In the past two weeks, the College has welcomed two high-profile speakers to campus to present views that many students consider controversial. Last night, Bowdoin hosted a talk by Kristan Hawkins, president of the national pro-life organization Students for Life of America—the same group that used targeted Facebook advertising to recruit students to establish a chapter at Bowdoin in October. And last week, Fox News military analyst Colonel David Hunt gave a talk supporting a more isolationist approach to the War on Terror, in which he advocated “letting Iraq and Syria burn.”

Both talks provoked responses from the Bowdoin community. At the conclusion of Hunt’s lecture, a few students chanted to protest his belief that Islam is connected to terrorism, and last night, a group of female students stood outside Hawkins’ lecture with signs featuring pro-choice slogans. We recognize that when speakers come to campus to discuss divisive issues, students have a right to protest. They also have an obligation to protest respectfully. We are glad that in recent weeks, Bowdoin students have protested by listening and responding, rather than interrupting, mocking or making ad hominem attacks.

It is critical that public forums remain open to all opinions, especially since a narrow set of progressive political beliefs often seem to dominate campus culture. Hosting speakers whose perspectives differ from those of our community prevents Bowdoin from becoming an ideological echo chamber, which would not serve anyone well, regardless of their political beliefs. After all, the liberal arts ethos encourages us to approach opposing viewpoints as opportunities for learning. When we attend a talk like Hunt’s or Hawkins’, we gain a more nuanced understanding of complex issues and can better situate our own beliefs in the context of a broader discourse.

While Bowdoin strives to create dialogue through its many student-run organizations, the College’s overwhelmingly liberal ideological environment can prevent students from voicing alternative viewpoints. An event like last night’s could empower the minority of students who are pro-life—who may feel that most Bowdoin students are hostile to their perspective—to express their opinions more openly. In recent years, conservative students have reported feeling uncomfortable expressing their views and have asserted that their opinions are suppressed on campus. The community needs to make sure that all of its members beliefs are treated with due consideration. 

These two talks demonstrate the College’s willingness to address a discernible lack of ideological diversity surrounding certain hot-button issues. Looking forward, Bowdoin should continue to broaden the campus’ political discourse while also ensuring that guests are willing to engage in meaningful discussions with students.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Garrett Casey, Ron Cervantes, Natalie Kass-Kaufman, Sam Miller, Leo Shaw and Kate Witteman.