As he sat with an Orient reporter last week and reflected on the most important points in his adult life, Secretary of the College Richard Mersereau '69 recalled Professor Daniel Levine telling him something that he has never forgotten.
"It's important to ask the right question, because there are lots of questions," the now-emeritus professor of history and political science had said.
A week ago, Bowdoin launched an ambitious campaign to raise $250 million to invest in the future of the College. At the campaign's kickoff ceremony, President Barry Mills announced that Bowdoin has already raised nearly 60 percent of its goal. Also this week, a reaccreditation team of educators from peer institutions offered a number of recommendations, as well as positive feedback, to Bowdoin's administrators. With the early success of The Bowdoin Campaign and the reaccreditation team's comments on the table, now is the time to ask the right questions. It is also the time to formulate the right answers to those questions.
In many respects, Bowdoin students, administrators, and alumni have already risen to this challenge. When Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) met with Mills on Wednesday, student representatives asked a number of poignant questions, including inquiries concerning the development of campus housing and the creation of new teaching positions.
As they ranked the College's priorities in preparation for The Bowdoin Campaign, administrators asked themselves, "Where is the need greatest?" Not only did they ask the right question, but they settled on the right answer as well, allocating the largest percentages of contributions to financial aid and the development of the faculty and academic resources for the benefit of future Bowdoin scholars.
In considering non-investment in Darfur, the trustees were right to ask whether moral imperatives should affect the College's fiduciary decisions. By approving Mills's recommendation, they honored the mission of service to the common good famously proposed by President William DeWitt Hyde.
Finally, Bowdoin alumni asked the right question when they wondered, "Might The Bowdoin Campaign be worthy of my generosity?" And once more, it appears as though they answered rightly, having already invested $147 million in the future of the school whose lessons have guided them to prosperity?just as Levine's words of wisdom helped shaped Mersereau into a faithful steward of the College.
In the near future, the College will need to ask itself whether it is necessary to revamp Bowdoin's advising system, a move recommended by the peer accreditation group and, seven months ago, by this page. We hope that thoughtful consideration of this worthy question will lead to commendable answers, and actions.
Now is an exciting time for Bowdoin. Moving forward, students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni will think of many new questions to ask. We must continue to ask the right ones, and work to discern the right answers. Mersereau never forgot Levine's message, and neither should we.
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.