“If your conscience stops at the border of Maine then you are less than who you should be,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. explained while at Bowdoin on May 6, 1964. King’s words should resonate for the many students who find that Bowdoin’s New England location isolates them from recent national racial issues. As these issues make headlines both nationally and at Bowdoin, the College is primed for dialogue about race relations; however, that conversation will not be productive without participation from students of all races. While many students of color have mobilized in response to recent events, there has been a lack of engagement from the majority of Bowdoin’s largely-white student body.

There is no excuse for such apathy at Bowdoin. Recent events have demonstrated that Bowdoin is neither immune to insensitivity regarding race and culture, nor isolated from national events. In November, members of the men’s lacrosse team hosted an annual party where some guests wore Native American costumes, despite warnings from other students and the administration that doing so would be offensive. The administration rightfully chose to punish the guests involved. Then, in December, a man reacted to the non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases by murdering two New York City policemen, an event that directly impacted the Bowdoin community.

Bowdoin has begun to facilitate conversations about race. The new Student Center for Multicultural Life will serve as a hub for programming on campus. President Mills indicated that classes will likely no longer be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day beginning in 2020, the next time the start of the semester coincides with the holiday. Furthermore, College policies regarding bias incidents and the College’s responses to national race-based events show a willingness to confront those who are racially insensitive.

Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the student body to take advantage of the resources provided by the administration, and not leave them just for the minority members on campus. At a panel held as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations this Monday, a number of minority students expressed frustrations at the microaggressions they still face regularly on campus. However, as the panel was mostly attended by students of color, those comments were not able to reach those who would most benefit from hearing them.

While Bowdoin can provide the spaces for discussion, they cannot force students to participate in them. Students must choose to do so on their own, whether by attending organized forums or by having casual discussions with their peers. We understand that this kind of engagement can be uncomfortable—that is part of what makes it so important.

As Elina Zhang ’16 wrote in her December 5 op-ed, “Always assume you have the legitimacy to be concerned about other peoples’ struggles.” For any substantial conversation to occur on campus, students of all colors must participate.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Garrett Casey, Ron Cervantes, Sam Chase, Matthew Gutschenritter, Nicole Wetsman and Kate Witteman.