In a letter to the editor published in the October 12 issue of the Orient, seven professors voiced their concern over a growing chorus of complaints regarding the work load of college faculty. The letter explained that faculty engagement at Bowdoin extends far beyond class time and office hours; professors serve on administrative committees and are expected to actively participate in their areas of study by publishing their research.
We are immensely grateful to the faculty of the College and are thankful for the high level of scholarly achievement and intellectual rigor that defines a Bowdoin education. Faculty come to our small college for more than its academic reputation and resources; they come to work closely with undergraduates who are just discovering their academic passions. This is touted in Bowdoin’s promotional literature and by our tour guides, but it is an important reality that bears repeating here. Our professors are deeply committed to our learning and growth; we see this in their willingness to schedule meetings outside of regular office hours, to guide us through papers and lab reports, and to wholeheartedly support our independent projects, however aspirational they may be.
We are lucky to spend four years studying with scholars so invested in balancing our academic success with their own research pursuits. High-caliber faculty research enhances the College’s reputation, but more importantly, it enriches the hours that pass inside Bowdoin’s classrooms. We support our professors in their research endeavors and professional development; but at an undergraduate institution like Bowdoin, we must balance the needs of faculty and students, even when they are seemingly at odds.
Last year, the faculty shot down a proposal to extend Thanksgiving Break to a full week in a 47 to 28 vote. As major concerns, they cited lost class time—particularly for science, language, and music courses—and the worry that a full week off would be too great a disruption to the semester. While we acknowledge that these are valid objections, we urge the faculty to seriously consider ways in which these issues could be easily remedied.
Though a week-long hiatus could potentially break up the flow of the semester, it is important to note that Thanksgiving Break falls in the final weeks of the term, when the lion’s share of graded assignments and exams are scheduled. Bowdoin students notoriously take their studies seriously, and the two extra days of vacation would allow us more time to prepare and rest up for finals. The lost class time could be recouped either by shortening Fall Break or, as was proposed this semester, by beginning the school year two days early.
The initiative to extend Thanksgiving Break has the support of an overwhelming majority of students, many of whom cannot justify the travel cost of a short fi ve-day trip home for the holiday. Last week, the Bowdoin Student Government Executive Committee wrote a Letter to the Editor urging students to join them in pressuring the faculty to reconsider the calendar switch. Last year, 94 percent of students said they supported extending the break.
In their letter to the Orient, the Bowdoin professors encouraged students to recognize the extent of their responsibilities and obligations outside of classroom teaching. In asking for serious consideration of an extended Thanksgiving break, we feel we are doing the same. Students at the College are serious about academics, but they are also committed to their families who live far away and to hometown friends who they don’t often see. We think we could all benefit from a more complete understanding of each other’s responsibilities.
Lets go back to the drawing board—it’s time to talk turkey.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Claire Aasen, Erica Berry, Linda Kinstler, and Eliza Novick-Smith.