Creating campus discussion
Bowdoin is a place of privilege, not a place for the privileged. What
Bowdoin provides through curriculum, education, activities, social engagement,
support, and facilities is far greater than most colleges, let alone communities
in America. The College is a superb institution with years of elaborate
history and thousands of equally elaborate alumni. But Bowdoin, without
any students, faculty, staff, administration, alumni, no longer exists
as neither place nor institution.
On Wednesday, Bowdoin students joined a panel of speakers to discuss
the issue of diversity on campus. Sean Callaway, Director of College Placement
at the Center for Urban Education at Pace University's School of Education,
moderated a panel consisting of Dean of Academic Affairs Craig McEwen,
Dean of Admissions James Miller, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margaret
Hazlett, Coordinator of Multicultural Student Programs Wil Smith, and
Assistant Dean of Admissions Fumio Sugihara.
In one of the most engaging and stimulating conversations held on campus
this year, students and administrators brought some very heated issues
to the table.
However, it wasn't until the latter portion of the evening, when civil
discourse nearly broke down, that students and administrators began to
express how they truly felt about the issue of diversity. What arose was
a series of finger-pointing allegations regarding the people at fault
for what some feel is a lack of interaction and discussion among students.
As a community-students, faculty, and administrators-we are all responsible
for the environment we construct. Yet, speaking from a student's perspective,
we cannot simply condemn the practices, or lack thereof, that exist among
faculty and administrators. We are a living, breathing, and active student
body, and cannot ignore what we fail to do or where we need to improve.
Recognizing this is often difficult, but we can only improve through action.
This means that as a student body, we have to step up our levels of engagement
with each other. Beyond issues of diversity, there is a need on this campus
to grapple with fear and discomfort. In a highly intellectual environment
where people compete for their own self-assurance, judgment, rejection,
and ridicule feel like biting blows.
Ideally, we wish to say that we could just suck it up and deal with fear
and discomfort. Since that doesn't happen, we must instead look to what
we do know and are not fearful of. Are we informing each other about what
we're truly passionate about; what we actually feel and think? Or are
we getting too wrapped up in the demands of a student: meeting deadlines,
studying for exams, disengaging ourselves from the actual education portion
of academics? Are we learning, or are we studying?
Then, what about when we are not focusing on academics, do we still create
antisocial environments out of social ones? To what extent are we exclusive
and inclusive, and in what circumstances do these characteristics arise?
Even in our own circle of friends, do we ask each other how we feel, or
do we simply respond, "I'm fine?"
We never forget the issues that really concern us-gender, sexuality,
race, religion, and so many others. And we never forget how to listen;
how to just sit and lend an ear.
We, as students, need to make the communicative connection between questioning,
answering, and listening. People don't shy from topics they love to discuss,
but it is the initiation of that conversation that is so vital.
What it all comes down to is simply asking that random question that lurks in the back of your mind. Opening up the lines of communication, on any topic, with any person, will add more to this college than simply offering a variety of courses or activities.