Applications for Bowdoin-funded grants and fellowships are due next week, and the competition for awards to conduct research in the library's archives or on Kent Island is intense. While students of all disciplines are invited to apply for summer research grants, the applicants most likely to be successful probably take the lion's share of their classes in Druckenmiller.
As a liberal arts institution, we love to think of ourselves as bridging the gap between the humanities and sciences, attracting and molding students who see the value of interdisciplinary study. And to a great extent, we've achieved this goal; friendships and course loads span the departments at Bowdoin.
However, as far as research funding is concerned, a disciplinary divide exists. In a speech given at Colby on Wednesday, critical theorist Homi Bhabha examined the fate of the humanities and challenged the academy's assumption that the majority of research funding should be channeled toward the sciences. "When the humanities are eclipsed, all of higher education loses," he said.
At Bowdoin, it's not just the humanities majors, but also our thespians, our anthropologists and our artists who take the back seat when fellowships are awarded. While research grants for fields outside the sciences are certainly available, funding is considerably less accessible for a student studying contemporary Russian film than it is for a chemistry major examining the synthesis of a cobalt catalyst.
In offering a diverse array of grants and fellowships, Bowdoin does not stack up well against peer schools. At Connecticut College, a social science, humanities, and arts research program gives students $3,000 for on-campus summer research. At Amherst, students pursuing summer research in fields outside the hard sciences need only submit a project proposal with direct faculty support to access a pool for research funding. Many of the summer grants Bates offers are unaffiliated with a specific discipline, open to students of all majors.
We recognize that the College faces financial constraints with regard to research money, and that many Bowdoin fellowships depend upon the generous support of alumni. In some cases, alumni funding has created discipline-specific research opportunities for undergraduates; this should be a frequent occurrence at a school of Bowdoin's caliber. For instance, Professor of Anthropology Scott MacEachern hopes to use the department's endowed fund to support student research in sociology and anthropology. With more funding allotted to specific disciplines, faculty would be able to create summer opportunities individually tailored to student interest.
We encourage alumni to direct donations to departments that go largely unrepresented in summer research, or better yet, follow the example of our peer schools and create funding pools that students can tap into regardless of discipline. The College aims to provide all students with a level playing field. It's time we do the same for student research.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which is comprised of Erica Berry, Nick Daniels, Carlo Davis, Sam Frizell, Linda Kinstler, and Zoë Lescaze.