On Tuesday night, President Clayton Rose facilitated a town hall-style meeting in Smith Union that sought to answer the question “Why do issues of race matter if I’m white?” The aim was to foster an open discussion amongst the entire student body—a difficult task considering the sensitive nature of the issue at hand. The event was packed and it was the most visibly engaged the campus has been in recent memory; hundreds of students, faculty and staff filled the Union to listen and participate, with many standing for the entire 75-minute event.

The discussion was honest and lively. President Rose was a firm moderator, guiding the discussion as necessary, unafraid to rephrase certain comments into more pointed questions. People talked not past each other but to each other, which is especially meaningful on a campus where much of the provocative dialogue takes place behind closed doors or on Yik Yak. In his closing remarks, Rose said that this was just a first step, and “in some ways, we haven’t done anything.” The town hall was successful as a starting point, but it will be meaningless if the conversation and action around race at Bowdoin ends there.

In November, the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) executive committee introduced a proposal to elect a multicultural representative to serve as a voting member of the general assembly. This student would represent the Multicultural Coalition, an organization of 17 student groups dedicated to diversity and multicultural life. There is precedent for this position: the Entertainment Board, the McKeen Center, Inter-House Council and Athletics all have designated representative positions on the BSG.

Voting on the referendum began on Wednesday of this week and remains open until 9 p.m. this Saturday. In order for the position to be approved, one third of the student body must vote and within that group, two-thirds must vote in favor. This position would guarantee that there is a voice on BSG to represent minority students on campus regardless of BSG’s elected members. In theory, the representative would place multicultural issues at the forefront of their agenda, ensuring that issues of diversity and race will never fall through the cracks. BSG has taken a proactive role on issues of race this year, issuing resolutions of solidarity with students of color at Bowdoin and at the University of Missouri. However, BSG is a large, complex body with dramatic turnover each year, and it has not always shown the racial consciousness proving so important this year. A multicultural representative would help to hold it accountable to the interests and concerns of minority students no matter who its elected representatives are. 

As Rose said at the end of Tuesday’s town hall, “This is the beginning of this conversation, not the end.” This semester has seen a dramatic uptick in the Bowdoin community’s willingness to talk frankly about race—but it cannot stop now, even as the shock and anger from certain specific incidents fades. A vote for the creation of the multicultural representative is a vote for a concrete step toward lasting awareness of racial issues at Bowdoin.  

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of John Branch, Sam Chase, Matthew Gutschenritter, Emma Peters and Nicole Wetsman.