In the wake of President Barry Mills’ announcement that he will leave the College next spring, Bowdoin faces a decision about its leadership and future. A president sets the tone for the College’s direction and represents it to the wider world. As the Board of Trustees works with input from students, professors and others to find his successor, it is important that it considers bringing a new perspective to the College. 

In the past few years, the College has filled several important administrative positions from within. Tim Ryan ’98 was promoted to director of athletics after serving as the interim director. Just last month, former associate dean of student affairs Meadow Davis replaced Mary Pat McMahon as director of Residential Life. There is a convenience in promoting dedicated and capable servants of the College, but we encourage the presidential search committee to choose a candidate who does not already work here. An outsider will be able to evaluate campus culture without the bias toward the status quo that comes with having been a part of it; he or she will also have a fresh start with Bowdoin’s various interest groups—the students, the faculty, the staff, and the Brunswick community.

Mills told the Orient two weeks ago that he wanted the College’s next president to serve for 10 to 15 years. The higher education landscape is already changing rapidly: college costs are rising precipitously and online courses have permeated the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom model. There is no telling how much the academic environment will have changed by 2025 or 2030. Mills has spoken about avoiding the “arms race” with peer schools to provide lavish amenities, but we are embroiled in it all the same. Moving forward, we think we should attract students not with frills like sparkling new buildings, but with forward-thinking policies and substantive curriculum changes. The College has not shied away from making pioneering moves in the past. In 1969 the Office of Admissions stopped requiring applicants to submit SAT scores to favor a more holistic evaluation approach. Many selective peer schools are just implementing this policy now. Additionally, Bowdoin bravely abolished fraternities in the face of alumni resistance in 1997, and replaced them with the more inclusive College House System. Mills replaced loans with grants in 2008, dedicated millions more to financial aid, and led the College’s endowment past the $1 billion mark.

We want our new president to continue to uphold Bowdoin’s legacy as a leader among NESCAC schools. The College has taken first steps in a few critical directions that should be followed going forward. These changes include the creation of the new Marine Science Semester, which could allow Bowdoin to lead its peer schools in marine biology. The Robert H. and Blythe Bickel Edwards Center advances the quality of arts facilities and opportunities at the College. Additionally, the new courses in the Digital Humanities promise to help the College offer a curriculum with relevance to web-based communication and data infrastructure.

In his first week on the job in 2001, Mills outlined his vision for Bowdoin under his tenure: “We have recognized that growing the College is incredibly expensive and I think it is time for us to focus on curriculum, faculty resources, [and] financial aid.” Our next president will have to keep pace with the significant strides the College has made on these goals in the last 15 years while adhering to the ideals to which it has historically subscribed. He or she must also be prepared to adapt imaginatively to shifts in higher education while working within the College’s means.

The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Erica Berry, Nora Biette-Timmons, Garrett Casey, Ron Cervantes, Marisa McGarry, Sam Miller, Leo Shaw and Kate Witteman.