In his message to the College community last week, detailing Bowdoin's response to the current financial crisis, President Barry Mills showed that he and the financial "blue tarp" committee had done some serious thinking about the school's options. Presented with tough choices, Mills and the committee devised a measured response that calls for palpable sacrifices from students, faculty, and staff: freezing salaries, holding operating costs flat, and a small increase to the student body, among other things. Even more impressively, according to Mills, these actions would be accomplished in a way that preserves the "core values" of the College and the education that it offers.
All this we applaud. However, in a sparsely attended student forum on Tuesday night, the administration revealed a bit of information that gave us pause.
In his message, Mills wrote that the student body increase "will be accomplished in a manner allowing us to continue our 'need-blind' admissions policy." However, in the forum, it was disclosed that this increase to the student body will at least partially come from transfer and waiting list applicants. Neither of those applicant pools is subject to the need-blind practice that Bowdoin uses during regular admissions. The College's aid budget will increase next year, but only in proportion to the size of the current student body; it does not include an allocation for 10 additional students.
Such a change will not substantially alter the composition or quality of the incoming classes for the next few years. In the forum, students were informed that the College has no shortage of qualified transfer and waiting list applicants. Given the drastic measures taken by some colleges—Brandeis, for example, just announced that its budget shortfalls are so large that it is selling the holdings of its art museum—we think this aspect of the committee's proposal is very reasonable. We also commend the College on maintaining its commitment to its strong financial aid program, particularly the recently instituted no-loan policy.
What disappoints us is the veiled language in which Mills presented the student body increase in his memo. Given the details that were revealed at the forum, to say that the increase will allow Bowdoin to "continue our 'need-blind' admissions policy" is unclear at best, and deliberately misleading at worst. Yes, technically the College will not be breaking its commitment to that policy. But in reality, next year Bowdoin will most likely end up with 10 more students than usual who are not subject to the policy. This strategy weakens our commitment to need-blind admissions.
Bowdoin is facing serious financial challenges, and this proposed action is appropriate in light of them. However, students deserve to know the full scope of the College's approach. The details of the student body increase—which were only revealed in response to a student's question at the forum—are important enough that they should have been included in Mills' original message. As stakeholders in the school's future, students need access to such pertinent information so that we can appreciate and understand the severity of this crisis, and help to solve it. Omitting the details implies a disdain for students' thinking and a lack of confidence in our ability to participate in Bowdoin's governance—two things that, it could be argued, are "core values" of this institution.The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Nick Day, Nat Herz, Will Jacob, Mary Helen Miller, and Cati Mitchell.