmann: “For students off-campus who host such events, you are held accountable for your actions under the Academic and Social Code, which could lead to disciplinary actions should such an event occur.” Also, you could face legal action if the town of Brunswick gets involved! If the action of off-campus students continues as is, there are ways to report their actions to the school. I truly hope it doesn’t have to come to it.

    • Safa '22 says:

      Report you. Lol this comment reeks of privilege and entitlement. THAT is how your respond to this article? If it struck such a chord with you, perhaps you are a part of the problem. Living off campus as a CHOICE is in fact a privilege, and there are people living on campus – first gen students, low income students , international students, because they HAVE to be there. Because they simply have no where else to go or home is dangerous or non-conducive to learning. Stop putting them at risk because you want to party during a pandemic. Grow up.

  5. Dylan Welch ‘21 says:

    Ted, I would caution you to not over-generalize the situation of people living off campus. You say that “It is clear that the privilege of being able to spend the semester in an apartment with their friends wasn’t enough for them,” but all students who are living off campus are not inherently privileged. Some students chose to live off campus because of a difficult family life at home. And, as a result, they need to work one or two jobs to pay rent as well as take four classes online. They are also following proper social distancing guidelines and precautions. I don’t doubt that there may be parties happening off campus, but the generalization of the attitude of off-campus students is unfair and simply not true.

    • Class of ‘23 says:

      Dylan,
      I agree with your point that not all students in Brunswick are abusing their privilege, but to Ted’s point, the ability to cross state lines, have the ability to get tested, and even to feel safe picking up groceries in a pandemic constitutes privilege. As someone with several autoimmune diseases and a medically weakened immune system, I don’t have the luxury of heading to Maine. I may not even be safe to return in the spring regardless of Bowdoin’s decision. Ted wasn’t trying to lump all students in one bubble. He was trying to caution them of the consequences of their actions for those of us not in Brunswick that are still affected.

    • Dylan Welch ‘21 says:

      Class of ‘23, yes I would agree that those freedoms constitute privileges, but some students cannot live in their hometowns because of family and, economic situations. I wouldn’t constitute heading to Maine a “luxury” for all people. In some sense, it’s an escape and freedom from a difficult family and economic situation for some people. So in a sense, staying at home could be a privilege instead of coming to Maine. It goes both ways.

    • Ted Fuell - Author of the Story says:

      Hey Dylan! Ultimately my op-ed is not about all off-campus students, but it is about a select group of those who are knowingly break social distance guidelines. Once again, to those students who might be in Brunswick and practicing social distance, I’m glad! Now be a model for those who aren’t.

    • class of '21 says:

      If the story did not apply to you, then why are you responding like a hit dog? Generalizations are just that; a general statement that may cover most, or it could even cover a few but it does not apply to all. If I said white people are racist, but a white person who read that statement doesn’t believe themselves to be racist and have Black friends/friends of color who can vouch for them, why would they feel the need to respond? Just a thought. Don’t add stress to your life if a statement doesn’t apply to you. It’s clear there are people off campus moving between pods and interacting maskless, so don’t act like this call out was unprovoked.

    • Concerned Student says:

      Dylan,

      Yes, I also agree that it may be wrong to overgeneralize the situations of all those students living off-campus and that some people do have difficult family and economic situations in their hometowns.

      But what I don’t understand is why these students have to go to Brunswick to do this. There are so many other places to go where they won’t be tempted to break social distancing rules because their friends are around. So why are so many students still in Brunswick, especially when they know that they’re putting the Brunswick elderly at risk?

    • Dylan Welch says:

      Lol, a hit dog. That’s a good one, I’ll give you that one. I’m just worried about some of the shortcomings/accusatory tones in the langauge of the article. You don’t get anywhere by calling out people and creating an attitude of Us vs. Them. You get places by intiating a dialouge between the people who are not following protocol if you really care. I share the concern, but not the tone and the means of the solution.

  6. Angel, Class of '20 says:

    This is a bad take. I agree that students should practice social distancing and do their best to keep their friends and community safe, but I think you’re being naive to the current COVID-19 realities in Maine. I really think you should focus your energy elsewhere or find some other boots to lick.

    • Class of ‘20 says:

      I’m sorry, but how is this a bad take and what are you even saying? What current “COVID-19 realities” are you even talking about?

      The reality, which the author refers to in this op-ed, is that although many people living off campus in Maine are following the rules, some are openly breaking them and putting people in danger because of their selfishness. Yeah the coronavirus isn’t as bad as it is in other states but that doesn’t mean that it won’t get worse quickly. How is Ted being naive? Are you implying that the low infection and fatality rates in Maine mean that it’s all right for the students to break the rules and put Mainers in danger? What kind of argument is that? Have you read about that wedding in Maine that spread the virus to hundreds of people and only killed Mainers? Maybe next time, make sure you do your own research before you have the gall to call someone else naive.

      I don’t know what bootlicking you’re referring to, because I don’t see it. The author is just calling out the minority of students who think they’re above the rules and openly flaunting the fact that they’re putting people in danger on Instagram.

    • Class of 2020 says:

      So, basically if enough people haven’t died of the virus in the state of Maine, we shouldn’t take it seriously and should allow Bowdoin students to congregate however they please? That absolutely reeks of privilege and myopia. Bowdoin students need to learn to look past the ends of their own noses and consider the implications their selfish decisions have on the community they’ve chosen to return to. Personally I’m really unsure how the off-campus students making these poor choices justify putting the entire town of Brunswick at risk.

      Also, to second the above response, whose boots is the author licking? It seems like all he’s doing is naming irresponsibility where he sees it and ensuring this subset of students that their choices are not going unnoticed.

    • Doug, Class of '20 says:

      The “current COVID-19 reality in Maine” is that a single wedding in August has led to eight deaths and hundreds of new cases over the past month. What makes you think that the next outbreak couldn’t start at Bowdoin? I’m sure the people at that Millinocket wedding didn’t think they’d be spreading the virus to hundreds of people.

      Most people at this school are young and healthy, and those students probably aren’t going to die of the coronavirus. But if there is an outbreak, then somebody is going to draw the short straw.


Leave a Reply

Any comments that do not follow the policy will not be published.

0/200 words