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Faculty, students to participate in March for Science

April 21, 2017

With support from 14 academic departments and the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good, many Bowdoin students and faculty will pile into buses tomorrow to attend the March for Science. The protest is part of a nationwide Earth Day event calling on elected officials to base their policies on scientific research and evidence.

Emily Ruby ’19 and Zoe Wood ’18 have helped to organize Bowdoin’s involvement in the event.

“A lot of attention has been brought to the need for truth in policy making and the need for policy to be informed by fact and by science … that is under threat at this moment,” said Wood, a biology major.

The buses will be able to transport 96 people to Portland and back, but other students are expected to come in their own cars.

Wood cited recent proposed budget cuts on research as a key issue March for protesters, along with other issues of diversity and inclusion in science. Emily Ruby ’19, one of the organizers for Bowdoin’s participation in the March and leader of Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA), stressed that the March’s focus goes beyond climate change.

“I think it’s important to highlight that this march isn’t just about climate issues, it’s really about the role of science in politics and how the current administration is cutting funding for science,” Ruby said.

Professor of Physics Madeleine Msall had previously organized a letter encouraging President Trump to consider science before developing policy, which was signed by 700 physicists across the country. Msall said she became involved in the March for the same reason.

“Some colleagues and I decided to just try and send a letter to Trump, saying that we hoped he would take the facts of climate change, and the scientific consensus about [it] seriously,” said Msall. “[The March for Science] seemed like a logical extension of that effort.”

As the first science-focused march, Msall said that faculty at Bowdoin have been supportive of the effort.

“It is interesting to me that a group of people that is normally the last to sort of shout on the street corners is concerned enough about the tenor of our national conversation to say, ‘No, actually, it’s time for us to remind people, to say that it helps to have data,’” said Msall.

Msall noted that she hopes both buses will be filled to capacity on Saturday, as Portland’s small size compared to other cities makes the number of people who attend all the more important. She cited government funding for science research as one of the ways that scientists have already been involved in politics, but expressed hope that people would not think of the march as a partisan effort.

“Science is political as it exists, and the concern from the science community is ‘We don’t want to be seen as partisan,’” Msall said. “We’re just saying both parties really need to look at what our community of knowledge offers and use it effectively for governance. A lot of the divide in our country right now is about only accepting facts from the people whose team you think you’re on ideologically, and that’s dangerous for science.”

Msall is glad that the Bowdoin community is involved in the March, as the College is a respected and well-known institution in Maine.

“I’m hoping people of Maine will look at Bowdoin’s presence at this march and say, ‘Oh that’s part of our trusted community, if they’re offering information, maybe I should take a look at it,’” said Msall. “I think Bowdoin as an institution is dedicated to the idea that we need to do our best to learn and understand the systems that control our world, and we need to stand up and say we think this work is important. That’s what we do as a college, and we want people—whatever opinions they may have about the policies that we’re going to pursue—to recognize facts.”

Ruby hopes that students will remain involved in climate policies on their own, and through the BCA.

“There are a lot of other ways on campus for students to be getting involved in climate justice issues, and off campus as well,” she said. “[BCA is] currently shifting away from divestment and moving towards pursuing a climate strategy that focuses on Maine electoral politics and seeing how we can get involved in the 2018 elections.”

Nationally, 100,000 people are expected to show up at the March for Science in Washington, D.C. There will also be 500 satellite marches occurring around the country.

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