In September of 2018, I wrote an article about why the black kids sit together in the classroom. I argued for academic reform to engage students across difference. Crucially, my conclusion was this: “when we as students present ourselves as a unified front to the administration, how can they tell us that this system works?”
Student activism was only one part of my proposed solution to self-segregation. The student body would hypothetically come together to demand reform from the administration, who would then radically revolutionize Bowdoin College. But there’s a contradiction to this logic. If the entire student body were able to come together on its own volition, then the administration would have done its job. The Offer of the College would have been realized.
This is, of course, not the case in our current sociopolitical climate, but what would this campus look like if students really did come together to engage across difference? And what steps can we take as students to include everyone in all parts of campus life?
As much as I disparage division on campus, there are so many moments where I feel connected to the student body. My favorite moment this year was the Food Truck Night, which took place in lieu of Pub Night. Lines stretched all across Dudley Coe Quad, and similar to the Lobster Bake, it was a fresh forum to connect with old friends but also make new ones. Student Activities planned the event, but it would be so easy to replicate. We can do this again as a student-led program.
And already students are putting on events that bring the campus together. In a couple of weeks there will be Ivies, which the Entertainment Board organizes every year, and the weekend after is the Spring Gala (all thanks to Jenna Scott ’19). In the meantime, there are, of course, athletic contests. Every Saturday, you can count on a home game in at least one sport, and if we’re lucky, maybe we’ll host another championship. As women’s basketball and volleyball have shown, these events also bring people together.
The beauty of a liberal arts education at Bowdoin is the ability to specialize in one area of study but find respect and support from other students in different fields of study. Increasingly, this academic rapport replicates itself in our social lives. Just as non-athletes go to sports games, so too do athletes go to non-athletic events. Art and Color at Reed House, for example, is a collaboration with the African American Society and will bring people of all demographics to Boody Street.
The College Houses provide a unique opportunity for us to come together on a microscale. We all use them. Art and Color is one of my favorite events, but ask another student and maybe it’s Cold War. Or Macoween. Someone else might even say it’s their team’s mixer. The details don’t matter as much as the fact that these Houses bring diverse groups into the same space. We can capitalize on this momentum with more collaborative programming. When we work together, wonderful things can happen.
It is our responsibility to make this campus more inclusive. I’ve spent junior year going to different events, meeting new people and getting outside of my comfort zone. This may be a stretch, but I think we can unite the campus if we focus on the individual. Let’s get to work.