Since the birth of the "I Am Bowdoin" effort six weeks ago, student leader Nylea Bivins '12 says the campus is in "a place that I've never seen it in before."
Following the Sunday night community meeting on March 6 and the "I Am Bowdoin" rally on March 10—both in response to the March 1 Coles Tower bias incident—students and the administration have aggressively worked to raise awareness about issues of bias.
Eight student-run subcommittees on campus—such as the Institutional Change to Hate Speech, focused on education on the history of racial slurs—meet weekly, involving faculty and the administration in discussion.
One group focused on Brunswick-Bowdoin relations is organizing a walk through the town and the campus on May 9. "I Am Bowdoin" student leader Reilly Lorastein '13 says the walk will aim to "reclaim space where people have felt uncomfortable and to give closure to seniors who are leaving...to give people who have been victims the power and support they might have lost."
According to Lorastein and Bivins, there are also plans for a festival early next year that will bring the College and town together.
The restructuring of first year Orientation is also on the horizon. Lorastein said that the main change in the way incoming students discuss diversity would be to highlight current students and their experiences instead of hosting a lecturer from outside the College.
One "I Am Bowdoin" student participant has already been hired to work with Dean Amaez this summer in a newly-created position to help deal with these issues. There are also efforts targeted at directly increasing student's feelings of safety.
One focus group is working on preliminary designs for an online tool that will allow students to easily report incidents of bias, whether they occur downtown or on campus. According to a progress report emailed to the entire school on April 13, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster wrote that it will "enable us to quickly inform the community when these incidents occur. We will be soliciting feedback on the draft before launching this initiative in the fall."
At a meeting with student leaders on Monday, President Barry Mills said improvements to campus lighting on streets bordering campus could be expected as early as late spring of this year.
Additionally, a camera at Sills Hall has been rotated to better focus on the crosswalk to Rhodes Hall with the hope that footage might catch the license plates of any threatening cars.
The conversations regarding the bias incident have not been confined to only members of the Bowdoin community.
In Brunswick, a group that includes several professors, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Leona Ameaz, Foster and Mills recently met with 25 school leaders. Mills has also met with town leaders, clergy, police officials and the Rotary Club to raise awareness.
Brunswick Police Chief Richard Rizzo said his department has modified its methods to better address aggression from cars.
"We've made the officers very aware of some of the catcalling and yelling and racial slurs near the Bowdoin campus or in the downtown area," he said. "It's not just an 'Oh, whatever'—it's probably one of these incidents."
Usually when somebody reports an incident to a police officer, the officer asks them questions and then tries to track down the car. However, officers will now immediately investigate the car before questioning the victim at length, according to Rizzo.
"It's disorderly conduct...it's not a bias crime so to speak, it's a crime that's enhanced by a bias incident," he said. Nonetheless, Rizzo stressed the hypervigilance of his team and its close relationship with Bowdoin Security.
"If we do catch someone involved in one of these incidents, we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law," he said.
"We've gotten some really positive feedback from people in the town," said Lorastein. "They reached out to someone in our group to see how they could get involved...they see it as a problem in their community, which is a good sign."
Lorastein and Bivins emphasized how the "I Am Bowdoin" focus was not merely on "catching someone," but also the bigger picture: eliminating subtle and covert racism and enhancing the atmosphere of acceptance on campus.
"[It only takes] walking into a classroom to see that it's clearly segregated," said Bivins.
"I think we're working toward the change—the change hasn't yet exactly been achieved—but as long as we have people working towards it, it can be done," she added. "I think the momentum is going to continue because there are a lot of excited people."
"I think we have finally broken through the little plastic P.C. individualistic bubble, and people are at least finally becoming conscious," said Lorastein, referring to the tendency of Bowdoin students to be overly politically correct.
"I Am Bowdoin" will hold an open meeting at 9 p.m. on Monday that will take place at 30 College Street.