If you’ve attended a campus event recently—anything from first-year move in to a senior networking and interviewing workshop—you’ve likely seen the new Bowdoin Votes tables, staffed by students eager to help their peers register to vote. We applaud these efforts, and believe that other Bowdoin students should follow suit—find something you care about and get involved.
In 2017, the New York Times published the Equality of Opportunity Project’s report that stated that the median family income of a Bowdoin student is $195,900, while the median family income in America hovers around $59,000. In part due to this discrepancy, the experiences of the average Bowdoin student are not in line with the average American’s, and their level of political engagement is largely reflective of that privilege.
Political engagement is something that many Bowdoin students keep at a comfortable arm’s length. The government and legal studies department is the biggest on campus, full of ostensible future politicians, but serious, detailed conversations about current politics rarely happen. We are passingly aware of what’s going on, and many of us are frustrated by what we read in the news, but that is as far as it goes.
We also lead busy lives. It’s easy to turn our backs on the political realities of the wider world as we commit to our campus obligations. In order to be a successful Bowdoin student, there’s a pressure to turn inward, use Bowdoin’s resources and immerse yourself in campus activities.
And why put in the effort to raise arms when it seems like everyone around us is already on the same political page? If our largely liberal campus has learned nothing else from the night of the 2016 election, it is that the beliefs of our community do not reflect the wider nation or even the state of Maine. Trump won 47 percent of the popular vote in Maine, while one Orient article found that he won a mere six percent of the Bowdoin student body’s vote. Just because a political outcome feels certain from our perspective does not mean it will come to pass. We must act if we want to make our values into political reality.
Bowdoin students manage to juggle our chaotic workloads by actively budgeting our time for the things that we care about. If we care about the state of our politics, local and national, we have to make time to affect them. Set aside a chunk of time every week to take some kind of political action, the same way you set aside time for intramural sports, French homework or your shift at the Café.
So—how to take action? Choose what works and is meaningful to you. Make sure you’re registered to vote and have requested an absentee ballot if you won’t be able to vote in person. Call your representatives and share your views and priorities. Reach out to the Bowdoin Republicans or Democrats who will be organizing campaign efforts at the Student Activities fair. While you’re there, talk to other campus political groups advocating for more specific causes you’re interested in, such as Bowdoin Climate Action or the Bowdoin Labor Alliance. Donate to campaigns you believe in and causes that matter to you. Go online and find a phonebanking initiative, either for a Maine candidate or one running in your home district. Bowdoin students genuinely care about improving our communities. It’s time we acted like it.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Nell Fitzgerald, Dakota Griffin, Calder McHugh, Devin McKinney, Surya Milner and Jessica Piper.