Despite the challenges of engaging students studying remotely and abiding by COVID-19 restrictions to reach those on campus, the Student Activities Office and Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) are working to continue fostering community through campus programming. While many virtual programs have been under attended, Student Activities Associate Director Silvia Lorrain reported seeing an impressive turnout for some events over the past few weeks, despite cold weather and public safety restrictions.
Over 600 students visited Pinky D’s, the poutine truck brought to campus on February 26. However, though well-attended, events like these are not always geared toward fostering community.
“It was totally a transactional experience … but you know, in the absence of SuperSnack, I suppose it was nice,” Max Freeman ’22 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “The food truck is not a communal experience … It was cold out, and people don’t want to stand out in the cold.”
However, Freeman said he got much more fulfillment from attending free skate events at Watson Arena.
“[Skating is] a wonderful change from sticking around inside dorms,” Freeman said. “And it’s also an easy way for people to be congregating in an indoor environment … It’s also great because the abundance of equipment makes it accessible if people are willing to try [skating] out.”
For Director of Student Activities Nate Hintze, any potential to nurture a sense of community is enough for an event such as free skate to be considered a success.
“Success in a virtual world is hard to pin down,” Hintze said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “But if students are able to go to an event and feel like it was helpful to them, and they were having fun, and they were either able to meet somebody else or forget about pandemic stress for a little bit, then that’s a huge success. Whether that’s five people or 500 people, we’re happy with that.”
The Student Activities office, Hintze continued, is still committed to working to meet the needs of students above all else. However, he says, students know what they need best.
“We’d prefer to take our cues from students … if there’s a way that I can support a student idea, that’s always the way I want to go first, as opposed to us coming up with an idea that we think that you would want to do,” Hintze said.
Virtual programming, however, has its limits, and some events have not had as much success with turnout.
Kathryn Bosse ’21, a senior living off campus, attended Drag Bingo with Shuga Cain in February. Despite the event’s small attendance, Bosse found that the intimate setting actually helped evoke a sense of community.
“It was a really fun event,” Bosse said in a Zoom interview with the Orient “It was a pretty small event, and that was a nice way to connect.”
Bosse said that, as a senior living off campus, she is trying to attend as many events as possible.
“It is sort of my last chance, and I still want to feel this connection to the community even though I’m remote,” Bosse said.
Other students, however, have found more fruitful opportunities for community bonding outside of College programming. Hintze said he has heard from students living at home that they have been focusing on spending time with their family, a possible explanation for lower-than-expected attendance at some events.
“I think we are realizing that the impact of a virtual event is a little bit dampened,” BSG Vice President Harry Sherman ’21 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “And … that’s because you’re not walking out of the auditorium or the theater with your friends, reflecting or laughing or just having a good time. That is different. Crowd reaction is such a huge part of entertainment. And you miss that.”
“As special as Bowdoin is, you’re just not going to be able to recreate it through a Zoom event,” Sherman added.