A few weeks ago, the Class of 2015 Class Council sent out an email regarding class T-shirts. My inbox is often bombarded with emails from the class council, especially as graduation, and more importantly Senior Week, approach. 

The email asked the class to pick 10 words out of a list of around 30, of which the top 25 would be added to a word cloud on the shirts. These were words, phrases and places that were supposed to “remind us of Bowdoin and our experience at the College.” 

Although I don’t think word clouds are the most aesthetically pleasing, I had no problem with the concept. Creating a shirt that represented my—our—time at Bowdoin seemed just like the nostalgia we need as we prepare to leave the College. 

What was intended to be a universal representation of Bowdoin seniors’ experiences at the College, however, ended up being a list of cringe worthy inside jokes created and promoted by a privileged, exclusive group that does not represent the place I love. 

Some of the words we were asked to choose from made sense. Of course, “Go U Bears” or “Lobster Bake” reminds me of Bowdoin. What I began to take issue with, as I read the list and discussed it with friends, was that it did not represent a diversity of Bowdoin experiences. 

With phrases like “SoPro,” “Laddio,” “The Sid,” “The Loaf,” “Little Toks,” “DFMO,” “Reggaefest,” and “Late Night Cleave,” the list represented a very narrow version of the Bowdoin experience. I had to ask around for a week to figure out that “Laddio” means the concrete slab outside Ladd House.  

There is no single Bowdoin experience, nor is there a single type of Bowdoin student. That has become more clear as I complete an independent study this semester on first-generation students at Bowdoin. As a first-gen student myself, I’ve always been tuned in to issues of class differences on campus, issues which are now even more apparent. 

The first-gen students I have spoken to, many of whom identify as low-income, have expressed feeling like they are not the “typical Bowdoin student.” We come from public schools, free and reduced-price lunch programs, and places that do not resemble Bowdoin racially or socioeconomically.

The phrase “typical Bowdoin student” gets thrown around a lot. The list that the senior class council created to represent the College confirms the Bowdoin student stereotype that comes to mind: white, wealthy individuals for whom college is a place where “SoPro” is a fond memory, not a serious repercussion. First-generation and low-income students—for whom Bowdoin is not just a place to have fun for four years, but a chance to make it—literally cannot afford to be so flippant about their educations. 

Though it may be too late for the class council to change the shirts, I call for them to uphold their role as leaders of the whole Bowdoin senior class, not just a select few. To many students, Bowdoin can better be described by phrases such as “life-altering,” “class mobilizing,” and “the ticket to a better life,” and the class council would do well to remember this in our last few weeks at Bowdoin and the years beyond.

Kate Featherston is a member of the Class of 2015 and the Orient’s photo editor.