Setting the right tone
September 8, 2017
If the true test of character is what one does when no one is watching, then the past few months of summer break have presented Bowdoin with plenty of opportunities to prove its mettle. From the fall of the last mortarboard at graduation to the first day of classes this fall, seemingly every headline presented a fresh opportunity for shock, awe and uncertainty.
Though, without the hum of students, its halls have been quiet, the College has not remained silent in the face of the summer’s unfolding political drama. In response to high profile incidents, the College has taken a number of clear and admirable stances and backed up its words with concrete actions.
In late August, in response to nationwide debates about Confederate statues and imagery spurred by the violence in Charlottesville, the College announced its decision to move a plaque commemorating Bowdoin alumni who fought for the Confederacy from the lobby of Memorial Hall to Special Collections and Archives. This was a sensible and laudable course of action. While simultaneously presenting a transparent, historical account of the College’s relationship to the Confederate cause and avoiding the erasure often associated with the removal of controversial images and symbols, the College unequivocally condemned the white supremacist ideology on display in Charlottesville that was associated with the plaque itself.
Also over the summer, the College delivered the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inclusion, which featured the Committee’s recommendation that the College create a new position on the senior administrative staff—the vice president for inclusion and diversity—responsible for ensuring that the College is doing its utmost to serve all of its students. The adoption of the committee’s recommendations shows that the College recognizes the importance of allocating resources for new programs and adapting existing ones to create an academically, socially and institutionally inclusive college.
On Tuesday, we learned of the the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program. This news hit particularly close to home for some on Bowdoin’s campus who are either personally affected by this decision or whose family or loved ones are. Soon after, President Rose issued a deliberate and compassionate response to the decision, reiterating the College’s commitment to the safety and security of all of its students, its belief in the humanity and dignity of immigrants in the United States and its eagerness to offer assistance to students who feel at risk.
Taken together, these actions constitute a commendable and encouraging move by the College, setting a tone of resilience and compassion as students return to campus. Although we applaud the College for these steps, they should not be considered the end of the College’s efforts. We aim to hold Bowdoin accountable for future responses and actions in regards to the interests of its students. But if the College’s reactions to the events of the summer are any indication of what’s to come, we are hopeful for the trajectory of our community.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Harry DiPrinzio, Sarah Drumm, Alyce McFadden, Ian Stewart and Ian Ward.
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Let’s not pat ourselves on the back too hard now. I certainly approve of the College’s actions, but I am not impressed or convinced that the College has truly set the right tone. You write of admirable actions, yet all we’ve gotten is a couple of emails. This is not concrete action. Concrete action would be accomplishing something admirable, like desegregating the student body or making this campus truly accessible to all.