Boody-Johnson House provides a place for cultural groups?some of which have been historically marginalized and have had to struggle to obtain rights in the United States?to call home. If a group of school officials were to step in and essentially say, "You're moving next year," we would understand if these students were to be displeased.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened last week as administrators told the leaders of some of the College's cultural organizations that Bowdoin will probably relocate the campus's multicultural space to 30 College St. at the beginning of next year. The groups currently use Boody-Johnson House as a place for meetings and club events, and the building also houses one student from each of three groups. According to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, the space is currently underutilized, and a multicultural space closer to the main campus would allow for more dynamic interactions.
We do not doubt that the College is committed to providing a positive location for cultural groups to thrive separately and communicate collectively, and we commend administrators for trying to make sure that such students get the maximum amount of effective use out of such a space. Yet anyone who has recently made a visit to 30 College St., which currently houses nine upper class students, knows that "dynamic" would not be a synonym for it in its current state. In contrast, Boody-Johnson House is a very attractive, historical building; we can understand that students would immediately be skeptical about the displacement. More concerning, however, is that some student leaders said they felt like they were not consulted before the decision was made.
Boody-Johnson House is not like a dorm room, which a student will move out of in May, and the only items left for history will be a few reminders on the walls of posters long removed. Rather, it is a place that students can identify with throughout their four years at Bowdoin?it is a place that simultaneously represents a shared space and a space that students can call their own. The College should have respected students' attachment to Boody-Johnson and created a collaborative process to decide if relocation to 30 College St. was truly the right move for these groups, with these students, at this time.
The process of collecting input won't work if a decision has been made and the opportunity for dialogue or comment exists as a one-time chance to express anger to decision-makers. However, the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs has shown that effective dialogue can result in success?for instance, the office has been working with an array of student and non-student groups for more than eight months to develop the new Sexual Assault and Misconduct Policy. We are hopeful that a similar process will take place between the College and leaders of the affected cultural groups so that whatever multicultural space exists next year is a place that is truly a student space?designed by the people who know its purposes best.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board. The editorial board is comprised of Bobby Guerette, Beth Kowitt, and Steve Kolowich.