This past fall, there were several incidents of racial and gender bias directed toward Bowdoin students and a professor close to campus. They ranged from drive-by verbal assaults to an episode of racial prejudice in a local restaurant. President Rose asked Brunswick town officials to begin a conversation about these issues. The town formed a “Human Rights Task Force,” with the goal of addressing bias incidents that affect not only Bowdoin students, but the entire Brunswick community. The formation of this task force was not an obligation, but a choice made by the town of Brunswick to accommodate Bowdoin students and make them feel more comfortable in the town they call home. 

Yesterday, at the first meeting of the task force, town officers discussed a commitment to foster a welcoming community that Bowdoin students and Brunswick residents can share. Some attendees of the meeting expressed concerns that the College’s interests are being prioritized over those of the residents, because the town council has reached out more formally to the College than to the general population of Brunswick in forming the task force. As the task force looks to improve “human rights” in Brunswick, it is just as important to hear from Brunswick residents as it is to include the College in these conversations. These residents point out an important reality—Bowdoin risks exerting outsized influence over town governance and the issues it prioritizes. While we may not realize this privilege, it can be difficult for local residents to ignore. 

The Bowdoin community is inextricably tied with that of Brunswick and while students may only see the direct relationship when the actions of Brunswick residents affect them, our presence is felt by the people who live here every day.

We can’t change the institutional power Bowdoin exerts in Brunswick, but we can do little things to keep our day-to-day presence in the community a generally positive one. Bowdoin students have longstanding relationships with Brunswick through volunteer programs and organized community outreach, but this shouldn’t be anyone’s only connection to the town they live in. Brunswick has committed to making itself a comfortable place for Bowdoin students and we should do the same for Brunswick residents. Small acts like minding our language on Maine Street and keeping the noise down when we walk to off-campus residences show respect for the community that we share. If Bowdoin’s presence in Brunswick is undeniable, our individual presences should, at the very least, be inoffensive.

We are grateful that the town of Brunswick takes Bowdoin’s concerns seriously and is willing to work with us on preventing these incidents, though it is unfair for us to expect Brunswick to prioritize us over the town as a whole. 

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, John Branch, Jono Gruber, Matthew Gutschenritter, Emma Peters, Meg Robbins, Nicole Wetsman, and Emily Weyrauch.