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Questions linger about future of depleted Kaempfer Fund

January 31, 2020

Like many visual art students, Maddie Squibb ’20 went into the semester choosing between a couple of courses. “Printmaking II or an advanced painting independent study?” she wondered.

“And then I got the email about the Kaempfer Fund running out and it made me think, ‘Oh, I guess I won’t pursue an independent study,’” said Squibb, who is a visual arts minor.

The Kaempfer Fund, an endowed fund which also supports the Kaempfer Summer Art Grant, subsidizes art supplies for students on financial aid. Typically, eligible students pay the first $100 spent on supplies for the class and the College covers any subsequent costs.

But last week, an email was sent to all students enrolled in visual arts courses which stated that the “annual allotment of Kaempfer funds was depleted by 80 percent in the fall semester … for the Spring 2020 semester, for as long as funds last, first priority for Kaempfer fund support will be limited to covering the cost of required art kits and course fees only, for eligible students in 1000- and 2000- level courses, up to $300 per student per class.”

“It was surprising that so much of the funding [was used] so early in the year, and that we were being notified, like halfway through the first week of classes,” said Nate DeMoranville ’20, another visual arts minor. “If I were in a photo seminar, I would have dropped it immediately. Last semester I spent $500 on supplies.”

Squibb’s independent study would have been a 3000-level course, meaning that she would only receive $100 from the College. She decided that her painting materials, especially the canvases, would be too costly to justify taking the course.

On Wednesday, a week after the initial email, the Office of the Dean of Students announced that it had secured additional funding for students who qualify for the Kaempfer Fund. Now that the typical guidelines for the fund are back in place, Squibb is reconsidering that independent study.

The Office of the Dean of Students did not answer any questions about how the fund ran out, where the additional funding came from or if student purchases will be more closely monitored this semester.

“A comprehensive review of the fund will occur over the summer to assess historical and projected usage, as well as consider possible necessary adjustments for future student needs in relation to supply lists given to students,” wrote Dean of Students Kristina Bethea Odejimi in an email to the Orient.

Currently, students are free to use the fund however they choose. Students who qualify are instructed to pay the first $100 and then can purchase as many materials as they need from the Bowdoin Bookstore at no cost. If they need something that’s not available, they can purchase it themselves elsewhere and then receive reimbursement from the College.

“It would be most equitable if they expanded it because then the kids with the Kaempfer [funding] would have as much freedom as the kids who don’t need to worry about that,” Squibb said.

Both she and DeMoranville said that they know of students who have used the fund to purchase materials to use outside of class, often stocking up on photo paper or paints for summer personal projects. DeMoranville suggested that after the first $500, perhaps student purchases should be more closely monitored.

“The Kaempfer Fund is supposed to equalize the experience for everyone,” said DeMoranville. “So part of me is like, well, I should be working on this over the summer and during the breaks and stuff. So it would be nice if I could get a couple rolls of film and some paper at the end of the course, but not an extreme amount.”

Nearly half of all enrolled Bowdoin students receive financial aid and thus qualify for the Kaempfer Fund. Although more funding was secured for this semester, Squibb and DeMoranville said that they are worried about the viability of the fund going forward.

“It had never occurred to me in the past that the Kemper fund could be depleted,” said Squibb. “I hope that it expands.”


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