As many now know, the Board of Trustees voted last weekend to discontinue the government and legal studies department’s Jefferson Davis Award. As stated in an Orient article released earlier this week, the discontinuation of the award was prompted by newly-inaugurated President Rose. This award, granted annually by the government department, served to honor a student who demonstrated proficiency in the study of constitutional law. The award was created in 1972, when it was endowed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization founded by and for female descendants of Confederate soldiers.

Not only did this organization endow this award, but it was also named in honor of the man who served as the President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Davis worked as a cabinet member under Franklin Pierce—fourteenth president of the United States, anti-abolitionist and member of the Bowdoin Class of 1824—and received an honorary degree from the College in 1848.

Davis’ connection to Bowdoin cannot be denied but honoring this man does more harm than good. I found out about the discontinuation of the award while walking back to my room after lab. My otherwise monotonous afternoon was immediately filled with emotion. As a black student, I felt as if this administrative decision had been made in my defense. I shared the news with my mom, discussed it with a few friends from home, then forgot about it for the night.

The next day, I made the mistake of checking Yik Yak. I read a number of comments that frustrated me, but one stood out among the rest. “I don’t dig the whitewashing of our history,” the anonymous comment reads. “We should own our relationship to the USA’s darker past and use it as a cause to reflect on our relationship to the imperfect present.” This comment is legitimate in numerous ways: America desperately needs to address its dark past and present in order to achieve progress. This is true in the context of Bowdoin as well, whether it involves something that we want to celebrate or something that’s difficult to discuss. In fact, the connections that are difficult to face are the ones on which we should focus. Political correctness is a hot topic today; a significant amount of friction persists regarding where the line between political correctness and censorship lies. Though I am a firm believer in “safe spaces” and do believe that sensitivity to the emotions of others is what makes Bowdoin what it is, I also desperately want people to begin discussing the undiscussed.

However, what the writer of the Yak failed to recognize is the grave difference between addressing the dark past and idling in it. There is an inexhaustible disparity between discussing a man whose actions and values do not align with the contemporary values of the College and giving out an award in his honor. The discontinuation of the Jefferson Davis Award is not an affront on history nor is it a means of sweeping Bowdoin’s dirty secrets under the rug. I knew little of this award, or the history of Davis’ connection to Bowdoin, before this week. Its existence did nothing to foster discussion; however, its removal has. How honoring a man who once referred to enslaved Africans as “our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude” could serve as anything other than a slap in the face to students of color is beyond me. I firmly believe that, in discontinuing this award, Bowdoin “addressed its dark past” in the most direct way possible.