“Work hard, play hard” was the topic up for debate at last week’s Peucinian Society meeting.
Members went head to head over whether the mantra promotes a balanced lifestyle, or a clash of extremes that cheapens both work and play.
The club’s weekly Thursday night meetings begin with a poem and introduction. The “disputations”—as the Peucinians refer to their debates—begin with orations by representatives of two opposing sides, who then field questions from other members before beginning the debate.
Then there are ten-minute “peribatos,” during which members pair up and stroll around outside discussing the issues in a less restricted environment before reconvening for final remarks and voting.
At last Thursday’s meeting, however, members embraced a few notable breaks with tradition. They began with a less formal round table discussion in lieu of orations, and members eschewed formal dress for a thematically-appropriate potpourri of attire ranging from cropped lacrosse pinnies paired with whimsical neckties to formal jackets and fedoras.
Discussion quickly turned to the question of how “work hard/play hard” functions in the context of Bowdoin. Provost Nate Houran ’13 says that this is a common trend.
“[We] try to keep it contextualized around our lives,” said Houran. “It’s to personalize things, to try to keep them from getting too abstract. [Peucinian is] also the place where we try to take what we’re reading about in our classes and thinking about in the rest of our lives.”
“The first disputation that we did this year was about the quote, ‘Informed voting is sufficient to being a good citizen,’” said Master of Sessions Caitlin O’Keefe ’13. who said she was able to ground her argument in material from her political theory and English classes.
Founded in 1805, the Peucinian Society is the College’s oldest student organization. Despite this rich history, though, the society has not had particularly extensive membership rates in recent years.
When asked about their perception of the Peucinian Society, students offered myriad responses, ranging from “I have no idea what that is,” to “I think someone in my dorm tried out for it last year—isn’t that where they wear suits and debate stuff in the basement of Sills?”
To clarify: meetings are all-inclusive and held in the Massachusetts Hall faculty room. Students cited the club’s formal dress and perceived exclusivity as possible reasons for the conception of the society as pretentious.
“I think [the Peucinian Society] is the effort to live the examined life,” said O’Keefe in response to questions about the club’s reputaion. “It’s the effort to meet interesting people and talk about things that we often take for granted or have overlooked about how we’ve lived our lives.”
For Peucinians, their society is not about pomp and circumstance but the willingness to look beyond the surface of things.
“Sometimes I feel like there’s an aversion to demonstrating that you’re engaged with something,” said O’Keefe. “We all go to Bowdoin and we all have particular things that we love to geek out about, and I think sometimes people are reluctant to acknowledge that, and I wish that would change.”
Leaders are optimistic that interest in the club is growing.
“I think attendance this year and the diversity of attendance is showing that we’re making some inroads,” said President Judah Isseroff ’13. He also noted that the club still stuggles with its image.
“There’s a lot of making up that we have to do for anecdotes that have been passed down at Bowdoin that Peucinian is a bunch of pretentious, snobby, sniveling, book-obsessed people,” said Isseroff.
As far as the society’s decision on “work hard, play hard” as promoting a balanced lifestyle, it voted in the negative. According to the Peucinians, moderation is key.