Sometimes, plans change. Whether we are College administrators or college students, we are all forced to reevaluate our seemingly stable plans for better options.
Last year, in the hope of balancing its operating budget in the face of an unexpected economic downturn and an ailing endowment, the College announced plans to increase total enrollment by 50 students, hold all operating costs flat, and freeze most faculty and staff salaries. At a forum on College finances that February, students expressed concerns about expanding the student body. Logistically and ideologically, the plan seemed at odds with student interests. How would 50 more first years fit into our first year bricks? Would registering for the courses we want be more difficult? Sure, the College would benefit financially from some extra revenue, but at what cost to our experience at a small liberal arts college?
In interviews with the Orient this week, President Barry Mills announced that plans have changed. Because a "real, wholesale expansion of the campus is not viable in the near term," he said that the College did not admit additional students to the Class of 2013, and had no plans to do so in the near future. Ultimately, the College realized that what would have been a short-term fix to balance the budget wasn't compatible with the Bowdoin experience—and we appreciate that acknowledgment.
While College officials discussed reevaluations of our campus dynamics, the Orient conducted a student survey that challenged students to assess their own Bowdoin experience this week. The survey, asking whether and why a student has considered transferring to another school, acknowledged that there are many reasons to come to Bowdoin, and possibly still other reasons to leave. Our Bowdoin experience is defined by many factors, including the policies set by administrators, courses taught by our faculty, and personalities of our peers. Our own personal priorities and goals, however, determine whether this Bowdoin experience is the right college experience for us.
Although there are a number of factors that lead students to transfer, considering life away from Bowdoin is a beneficial exercise for all of us. Comments from survey respondents indicate that some of us are already doing this, with meaningful results. We are pausing to evaluate what we have gained from Bowdoin so far, asking the tough questions about our motivations for coming and staying, and considering what we could be getting elsewhere. In some ways, our College administration does the same.
While plans for the College are established and implemented on a long-term basis, blueprints and plans are periodically revised so that administrators can evaluate their feasibility in the ever-changing moment. Bowdoin changes, and so do we. While we make a commitment to Bowdoin for four years—a relatively long-term commitment, given our age—there are times during our experience when it is appropriate to stop, consider what our education and experiences have meant so far, and what may have changed since we came to the College.
By doing so, some of us may decide that Bowdoin is not, nor ever was, the right place for us. Some of us may find that we have taken the College for granted, and will discover new appreciation for it. Many of us may find that we are ultimately satisfied, but want to change how we shape our experiences and let ourselves be shaped by our environment. The majority of us will remain committed to our four years at the College, but it is only fair to ourselves that we periodically pause, evaluate our plans, and adjust our course accordingly.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Piper Grosswendt, Will Jacob, Gemma Leghorn and Seth Walder.