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Worth less, or worthless

July 3, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the author .

I should start by saying that I believe that Bowdoin and its administration, by allowing only a limited number of students to return to campus, is doing its best to protect the health and safety of both its students and the wider community. Realistically, there was no scenario in which campus life this fall would, could or should look anything like the “normal” Bowdoin experience. I am sad that I will not see my friends and peers for some indeterminate length of time, but ultimately, this is about money, not emotions.

So much of college life revolves around its collective social landscape, the chance encounters and conversations that comprise daily life. Bowdoin would have us believe that they offer a superior product to other colleges and universities; that their commitment to education extends beyond the bounds of the classroom; that, at Bowdoin, we are part of a much broader learning community. It is based on such promises that each student pays nearly $28,000 towards tuition each semester.

This model is impossible to maintain during the current pandemic, and the College should not willfully claim otherwise.

I have sometimes struggled at Bowdoin due to a mixture of social, academic and mental health factors. It is tempting to pay my dues and walk away with my degree. To follow the path of least resistance, and to finally be able to call myself a Bowdoin graduate. However, I want my degree to be equivalent to the time and money I have invested in it, an accurate representation of the knowledge and experiences I have accumulated while at the College.The College’s embrace of “Bowdoin Online” for the 2020 fall semester delivers on neither account. The new product on offer from the administration is being delivered to students at the same price point despite being worth only a fraction of an in-person academic experience.

No matter how much the College has worked to improve its instructional methods in the months since we were all forced off campus this spring, a virtual Bowdoin can never encapsulate or replicate the full range of interactions that inform its students’ education. The administration knows this, and their assertion otherwise is either in bad faith or demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding regarding their own purported pedagogic goals.

Whatever the final product may be (and there are plenty of questions to be asked here too), to continue to act as if the coming semester could ever warrant a full Bowdoin tuition is an affront to the College’s academic principles. It also betrays their care and concern for the College’s bottom line over the collective experience of its students. They are asking us to pay $28,000 towards a piece of paper and the title of “graduate,” not towards the worthwhile academic and extracurricular engagements of which a Bowdoin degree is supposedly composed.

It is for this reason that I will be taking a leave of absence in the fall. A semester of college online should be worth less. The College’s refusal to acknowledge this simple reality has made their entire stated academic and educational philosophy worthless.

Annina Breen is a member of the Class of 2021.


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