It’s been eight months since this column began. Needless to say, a lot has happened since then. Most of my commentary has centered around the minority experience—topics have ranged from the first year transition to natural hair.

Though I have enjoyed writing this column, it has made life a bit more complicated. My thoughts have been both time-stamped and documented; thus, while most people are free to change and reshape their opinions at will, I feel tied to mine. My opinions have naturally shifted over the past year, but I have been hesitant to express any variance. This week, I’ve decided to push through that hesitation. 

I want to make one thing clear: I stand by the cruxes of each article that I have written. I still find the “gangster” party and the “tequila” party problematic—this will never change. However, I have grown increasingly concerned about the way our campus handled these incidents. When the first incident occurred, I was more than willing to participate in dialogue. I considered it a learning experience for all. When the second event occurred, I agreed with those who called for punitive measures. Fed up, I called for swift and harsh “justice.” Though I still believe that action must be taken in these instances, I fear that these actions have decimated conversation.

There are two major problems with Bowdoin’s course of action. By simply condemning and punishing those involved, the College alienates a large section of the student body. Those involved are not inclined to listen if they feel that they are being unjustly disciplined. Though the persistent lack of understanding is both perplexing and aggravating, I do not believe that punishment without sufficient education benefits either side. 

Many would argue that the campus has already provided ample educational opportunities of this sort—in fact, this was the central argument in favor of punitive action. On this note, I agree. Any student who wishes to learn about racial and cultural issues can easily do so. Unfortunately, many do not. Almost every campus event regarding race is attended by the same crowd of people. A significant proportion of the student body has little to no incentive to attend, so they don’t. We all know this. Though their absence at those events is aggravating, it is no longer surprising. Simply hoping that these students educate themselves is fruitless—we know that current action is failing, yet we stand by.

Because white students can easily evade the topic of race, many first grapple with racial issues only after they have been accused of offensive behavior. Because some lack a basic understanding of the subject, they cannot comprehend the problematic nature of their behavior. If one is operating within this mindset, they are understandably miffed by punitive responses. Frustrated, they tune out completely, impeding any further attempt to engage them. The punishment may decrease the likelihood of future occurrences, but it does so at the expense of potential conversation. If the College desires legitimate inclusivity and understanding, forcibly educating these currently disengaged students should be the College’s first priority. 

The havoc wreaked by an emphasis on punishment—and a lack of effective and formal education—also impacts many students of color. Currently, the burden of educating “wrongdoers” continuously falls on the shoulders of minority students. To say that this is unfair would be an understatement. Like everyone else, we are here to get an education—enlightening our white peers was not a part of the admissions contract. The aim of affinity and multicultural organizations centers around community building and support—addressing incidents of bias and discrimination is neither their goal nor their responsibility. Yet, each time a racially charged controversy arises, these groups are expected to act. During times of crisis, friends of mine have spent more time in administrative meetings than in the classroom or library. Many involved have grown weary—in fact, “I’m done” has become a common sentiment. Thus, both sides of the debate are beginning to abandon the possibility of discussion and understanding. It has been both alarming and disheartening to watch this divide grow. 

By punishing the offending side and pushing the burden of education on minority students, the College is hindering genuine progress. Though punitive measures may slow the occurrence of ill-themed parties, this course of action merely produces surface-level progress and heightened animosity. A lesson on cultural sensitivity and inclusion should be a part of each student’s Bowdoin experience—we cannot expect penalties to lead to understanding and growth. Bowdoin put effort into diversifying the student body. Now, the College—not its minority students—needs to grapple with that newfound diversity. The College—not its minority students—needs to address the inherent biases present in the student body. As of now, it is simply veiling them. If the College continues down this track, the chasm currently splitting the student body will continue to grow. 

Being on (the) edge on this campus can be taxing. Fortunately, because of this column, this year was fairly exhilarating. I have grown immensely since this work began—I end it both wiser and more self-assured. I guess I have Yik Yak to thank for the latter. “AP” out.