The politics of belonging is a constant theme in students of color's navigation of elite spaces. Students of color constantly feel as they navigate predominantly white institutions that the very act of attending an elite private college (consistently ranked "happiest school') isn't theirs--that they will never belong. 

Bowdoin students have refused to accept this as true. Students of color, like all people trying to make a home in a new place, want very much to belong to Bowdoin. Moreover, they know that they have been promised this from the moment that they matriculated and that they deserve it.  Instead of accepting that the institution isn't for them, instead of quietly figuring out small and private ways to survive until graduation, students of color have vocally and bravely demanded that Bowdoin fulfill its Offer to be a home for its students. Students' vocal criticisms of Bowdoin's failure to be a home is not a rejection of the place, but rather an act of love. When you care deeply about something, if it rejects you, you are hurt; if it is lacking in some way, you try to improve it. 

The conversations and the level of education on controversial and uncomfortable topics that students have started in response to campus events in the past two years have raised the consciousness of all Bowdoin students. There is an increased awareness of the very real connection between their lives at Bowdoin and events and social dynamics in the larger world. Student actions have also have been extremely formative in the very development of students of color's pride and confidence in their identity and abilities to belong in elite environments. To me, this is the ideal result of the College's commitment to increasing diversity on campus: richer perspectives, critical thinking and questioning, and happy, healthy young adults. 

The administration's supportive responses to student voices in recent weeks lead me to believe that Bowdoin as an institution has finally realized what it means to commit to diversity. The administration, following the lead of the students, seems to understand the benefits of actively confronting the contradictions and conflicts that result from the clash of different cultures and different levels of power. I write to send sentiments of appreciation, but also my expectations that the administration continue to stand with the students who are bravely and brilliantly working to change a deeply rooted culture of exclusion and hierarchy.

Current students' critical voices and the administration's support have real effects on those of us who have historically had ambivalent relationships with Bowdoin. Because of the powerful stances taken by members of Bowdoin's community in these recent events, I now see Bowdoin as a place that I can more confidently proclaim was a home in my four years there.

I hope that Bowdoin continues to change to become a more inclusive space, a place that, as a teacher, I can recommend wholeheartedly to my future students as the "best four years" of their lives, without doubt and without cynicism. For those who are participating in the transformation of this space, thank you for your courage and your willingness to reflect and adapt. Thank you for actively attempting to make the Offer of the College be true for all students.

Christine Rheem is a member of the class of 2015.