College operations were disrupted last week as campus authorities enforced a lockout in response to last Wednesday’s mass shootings in Lewiston.
While the College canceled classes and most of its operations last Thursday and Friday along with some Family Weekend programming on Saturday, several departments continued to operate while the suspect was still at large.
The Office of Safety and Security bolstered its security presence until the body of the suspect was found on Friday night, though the office maintained an increased presence throughout Family Weekend.
As former law enforcement officers, Executive Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols and Associate Director of Safety and Security Bill Harwood used their contacts in the Brunswick Police Department and the State Police to get information about the threat before it was disclosed to the public.
“We were able to communicate with some of our colleagues in law enforcement to ensure that we would be informed immediately if there was any indication that there was a direct or indirect threat to Bowdoin College,” Nichols said.
Nichols said Security increased its patrolling so that there would be higher visibility on campus, especially in areas like the dining halls where large groups of students congregated. Security officers also guarded all of the student performances over the weekend, including Masque and Gown’s performances of “Macbeth” in Wish Theater.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Matt Orlando said that the College made many short-term decisions about what to cancel and postpone due to the shifting severity of the threat.
“Your headlights can only really go out so far. You knew what you knew each moment, and you had to make incremental decisions based on the facts that you had and the risk assessment that you can make,” Orlando said.
All outdoor events were canceled for the College’s Family Weekend programming.
“We really wanted to hold out as long as we could to make final decisions on certain events for Family Weekend because a lot of parents were already en route, and there was a safe way to go about some of the activities. We wanted to allow as much time and opportunity for that to happen,” Orlando said.
Nichols said that while the College never had to respond to a situation like this during his time at Bowdoin, his office practices active shooter responses on a regular basis to prepare for various potential threats to campus.
“The students may not realize that, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes here,” Nichols said.
Nichols and Orlando both emphasized that they hoped they were able to ease worries through regular communication and emails to keep campus and the broader community informed as decisions were made.
“I think one of the real takeaways [from this] incident is to communicate with people. People don’t want to be left in the dark. The more they know, the more they can deal with it. It’s the unknown—that is what they can’t deal with,” Nichols said.
Nichols spoke to many members of the Bowdoin community as well as visiting parents to calm their fears and ensure their safety.
“I personally spoke with a lot of students who approached me, a lot of parents who approached me, a lot of faculty and staff, who were anxious and concerned about safety generally. I spent quite a lot of time reassuring people over the weekend … assuring people they are safe and that we are prepared, and we’ve taken all the necessary precautions,” Nichols said.
Orlando said that the College’s first priority when news of the shooting broke was to ensure that students were safe.
“One of the first things we did at 10 [p.m.] on Wednesday night when it was all unfolding was to make sure the Dean of Students was checking in on all the students from the area and making sure they were accounted for, and then we did the same for staff that was in Lewiston … just [to make sure] that no one was harmed or directly impacted,” Orlando said.
Alongside checking in on students, the College had to quickly determine who was deemed an essential worker in order to bring a limited amount of employees on campus during the lockout.
Jeff Tuttle, the associate vice president for facilities and capital projects, said the College deemed Facilities workers essential last Thursday and Friday because of waste disposal and cleaning needs ahead of Family Weekend. Orlando also spoke to this need.
“We needed to have facilities sanitized, and things like trash needed to be taken care of and bathrooms cleaned,” Orlando said.
While there was a focus on the safety of the students, some of the College’s employees did not feel it necessary for them to go to work given the circumstances.
A housekeeper at the College, who requested anonymity to avoid identification from their supervisors, wrote in an email to the Orient that they felt as though their safety had been undervalued when they were expected to come to work last Thursday and Friday.
“None of us were pleased about having to be here,” the housekeeper wrote. “There’s always work to be done if you look for it, but the lack of extension of safety to Facilities is disheartening to say the least. It gave a feeling [that] the students’, office personnel’s and everyone other than Facilities’ safety was and is held at a higher value.”
Most Facilities workers arrived at work between 5 and 7 a.m. on Thursday, before Orlando sent an email at 7:50 a.m. announcing that all non-essential personnel should stay home.
Tuttle said that most Facilities workers, except the ones who had stayed home because they were in a shelter-in-place area or had been affected by the shooting, were already on campus when Orlando sent this email. Tuttle did not communicate with Facilities workers on Wednesday night.
“Most everyone was here [on Thursday morning],” Tuttle said. “So obviously Wednesday night we couldn’t communicate anything because I didn’t know what the College was going to do.”
Tuttle said Facilities employees who were in a shelter-in-place area or were affected by the shooting were allowed to stay home.
“Any employees that were in the shelter-in-place areas—Lisbon, Lewiston—we didn’t want them to come in, and they didn’t come in,” Tuttle said. “Of course, any people that were directly affected by friends, relatives, it was like, ‘No, don’t come in.’”
Tuttle and Executive Director of Dining Ryan Miller said the College paid double-time to employees who were on campus while the suspect was at large, as it does when employees come in during a weather emergency. The College paid employees who stayed home their normal wages.
Senior Associate Director of Student Employment Meredith Fischer clarified that student employees who showed up to their campus jobs last Thursday and Friday were paid their normal rate of pay, not double. Some student employees who missed work were also compensated.
“Students who were unable to work, due to a closure of an office and/or cancellation of an event, were permitted to enter their time for the shift(s) they were scheduled to work,” Fischer wrote in an email to the Orient. “Student employees are not eligible for pay differentials (shift, weather emergency, etc.). However, because of the lockout, we made the decision to compensate student employees for the time they were unable to work, if applicable.”
Miller said that Dining Services faced employee shortages due to some workers being under shelter-in-place orders or dealing with their children’s school closures. Jack Magee’s Pub was closed on Thursday and Friday as a result.
Miller emphasized that the tragedy and emergency of the situation demonstrated Bowdoin’s resilience and brought staff together.
“Twenty-five to 30 percent of our staff couldn’t come in because they were locked in or had childcare issues,” Miller said. “But we had an equal amount of staff that lives here in Brunswick that was like, ‘If you need me to come in on my day off, I’ll come in on my day off.’ Or we even had people in our communications department and some of the academic departments that were like, ‘I don’t know how to cook, but if you show me how to chop vegetables I’ll chop vegetables.’”