Wednesday night, an overflowing audience watched as five professors on stage in Kresge talked about their views on freedom of expression—how it comes into play nationally, on campus and in the classroom at Bowdoin. The conversation consisted of nuanced ideas from professors speaking clearly and argumentatively about the types of discourse allowed on campus and various forms of marginalization—here and in America overall. After each professor spoke, snaps and claps echoed from different parts of the audience. 

It was a diverse crowd of attendees and a diverse group of faculty modeling a conversation for them. The conversation was heated—it got tense and even angry at points. Ultimately, it was messy and left the audience with many more questions than it answered. But, as challenging and inconclusive as it was, it was a space on campus for a public conversation about restrictions to expression. 

Self-censorship happens in the world and on this campus in particular, not that it is a good or a bad thing. And, especially this year, absent or silent voices have even further impacted the course of dialogue. Claims have become defensive and the campus is more divided than we have seen it in our time at Bowdoin. Letting down our guard and allowing for some messy interpersonal engagement is not easy to do, but taking the risk of being imperfect and wrong is exactly what members of the Bowdoin community need to do more.

Classes end on Wednesday, and a week and a half after that we will leave Bowdoin, the majority of us coming back, at the soonest, three months later. We’ll say goodbye for now, and many of us will have the luxury of stepping away from the debates that have occupied Bowdoin this year. A controversial Facebook post will pop up here and there, but, otherwise, most of our communications will stop. 

For all of us, including seniors preparing for their journey into the so-called ‘real world,’ we are presented with a challenge and an opportunity in each moment we confront the world: how do we defend our beliefs while being open to the fact that others think differently? It’s not easy to critically examine personal beliefs, but it is only through being challenged and pushing others that we grow as thinkers, as learners and as generous enthusiasts. Wednesday’s talk was beautifully chaotic. Each person was respected but their views were nevertheless debated unforgivingly. Let’s do more of that.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, Jono Gruber, Meg Robbins and Emily Weyrauch.