Bowdoin students last celebrated Ivies, an annual spring weekend of partying and concerts, in April 2019. This past week, the College announced the return of Ivies after two years of cancellation due to Covid-19, albeit with some notable changes from what the weekend has looked like in past years.
The Class of 2022 is the only class of Bowdoin students who has experienced an Ivies before. Three years ago, Ivies featured a Thursday night concert in Smith Union featuring a student band and a professional artist, a Friday all-day outdoor celebration on the Brunswick Apartments quad and a Saturday concert in Farley Field House featuring a student band and headlining artist. Ivies has followed roughly this same formula for multiple decades.
The Friday daytime celebration, known as Quad Day, last took place on the Brunswick Apartments lawn. During the day, students from across campus gathered to listen to music, play games and enjoy the warm weather.
“Everyone was dancing, enjoying spring with lawn games. It was like we were celebrating a long Maine winter coming to an end,” Jared Foxhall ’22 said. “It was an opportunity for me to make friends with people outside of my immediate friend group because of how inclusive it was.”
Historically, the College has not planned the majority of Ivies events, including Quad Day. The two exceptions to this were the College’s support of the Entertainment Board, which was tasked with organizing the concerts, and Student Activities’ help with coordinating logistics, including cleanup after Quad Day and extra security personnel throughout campus on Friday.
In an email to the student body on Tuesday, Senior Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Janet Lohmann announced modifications to this year’s rendition of the 150-year tradition. According to Lohmann’s email, administrators have evolved the celebration in the hopes of being more representative of the College’s values.
Altering Ivies has been met with frustration both from students who have experienced what it has been in the past and from those who have been eagerly awaiting the experience.
“Changing Ivies is not canceling Ivies. It is considering what Ivies should look like now, in 2022, and evolving the event accordingly. And by the way, this type of evolution is not new to Ivies in the past 150 years, or we would still be planting ivy near the Chapel,” Lohmann wrote in her email.
This year, administrators have canceled the Thursday night concert and detached the Saturday concert from the celebration, moving it up by three weeks. Additionally, the College is hoping to both contain and move away from Quad Day festivities. While administrators are discouraging partying in the Brunswick Apartments quad, they are allowing students to register events beginning at 2:30 p.m.
“This event has never been a college- or student group-sponsored event, nor has it been organized with the consent of the residents of Brunswick Apartments (who bear the consequences of Quad Day in their immediate living area),” Lohmann wrote. “The result has consistently been a lack of accountability for behavior that is unacceptable on our campus, including the destruction of property, violence, injuries and dangerous levels of intoxication.”
Student Activities will host various activities on Saturday, April 30, on the main quad in response to positive feedback from students about May Day and Fall Fest over the past year.
“This year, we are taking the opportunity to rethink Ivies and to design an experience that keeps the focus on welcoming spring and celebrating as a community, while still prioritizing the health, safety and well-being of all our members,” Lohmann wrote.
These changes have sparked conversation among students at the College who feel their opinions were ignored, or feel that the Ivies experience they were expecting has been unjustly withheld.
“I think students are tired of things being taken away. I see student frustration, and I think it’s valid,” Brady Douglas ’24 said. “It’s inevitable that kids will have a good time on or off campus, and it’s obviously much safer on campus. Why force it off campus, where it’s less safe and less regulated?”
Bowdoin Student Government Chair of Student Activities Miranda Baker ’24 echoed these feelings of disappointment.
“There’s already complicated feelings with my class as far as how they feel toward Bowdoin. There’s this huge lack of trust between the Class of 2024 and Bowdoin admin[istrators], Bowdoin security [and] Bowdoin as a whole,” Baker said. “My class … they’re just kind of tired. And so this really wasn’t surprising, Quad Day being taken away. They’re just like, ‘Okay, like, what’s next now?’ Which is kind of sad.”
Lohmann, one of the administrators responsible for planning this year’s event, maintains that this new model of Ivies is an improvement.
“I want to acknowledge the feelings that students have about losing a tradition that has felt defining to Bowdoin in recent years. I want to acknowledge the collective exhaustion that is being felt, particularly in these last two years, and what it means to see that something else is changing and the sense of loss that is associated with that,” Lohmann wrote in an email to the Orient. “But I’d like to make sure this message is clearly conveyed—the College wants Ivies to happen! We have raised concerns about the most recent iteration of Ivies and identified guardrails we believe are necessary to ensure an inclusive and safe event.”
The toll that Quad Day takes, both on and off campus, is significant. In addition to the $8,500 paid to external services—including trash and debris collection and porta-potties—Brunswick town residents and Brunswick Apartments residents have made complaints about disruption caused by the event.
“Students in previous years have expressed concerns about events happening in their living area without their consent—events that were noisy and disruptive and led to individuals entering apartments without permission, not to mention destruction of property and theft,” Lohmann wrote.
Lohmann noted that another key factor in the decision to alter Ivies was the heightened number of bias incidents, vandalism, alcohol transports and Title IX violations that occurred during previous Ivies celebrations. She explained that this created a divisive atmosphere on campus and did not reflect the values of the College.
Following Ivies in 2019, President Clayton Rose emailed the campus community to acknowledge substance abuse during the celebration and stated his plans to mitigate them going forward.
“The abuse of alcohol during Ivies—something raised independently by faculty at their monthly meeting on Monday—is a growing concern, and we will collaborate with Bowdoin Student Government in the fall to consider whether a change to the current model for Ivies Weekend is in order,” Rose wrote in an email to all students and employees of the College in May 2019.
Vice President and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Benje Douglas reported observing an increase in Title IX violations related to events during Ivies weekend over his eight years as the College’s Title IX coordinator.
“In my experience, some of the most physically violent acts of sexual assault that have been reported to me happened during or around Ivies,” Douglas wrote in an email to the Orient.
Douglas wrote that some students were unwilling to officially report Title IX violations that occurred over Ivies weekend out of concern that the celebrations would be cited as a cause.
“They don’t have to blame Ivies, and I won’t blame Ivies either,” Douglas wrote. “I will simply say that the extraordinary amount of drinking coupled with the enormous pressure some students place on Ivies to make it the most important party of the year makes the conditions ripe for some to make choices that they might not otherwise make.”
Lohmann met with various campus leaders to elicit student input throughout the process of rethinking this year’s Ivies celebration.
“We spoke with leaders in athletics; we spoke with senior class council; we spoke with BSG; we spoke with ResLife heads and the Entertainment Board (E-Board),” Lohmann said in an interview. “The plan was to talk to student groups—to listen to what they had to say, to create a proposal and then to communicate that with students.”
Some students, however, felt that the opinions they shared had no influence on the ultimate decision.
“I was definitely informed, not consulted,” E-Board Co-Chair Giancarlo De La Rosa ’22 said. “During the meeting with [Dean] Lohmann I thought, ‘Well, damn, there’s nothing I can do.’ They really made the decision. Now all I’m tasked with is just bringing the artists here, and that’s my only job, really.”
President of the Class of 2022, Carlos Campos ’22, echoed De La Rosa’s feelings.
“I had nothing to do with Ivies planning … Ivies is typically student-led, but that doesn’t involve the class councils. Most of the time it is led by the E-Board to plan the concerts and to do a lot of other various activities,” Campos said.
BSG President Ryan Britt ’22 shared concerns that canceling some of these events, including Quad Day, might backfire and direct students to more dangerous party spaces.
“The fact that Quad Day was historically a completely unorganized event that was College-sanctioned in a way—but it wasn’t actually organized—but somehow just happens, raised concerns for administrators. But a lot of people are saying that taking away Quad Day doesn’t take away bias incidents and things like that. They might just be happening in darker spaces or off-campus,” Britt said.
While some students understand the need to address bias incidents, Title IX cases and vandalism, they feel as if other avenues could have been explored.
“The justification [of] using Title IX or racial bias incidents was really offensive to me because I felt as though it was just kind of an excuse to cancel something that the College has no interest in supporting anymore. Instead of actually addressing these real deep-rooted issues at this college, like sexual assault or racial bias, we are using it as an excuse to not host an event and ultimately amplifying the consequences of those actions,” Tiffany Delgado ’23 said.
Gigi Diserio ’22 shared Delgado’s sentiment and expressed that these concerns should have been addressed separately, rather than isolated to the Ivies discussion.
“I appreciate that they’re making an effort, but I just don’t know if it’s exactly the right way to go about it. I think it’s making people unhappy and against the school in a way. But that being said, I’m really appreciative of how the school is making an effort to still create events that are inclusive for everyone, and I hope underclass [students] can enjoy their first Ivies as much as I did,” Diserio said.
Diserio highlighted the “fishbowl method” she was taught in a sexual violence course led by Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion & Diversity and Director of the Center for Sexuality, Women & Gender Kate Stern at the College that comprehensively explains this situation.
“If you have sick fish in a dirty fishbowl and take them out into a clean bowl, you still have sick fish,” Diserio said.
Delgado highlighted the concern: that bias incidents would not cease when an event is canceled.
“These things are just going to go underground, and by not having a campus-wide event, Security is not going to be there to help someone that is potentially assaulted. Instead, they’re going to be off-campus parties, and maybe BPD will show up or maybe no one will show up. So I think that said, using these justifications is really out of touch,” Delgado said.
Moving forward, Lohmann emphasized that she hopes students will create new traditions and be active in programming for the upcoming Ivies.
The current proposal asks students to approach Hintze on Friday with activity ideas to replace Quad Day. Plans including a potential BSG-sponsored event on the Harpswell Apartments quad are in the works.
“I am excited to see the events that students and student groups are already incubating,” Lohmann wrote in an email to the Orient. “My conversations over the last two days (with BSG and other students)—have shown students stepping in to be a part of the solution, and I believe these efforts will foster new traditions that preserve the very best of an Ivies celebration for years to come.”
Halina Bennet contributed to this report.