About 200 community members gathered in David Saul Smith Union for this afternoon’s Meeting in the Union, an event intended to discuss injustices both on campus and beyond and the ways in which they are all interconnected.

Students filled the lower floor of Union and wound around the balconies up to the second floor, looking down over the speakers. A number of administrators were also present, including Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Scott Hood, and Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan.

The Meeting included seven speeches: opening and closing remarks, and five students discussing the ways injustice manifests itself at the College. The speeches were not delivered by their authors, but by other members of the presenting group.

Allyson Gross ’16 gave the first speech and spoke about race. The speech told the story of an administrator who told the writer that she would be happy if he graduated with all C’s, because she knew how hard his situation was.

“She didn’t see just another student,” Gross read. “I was a poor, black, first generation student who lived in the hood… It was not only incredibly insulting, but essentially assumed that I would fail. While there is nothing wrong with empathizing with students of color who are struggling, this empathy should not extend to allowing us to lower our expectations.”

Emily Jaques ’17 read a speech written by a female student on gender, which discussed gender equality and the importance of inclusive feminism. 

“Preference is given to thin and beautiful over confident and self possessed,” she said. “We all feel the pressure of the Pretty Test.”

"The Pretty Test” refers to a story published in the Orient last year.

Matthew Goodrich ’15 spoke on class, sharing the experience of a working class student who was misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in an attempt to explain his struggles in the classroom.

“My academic struggle was in fact not the result of a learning disability,” he said, “but instead can be explained with an understanding of economic disadvantages.”

He went on to explain how the background and expectations of more well off students allow them to succeed more easily at a place like Bowdoin, while those of more disadvantaged students have more trouble.

Maddie Lemal-Brown ’18 spoke about sexuality and the struggle that comes from identifying outside of traditional definitions of forms of sexuality.

“What about those of us who do not aspire to any traditionally codified grouping?” she said. “How can we as a college be open to broader definitions of gender and sexuality if so many of us avoid engaging in conversations about these issues?”

Finally, Michelle Kruk ’16 read a piece on climate change by Allyson Gross ’16, which was published in the Orient last week.

“Fossil fuel pollution disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods and communities of color,” Kruk read. “The disastrous impacts of climate change will only exacerbate already existing inequalities.”

The speech closed with a reiteration of the call from Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) for the Board of Trustees divest from fossil fuels, and declared BCA’s intent to escalate action for divestment this spring should there continue to be silence from the Board. BCA also asked that the Board appoint a divestment liaison to work with students on the process of divestment.

Claudia Villar ’15, one of the organizers of the event, delivered the closing remarks. She spoke about the ways in which all of these justice issues connect, and how they affect all members of the community.

“It’s impossible to choose just one issue that we care about,” she said.

At the conclusion of her speech, she invited all those present to join her and the other organizers as they walked to President Barry Mills’ office to present him with a copy of the speeches, as well as a letter—published online today—that calls for institutional changes with regards to racial issues.

Mills was not in his office at the time, but Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd accepted the letter and speeches and said that she would pass them on to Mills.