In an email to all students and employees on October 12, 2016, President Clayton Rose spoke on the direction of the College regarding its "purpose, culture, opportunity, and innovation." Rose questioned: "How might we enhance the ‘quantitative literacy’ of our students, in much the same way our curriculum is currently designed to enhance their writing skills? Critically, this is not a STEM issue, but rather is something germane to our entire curriculum."

In this email, Rose raises an important point about defining liberal arts and areas of study at Bowdoin in the context of our evolving world. When considering all of the departments at Bowdoin, the categorization of the humanities, such as English or religion, as liberal arts is more intuitive for many than categorizing those that fall under the sciences, such as biology or computer science, as liberal arts.

The value of a Bowdoin education lies in its liberal arts curriculum that explicitly values critical thinking, curiosity and cross-discipline dialogue. Interdisciplinary conversation is only made stronger by the recognition that all types of departments—humanities, science or others—have an equal value in the conversation on liberal arts.

Not everyone, however, shares this point of view. Often, certain departments are criticized for the supposed pre-professional nature of their area of study. Perhaps this point of view is best summed up in an op-ed by an alumnus in the Orient from January 2015, after Rose was named former President Barry Mills’ successor.

"Thank goodness, for instance, we preserve a liberal arts curriculum, despite the fact that the two most popular majors are government and legal studies and economics, whose courses feed directly into careers in law, business and finance. Thank goodness we sustain a classics department, despite our petitions to open up more computer science courses to ensure opportunity for careers in the lucrative high-tech industry."

This interpretation of certain departments Bowdoin misses the goal of liberal arts and the distinction that schools like Bowdoin can draw between the way we teach classes in computer science or economics compared to other educational institutions.

There is a difference between economics and business, physics and engineering and computer science and software development. Bowdoin’s conscious decision to not include programs in these fields is evidence of a commitment to framing a Bowdoin education in any discipline as one that teaches students to be creative and think critically.

Despite this, certain departments are still treated like they do not fit the definition of a liberal arts discipline as well as others. We should affirm our commitment to liberal arts education by highlighting the contribution of these departments in campus-wide culture.

The contributions that each department individually make are key to maintaining strong, productive conversation and research on campus. Recognizing the unique perspective and approach each department employs celebrates the liberal arts education as a whole.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Marina Affo, Julian Andrews, Steff Chavez, Grace Handler, Meg Robbins and Joe Seibert.