Hour focuses on admissions
NIMA SOLTANZAD, STAFF WRITER
Last week's Common Hour featured a Campus Crosstalk
entitled "Inroads, Crossroads, or Both."
Sponsored by the Student Government, this panel discussion
was mediated by Coordinator of Multicultural Student Programs Wil Smith
'00 and addressed admissions policies at Bowdoin.
The five panelists-sophomore Todd Buell and seniors
Catherine Williams, Jenn Dodd, Eliot Pope, and Alexander Ellis-each addressed
one of Smith's questions about admissions policy; this discussion was
followed by a question-and-answer period led by the audience.
Ellis discussed the role of the admissions office in
shaping the academic integrity of Bowdoin. He noted the problem of measuring
academic ability with grades and numbers, stating that the personal essay
and a student's extracurricular activities, especially athletics, often
serve as additional indicators of a student's academic and personal potential.
Pope explained what he believed should be the institutional
priorities of Bowdoin: free exchange of ideas, the formation of a strong
bond between students and professors, collective learning and growth among
students, and academics.
Asked to describe the current academic environment at
Bowdoin, Williams depicted it as a personal, perpetual experience that
has changed throughout her four years at Bowdoin. She said that her best
professors at Bowdoin have been those who have truly been interested in
their students and in what they teach.
She added that it is also crucial that students be interested
in what they are learning if a positive academic environment is to exist
Ellis added that the low student-to-teacher ratio should
also be appreciated by students; this rare benefit makes it impossible,
in his opinion, to not have a good academic experience at Bowdoin.
Pope said that students in the past four years have
become more open-minded to different cultures and perspectives, contributing
to the current healthy, fulfilling academic atmosphere of the College.
Buell was given the difficult question of how the College
can define diversity within the context of its environment.
He said that he believes that the College views diversity
too much as "diversity of 'color'" and thinks Admissions should focus
more on diversity of "thought" when making its acceptances.
The College could improve upon its current approach,
he said, by aiming to attract more people who see the world from different
points of view. While Buell said that he did not think that this would
be as quick of a process as the current one, which emphasizes color, he
said he believes it would be more beneficial to the school in the long
Dodd addressed the issue of gender diversity in academics.
As a female majoring in physics who has also heavily involved herself
with a minor in music, Dodd said that she has had an extremely eye-opening
academic experience at Bowdoin.
She described how difficult it was for her to decide
upon physics because of the gender imbalance. The male-dominated department
currently employs three male professors and only one female; in addition,
it is hiring another male professor for the 2001-2002 academic year.
Asked how she believes Admissions could increase the
number of female students in the physics department, Dodd declared that
she does not think Bowdoin can vastly change this statistic. She stated
that the lack of women in the physical sciences is more a problem of society;
students need to be exposed to physics at a younger age, such as in grade
school, so women will feel more comfortable with it.
The question-and-answer period following the panel discussion
brought up many additional important issues concerning Bowdoin admissions.
One student remarked that the College cannot attract diversity but only
diverse students; in order to make the College itself diverse, the school
needs to be changed culturally and socially-diversity cannot be forced.
Dodd raised the possibility of attracting more students
of color to live in the social houses as a way of raising social awareness
and cultural diversity on campus.
Senior John Willett challenged the College's current
definition of diversity to expand to include gay students, Asian-American
students, and other groups.
Director of Alumni Relations Kevin Wesley remarked that
alumni of color do not remain involved with the College once they graduate;
last year, only three Asian-Americans and one African-American alumnus
came back for reunion weekend.
Sophomore Jane Hummer concluded last week's Common Hour
discussion with a reminder that Bowdoin Admissions can only do so much
to create a certain desired atmosphere on campus. The Office employs only
15 administrators; in reality, students have the potential to make much
more of an impact on Bowdoin than Admissions.
By encouraging more of the people we know of different
races, ethnicities, and geographies to come to Bowdoin, Hummer said that
students can contribute immensely to the formation of a richer and deeper
social, cultural, and academic atmosphere at Bowdoin.