In solidarity with the largest global youth strike in history, Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) organized a climate rally on the museum steps earlier today. While this once would have been a rare sight on our campus, instances of student activism are becoming increasingly frequent and visible.
The events of the past year have sparked a hunger for political action on campus, fueled largely by members of the Class of 2022. From the climate crisis to U.S. Supreme Court politics to labor practices on our campus, students have become more involved in issues that directly affect our local and global communities.
In October 2018, several hundred Bowdoin students walked out of class to protest the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The protest garnered state-wide news coverage. For many students, the Kavanaugh protest was the first time they had seen an action of such magnitude on campus.
“The Brett Kavanaugh walkout was, in my four years, the largest protest Bowdoin has done,” Maxx Byron ’19 told the Orient in January.
Students’ passion even led them to take action in our nation’s capital. Eight students (six of whom were members of the Class of 2022) were arrested, some outside the office of Maine Senator Susan Collins and others outside the Supreme Court, while protesting Kavanaugh’s nomination.
That several hundred students, faculty and staff gathered outside Baxter House last May for the Bowdoin Labor Alliance’s (BLA) “Rally for a Living Wage” was more evidence of a growing spirit of activism. In a little over a year of activity, BLA and their supporters’ continual pressure on the College has yielded some concessions, though a living wage is still far from a reality.
Like unfair labor practices or accused sexual predators on our nation’s highest court, the increasingly urgent question of climate policy has spurred students to action. Bowdoin students, many working with the Sunrise Movement through BCA, have participated in actions throughout New England. Some members have traveled as far as Washington, D.C.. The energy surrounding this movement has been felt across the College and for many has become yet another sign of a marked increase in political action on campus.
The Kavanaugh nomination process lasted for only a few weeks, whereas the opportunity for climate activism will only grow in the years to come. For a school so concerned with its environmental image (though still not divested!), it’s only right that real action should follow.
LEED-certified buildings such as the Roux Center for the Environment look good, but hundreds of students rallying on the quad looks better. The Roux Center makes Bowdoin News, but climate protests make national news. Whatever Bowdoin students are fighting for, we hope that they will continue to show up.
Walkouts and marches provide easily accessible, low-stakes opportunities for students to engage in the issues that directly affect them. The buy-in is low; the payoff is high. An hour of your morning lends momentum to a vast global movement.
To BLA, BCA and all the other organizers on campus: well done. You’ve built a lot of momentum over the past year—don’t lose it.
Let the museum steps become a center for political action.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Emily Cohen, Brianna Cunliffe, Roither Gonzales, Rohini Kurup, Alyce McFadden, Reuben Schafir and Jaret Skonieczny.