Around a dozen students and faculty met last Monday to commemorate the “We Stand with You” photo display in Smith Union, a response to this fall’s bias incidents. Due to printer issues, only 177 of the 544 headshots of Bowdoin community members are currently on the walls.
The exhibit is the work of Daniel Eloy ’15 and came about as a result of the incidents of bias on campus and in Brunswick that affected Bowdoin students. Two of these incidents occurred in late October and one occurred in late September.
While the original print job was for individual posters, Eloy said that the printer began cycling, and he ended up with 400 duplicates. Currently, the photos are individuals that have been taped together. He has had to reformat them into 25 three-by-seven foot banners, which will be installed sometime this coming week.
The reactions of the people who attended the event launch were generally positive.
“I think that the picture gallery is a great thing because I’ve been here twice and each time I’ve come here it’s been the same pictures, but I’ve seen something different. And each time I just can feel myself join with the people that are up there,” said Roy Partridge, visiting assistant professor of sociology and anthropology and the special assistant to the president for multicultural affairs.
“It’s a subtle reminder of what we’re about without being too reactionary,” said Andrew Millar ’16.
Molly Fargeorge ’14 made it clear that she supported the stand of the exhibit and thought that it was beautifully done, but she expressed some doubt about the effectiveness of the event.
“The people who are going to come to see this are people who already hold the same opinions as the presenters,” she said.
Fargeorge did add that the choice of location added poignancy to the exhibit.
“The fact that it is on such a common space and that everyone walks by and sees it is really nice,” she said.
While agreeing that the exhibit is a reaction to the incidents of bias, Eloy hopes that it will be something more than that.
“I wanted it to be more of a piece that got the campus to see that more people than they expected were in a position to demonstrate their solidarity to other members of the campus,” Eloy said.
Eloy sought to go beyond all-campus emails about the bias, and to create an exhibit that would be both a statement of solidarity and a measure to proactively prevent future incidents.
“I wanted people to stop and look so that they would get the message because I think that in an email form we don’t get the message,” said Eloy. “We read something that is displaced eight times over, that’s been a template that the school has saved so that every time this happens we get the same kind of letter.”
“It’s not enough anymore,” he added.
Along with other anti-bias advocates, Eloy set up a station to take people’s pictures outside of Moulton Union twice and Thorne Hall once for the entire time that dinner was open. Eloy also took people’s pictures during breakfast at Thorne one day.
Eloy asked people if they would agree to have their picture taken for an exhibit against bias in the community and had each person who agreed sign a consent form. This was due in part because Smith Union is open to the public and the consent form was needed for legal purposes.
However, Eloy also wanted people to think about what they were doing.
“I wanted people to have an extra step to take to put their support into this,” Eloy said.
Eloy acknowledged that some people had been concerned about potential coercion going on with the process of getting the pictures.
“I hope people read what they were doing and hopefully didn’t feel coerced,” he said.
Eloy said that people were often curious about what the photos were for.
“I tried to give them the best explanation that I could in the shortest amount of time so that they could either take the photo or not,” he said.
“For the most part if people heard what it was for, they were interested in taking the photo,” he added.
Eloy said that there were some people who didn’t want to take part or that completely ignored him, but that he was fine with that.
“I figured those kinds of things would happen,” he said.
It has not yet been decided how long the exhibit will remain set up in Smith Union.