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After Parkland

February 23, 2018

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

As this week’s Orient story on political activity and activism at Bowdoin makes clear, much of our campus is slow to take to the streets regarding just about anything. This week has been no exception. As students around the nation mobilize in response to the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, our sleepy Brunswick campus has remained sleepy.

Having come of age in the mass-shooting era—an era that has seen barely any gun-control legislation in response to persistently horrific gun violence—college- and high-school-age students are understandably jaded about the prospects of reform. Yet there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic that this event is different. As high school students around the country have rallied in support of more rigorous gun legislation, the nation is paying attention for longer than usual. Unlike after other mass shootings in the United States, web traffic about gun control has not dropped off after a week’s worth of news cycles. Even CNN’s Town Hall on February 21 struck an unusually resonant chord.

Bowdoin students should not let this moment pass us by, and we should take this opportunity to shake off the inertia and passive fatalism that characterizes our campus’ political conscience. Like our high school peers who have begun to overcome our nation’s unconscionable inaction on gun violence, we should—we must—recognize that the status quo is lethal.

There are several easy actions that everyone can take. First, call your representatives and demand action on gun legislation. Maine has some of the weakest gun laws in the nation, with the result that a disproportionate number of guns bought in Maine are used to commit crimes in states with harsher regulations. Next, several protests are slated to take place over the next couple of months. Find one and participate. On March 14, at 10 a.m., there will be a national school walkout for 17 minutes, representing the 17 lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The March for Our Lives, a series of international marches calling for gun control and school safety in America, will take place on March 24, a few days before the end of Spring Break. On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, there will be another national school walkout. Participate yourself and offer support to local high schoolers taking part. We grew up hiding under desks and pressing ourselves into corners during active shooter drills, too. These high schoolers are doing what we failed to do. As the adults closest to their experience, it’s our duty to take some of the weight.

The College can also play an important role in combating this inertia. Since he has taken office, President Clayton Rose has repeatedly sent out campus-wide emails affirming the College’s moral opposition to violence and hatred in all its form. Yet since the Parkland incident, we have heard nothing from our administration. The College should not be a mouthpiece for partisan political causes, but publicly recognizing a particularly poignant moment in the nation’s unfolding political drama and reiterating the College’s condemnation of violence is not a partisan political move. Moreover, Rose’s commentary does help to set the tenor of campus political engagement, and his silence in the aftermath of Parkland only enforces our campus’ inertia. More concretely, the College should follow MIT’s lead in declining to consider protest-related disciplinary action in its admissions process. The simple truth is that current high school students are risking their academic futures to stand up for what they believe is right. It should be easy for us to follow their lead.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Harry DiPrinzio, Dakota Griffin, Calder McHugh and Ian Ward. 

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