In the aftermath of the March 6 Daggett Lounge discussion regarding acts of racial and sexual intolerance and the March 9 "I Am Bowdoin" community protest, members of the student body and the administration are taking steps toward ensuring that there is no repeat of the March 1 bias incident that occurred in Coles Tower.
In particular, "I Am Bowdoin" recently transitioned from being a protest group to an organization of around 40 students geared toward spreading diversity awareness.
"Moving forward, we're dividing into sub-committees that will tackle these issues of spreading awareness about diversity in the community in different realms," said Co-Leader of the Public Relations Sub-Committee Alexis Sones '13. Sones and fellow Co-Leader Daisy Alioto '13 explained that there were eight sub-committees—each headed by up to three people—addressing topics ranging from public relations to institutional change. These leaders meet once a week as a group.
The group had already existed, albeit on a much smaller scale, before the bias incident in Coles Tower.
"It started [last semester] with a group of six girls that were all in the African American society and we wanted to see some changes with how bias incidents were dealt with on campus," said Sones, who explained that interest in the group surged after the protest.
"You can't force people to care about something, and for our group to work we need[ed] more people on our side," she said. "But this horrible incident had to occur in order to draw people's attention and make people realize that [this kind of] stuff is going on, because people have no idea that incidents like this happen a lot more...and a lot worse."
Alioto discussed the importance of having a student-led initiative. "A lot of things have come from the top down to address diversity on campus, [but] in order for Bowdoin as an institution to catch up with itself, it has to come from the bottom up, which is us," Alioto said. "So this is really the natural next step."
"It is not enough to just bring diversity to campus and have it here and exist," she added. "Everyone needs to interact across these differences or they're just existing side by side, and nothing constructive is happening."
"It is essential for the leadership of the College to be a part of the effort," wrote President Barry Mills in a Bowdoin Daily Sun post. "Our faculty and staff are also critical participants, but I am personally motivated to encourage our students to take the lead role."
"We, as a College, should not try to socially-engineer away these tensions, nor should we take over for our students," continued Mills. "If students take the lead and continue to push on these issues, the likelihood for positive progress is much greater and the leadership lessons will be profound."
Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster was of the same opinion, listing BMASV, V-Day and Relay for Life as successful student initiatives that "have occurred and have now become traditions and become the fabric of the place."
However, Foster said he felt that there were still certain areas in which the administration could take the lead. One area would be the creation of an electronic bias incident reporting system.
"[It would be] an easier way for people to report incidents of hate and bias whether they occur on campus or on the edge of campus," he said. "Wesleyan described that they have something called a campus climate log, and they have shared that with us, and we will Bowdoin-ize it."
Foster also described changes that the administration has undertaken.
"We've already started work on improving lighting on Maine Street and Harpswell Road, [as] that's not the type of thing students are going to be able to make happen," he said.
As for the continuing investigation, however, Foster was not confident that a culprit would be quickly apprehended.
"[It's] still ongoing...[we've] talked to a lot of people and lot of students," he said. "My sense is, in the absence of somebody stepping forward and taking responsibility or identifying somebody who was responsible for the hateful language in Coles Tower, that we will not be able to definitively determine who did this."
In his Daily Sun article, Mills revealed that he had begun talks with the surrounding community as well.
"I have personally met with local town leaders, the police, the local Rotary and religious leaders to discuss these issues," he wrote, and "I will meet soon with local school leaders."
"Everyone reacts with shock and can't believe this happens in our town, and they are eager and enthusiastic about helping us raise awareness on the issue," Mills added.