Bowdoin is open and back in business. On Tuesday the College welcomed about 80% of our first-year students. It is honestly one of the most exciting and fun days on campus. The first-year students and their families mostly arrive in town on Monday night. Brunswick’s hotel and motel parking lots are full, local restaurants are booming, and there is a line out the door at the Gelato Fiasco for dessert.
The students and their families arrive on campus early Tuesday morning. The game plan is for the students to simply drop off their stuff at their rooms, and then attend the various orientation events during the day. No official moving into the rooms or setting up is allowed, since the rest of our first-years don’t arrive until Saturday.
There were all kinds of orientation forums for the parents and students. I’m told the orientation sessions for parents were very well attended. And Smith Union’s Morrell Lounge was very active with students configuring their computers, signing up for mobile phones, learning about campus services, and with parents encouraged to sign up for the Bowdoin Daily Sun. It was funny to see the look on the parents’ faces when our BDS rep told them that a subscription to the blog is free—finally something free at Bowdoin!
I have moved two boys into college and I have to say it wasn’t exactly fun. At both places we were pretty much left on our own to load up the stuff and to get it up to the room—both in an urban situation with a very crowded elevator and at a more rural college, up four flight of stairs. There was no help and not a whole lot of direction from anybody. But at Bowdoin we have many students stationed at the entrance to the dorms to answer questions, and large bodies to help the parents and the first-years carry all that stuff to the rooms.
Once the “stuff” is delivered, the computers configured, and the campus walks are over, the parents and some students come to “Studs Hall” to hear a welcoming address by Dean Judd and me. The place was full this Tuesday and the group was very enthusiastic.
After the talks—and in many cases, before—the parents and students say their good-byes and the college experience begins for real for both. The students are off to Farley Field House for a picnic and a night sleeping on the floor, as they mobilize for pre-orientation trips around the state of Maine and community service trips in Brunswick. It is fantastic to go out and watch these students meet each other for the first time as they begin their college careers.
The parents come to the lawn at Cleaveland House for tea and cookies and a time to decompress. They share stories with other first-year parents, and they meet Karen and me. All in all, it is a very full day filled with excitement and some anxiety for all.
At my talk, I remind parents that at Bowdoin we encourage parents to stay involved in the lives on their children and family members when they are at College, but with an appropriate distance and respect for their children’s college experience. Too many college presidents and newspapers scold parents for being overly involved in their children’s lives. I find this ironic, because I believe our society should foster these relationships. However, I do remind the parents that they do need to give their children space.
Many parents told me they enjoyed my talk and were thrilled with my message encouraging them to stay involved in their children’s college experience and Bowdoin. Of those I spoke with, most get the message about balance. But there are always a few who just can’t separate or leave it to their kids. Rumor has it that three moms figured out how to get into their children’s dorm room on Tuesday night to set up the room for the three roommates. I don’t know who these folks are, but they do. My message stands: please stay involved in the life of your children at College, but I hope you can work on the separation thing.
Soon, these parents will come to understand what a great place Bowdoin is and how well the place suits their children. Once that happens, I’m sure these parents will feel more confident and better able to separate. Life is a process.
In the coming weeks, I will continue to offer my thoughts on subjects interesting to me or of importance to the College, but I want to hear your ideas too. If there is a subject you’d like me to address, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org