What is the common good to you? This a question that is asked of Bowdoin students to the point of exhaustion, at panels like the one on Wednesday night and in every-day dining hall conversations. But the question persists for good reason. Bowdoin is an institution that is dedicated to educating students who serve the public good; it has a responsibility to help students understand how this can be done.

We feel that Bowdoin is inadequately fulfilling this responsibility. At Bowdoin today, there are very few ways that we engage with the common good outside of the McKeen Center for the Common Good. As a result students lack a conception of how they can truly serve the common good in ways other than direct community service. 

The McKeen Center does an incredible job organizing community-based work that both has real and positive impacts on communities and educates students about their roles and ability to serve the common good. The McKeen Center recognizes that common good means more than just community service and there are a number of programs they put on that demonstrate this broadened understanding, from alternative break trips to What Matters discussions to the Leading for the Common Good program. 

However, we believe it is critical to translate that understanding to the larger campus community.

The McKeen Center organizes a Community-Engaged Courses program incorporating a community-learning component into classes each semester. This program provides a vital opportunity to teach students different ways in which community engagement can lead to the common good, beyond merely community service. They provoke reflection of personal responsibility and address intersectional issues through working directly with local groups or municipal governments.

For example, in the past, students in earth and oceanographic science classes have applied their in-class learning to studying nearby Maine environments, and environmental studies courses have collaborated with non-governmental organizations to make maps using geographical information systems (GIS). 

This semester, there are eight such courses, but half of them are in the education department. This program should be expanded to include more courses and more departments. 

However, our dedication to the common good should surpass our academic careers and the local Maine community. Fulfilling our responsibility to the common good means keeping it as a priority in our lives even as we leave Bowdoin. This means factoring it into our career choices, what we choose to do with our income, how we spend our free time and our day-to-day decisions as citizens. If the College serves the common good, it has a responsibility to follow through with the ideals it promotes and help students transition from a common good defined at Bowdoin to one that is applicable to the greater world. 

Learning about our individual roles and responsibilities within the greater communities we inhabit is critical to discovering how we as students can have an impact beyond Bowdoin. This means moving the message beyond the walls of the McKeen Center and into classrooms, dining halls and dorms—and then into our workplaces, homes and families. 

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, Harry DiPrinzio, Jenny Ibsen, Meg Robbins and Joe Seibert.