There are many ways that the College could respond to “The Bowdoin Project,” a report published by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) that attacks the College’s educational mission and waxes nostalgic for the Bowdoin of the past—before co-education, affirmative action and the elimination of fraternities made this place what it is today.
The report claims that the College’s liberal arts curriculum educates students in progressivism, but is itself deeply infused with conservative ideology. It at once criticizes Bowdoin students for refusing to engage with viewpoints that diverge from their own, while expressing disdain for a cur- riculum that teaches us to look beyond our community and our borders.
Despite the authors’ claims to the contrary, “The Bowdoin Project” insults the intelligence of Bowdoin students, and misrepresents the nature of a liberal arts education. The best response to the report is to regard it with the critical acuity that Bowdoin has taught us.
In that spirit, we admit that there is truth to a number of the report’s arguments. Intellectual diversity is a real issue on campus, as it is at many like institutions. The vast majority of students and professors identify as liberal, which understandably limits the audience for conservative ideas both in and out of the classroom. Some departments have very few survey courses, and many classes focus on esoteric and narrow topics. But that doesn’t mean the College doesn’t teach us anything of worth, as the NAS concludes.
One of the report’s most objectionable claims is that the College is wrong to educate students about sexual assault and wrong to make contraception widely available on campus. Equally disturbing is its denunciation of Bowdoin’s efforts to increase racial and ethnic diversity. While Mr. Klingenstein has said he is in favor of a meritocratic approach to diversity that fosters “inclusion,” any college that adopted his philosophy in its admissions policies would likely resemble the homogenous Bowdoin of decades past.
Klingenstein and Wood maintain that they chose to focus on Bowdoin in particular because the College offers a quintessential liberal arts experience. We agree, but seriously question the methodology by which their research was conducted. The report’s political agenda precludes it from offering an accurate portrait of our College.
The Bowdoin Project is an opportunity for the our community to address the very real problems that do exist on campus and engage in a discussion of how the College can improve. The conclusions of the NAS should not dictate how Bowdoin addresses its academic shortcomings in the future.
We are lucky that the College has taught us what it has, for it’s our Bowdoin educations that have taught us to approach dissenting views with an open mind. The study’s authors implicitly portray us as apathetic, uninformed students who don’t care about our country or our place in its history. That’s not who we are, and already students’ reactions to “The Bowdoin Project” have demonstrated precisely that.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Nora Biette-Timmons, Garrett Casey, Linda Kinstler, Sam Miller, Sam Weyrauch and Kate Witteman.