BSG narrowly passes anti-war resolution
First there was the petition condemning preemptive military action, then a proposal for a referendum of student opinion about the war, and then the passing of a resolution which, some argue, says essentially nothing. For the Bowdoin Student Government, the past couple of weeks have been focused on determining what Bowdoin's stance on war should be.
On campus, the issues have sparked heavy student debate, played out at BSG meetings, letters to the Orient, and classroom discussions.
At its March 4 meeting, the BSG addressed the issue which had begun the week earlier. The Bowdoin Coalition Against War in Iraq brought a petition signed by 924 Bowdoin students-a majority of the campus-opposing pre-emptive action in Iraq, and asked that the BSG endorse the petition. Student Government officers were wary to officially recognize it. Not only did they have reservations about engaging in political affairs, but they also were concerned about the actual content and wording of the proposal.
However, at the March 4 meeting, BSG President Jason Hafler '04 said, "Student government feels that there is no problem with doing a referendum."
Molly Farneth '03 spoke in support of the government's recognition of the petition, arguing, "going to referendum undermines the process we have labored under. We told people to remove names if they wanted to-far more students added their name on. Referendum removes the voice of the minority because it is a simple vote." Her comment was received with loud applause.
Alex Nozik '03 agreed, saying that rejecting the petition was "undermining the Bowdoin Coalition's activism."
Adriana Schick '03 then presented the following resolution, which would be an alternative to the petition and referendum: "We, the Bowdoin Student Government, are responsible for helping project the voice of the majority of the student body here at Bowdoin College, in regards to affairs that directly affect the Bowdoin student community at-large. We stand resolved that the impending war in Iraq is an issue that proves to be a pressing issue facing the country and the student community at the present time .therefore we stand resolved that BSG has the ability and the responsibility to consider and vote on whether to project the voice of Bowdoin students on this issue of preemptive action in Iraq. BSG recognizes and endorses the position of the majority on this issue, and the resolution passes."
The president of the Bates College student government spoke at the meeting, urging BSG to "re-legitimize" itself as a student government by adopting the resolution, arguing that its passing would be "a huge compliment [to the authority of the BSG] as an entity, and as an institution, on campus." The Bates College student government had already publicly endorsed anti-military action sentiments as had Colby. According to the Bates president, their student government indicates that it has "an obligation to make a stance."
A vote deciding whether to have a referendum failed to pass by vote 10-9, with three undecided. Alex Cornell '06 then proposed the resolution, and it passed with 13 votes for, nine against, and three undecided.
Sam Downing '05 said that the passing of the resolution is "a brave step forward for the Bowdoin Student Government we are a community of informed citizens and critical thinkers who care deeply about our country war affects us all very directly."
Sarah Edgecomb '03, however, felt less enthusiastic about the student government's recognizing national or world political affairs. Addressing the assembly, she said, "I don't think it is a good idea for the student body of a college to act as a unit in embracing or rejecting controversial policies," she said. "It seems to me that doing so inhibits our ability as students to fairly evaluate those policies, both inside and outside of the classroom."
Eddie Briganti '05 is also opposed to BSG taking a political stand."There are more effective avenues of getting your political views across. I think it [the resolution issues] divided the campus unnecessarily."
Jason Hafler '04, BSG president, said that, while he did not necessarily wish for the student government to form an opinion in support or against the war, he felt it "important to do something as a student government that's why we had a meeting where we could debate this with the liberals, the conservatives, expressing their views." Concerning the adoption of the resolution, he also said, "by our adopting the resolution we expressed more of a willingness to involve ourselves in judging what the student's opinion is on the issue than we should have."
Hafler said that he was approached by the Today Show on NBC, who asked to know the sentiment of the Bowdoin College campus for a segment to be shown on Friday, March 28.
Ali George '03, speaking in support of student government's involvement on the issue, said that while the student government shouldn't regularly get itself involved in outside politics, "this is an issue so compelling, that it should command attention." She also said that "there are a lot of colleges-even Bates-who have a more active student body." She continued to say that the BSG's main goal should continue to be "improving student life .we take on some pretty serious issues."