Last Friday, Director of Residential Life Mary Pat McMahon and Director of Student Life Allen Delong sent a letter to the Bowdoin community regarding the content of the March 27 Orient editorial, "Free speech." The message was written to thank the Orient for calling attention to a mistake, as well as to point out an error in the content of the editorial.
The editorial was written after a Student Activities staff member requested that the Meddiebempsters take down posters that used Greek letters to advertise a concert. It argued that such a request was in opposition to student free speech on campus. McMahon and DeLong's message, which was posted on the Bowdoin Web site and sent to the campus through e-mail, stated that the posters were not in fact a violation of College policy and should have been permitted.
Delong and McMahon's letter said that the College policy that prohibits fraternities does not prohibit the use of Greek letters. The fraternity membership policy, which appears in the student handbook, states: "Violations of College regulations regarding membership in and other activities related to private, selective-membership social organizations will be considered violations of Bowdoin's Social Code and will be adjudicated according to the normal Judicial Board procedures."
In an interview with the Orient, Delong explained that members of the Residential Life and Student Activities staff misinterpreted the "activities related to [fraternities]" phrase to include the use of Greek letters. Delong declined to make any additional comments on the matter.
McMahon said that the mistake was the result of "a chain of assumptions," that led to the misinterpretation of the policy.
"I'm not sure that our office hasn't made this mistake before," she said.
The message also called attention to an unconfirmed statement in the editorial. The editorial stated that the administration had forbidden students from handing out the publication "Q" in Smith Union. However, the letter stated that "the Orient's description of events is inaccurate. In fact, 'Q' was distributed openly at many campus locations, including the Smith Union."
In response to the allegation, the Orient further investigated the matter and found no clear evidence to support the statement made in the editorial.
While Delong stood by the statement regarding "Q" in the letter, co-editor of the publication George Aumoithe '11, disagreed with the clarification.
"The issues of 'Q' had to be placed within the gallery, which was papered off," Aumoithe said. "They weren't freely distributed, but it wasn't that we couldn't give them out at all. That was one of the major terms, that the administration wanted us to limit where we put the magazine."
However, Aumoithe did not believe that that the issue was one of censorship.This article was corrected on April 5,2009.