Class of 2024: congratulations on making it through your first week! You have been nasal-swabbed, contained to your new (isolation-friendly) home and introduced to most of your professors and peers through a laptop screen. You have relocated during a pandemic, and you have trusted the College with your health and safety. For many of you, it is the first time you have left home, something that is difficult even in the best of times.
If this were a normal year, you would have just returned from a three-day walk in the woods with newly made friends, followed by a non-distanced lobster bake and an uneven rendition of our Alma Mater, “Raise Songs to Bowdoin.” And tonight, you might be headed out for the “House Crawl,” a chance to meet upperclassmen, boogie in the Baxter basement and create memories that would remain beyond your time at Bowdoin.
In short, you would be taking part in traditions that have been around far longer than any one student can remember, events and memories that were given to us by those that came before.
But, due to events far beyond your control, you will not be going to the House Crawl. In fact, you will have no clear roadmap of traditions ahead of you and far fewer upperclassmen than can typically be found on campus to show you the way. But that is OK, because where tradition is absent, opportunity lies.
You have the opportunity to create your own student culture, to rewrite the College’s traditions for a time unlike any other and to adapt the values Bowdoin espouses to an era marked by division, systemic racism and socioeconomic inequality on a global scale.
It’s a heavy responsibility, and one even more challenging to take on with much more limited guidance from mentors, campus leaders and upperclassmen. But remember that, even during normal times, most first years form the majority of their close relationships with other first years. While we certainly encourage you to create virtual and in-person (but distanced) relationships with upperclassmen, you should also remember that you and your fellow first years already have the wisdom and maturity necessary to support one another and create meaningful communities together.
We urge you to appreciate this place—it is a very special one—but also to recognize that it is far from perfect. We ask that you rise to what the moment demands. If you see a peer struggling, help out. If you see a problem or an injustice, speak up. This is your opportunity to lead by example, to be a voice and to demonstrate why you are a student at Bowdoin. Advocate for your peers, and show up for marginalized groups on campus.
As the spread of COVID-19 cases subsides, the opportunities for in-person connections and campus gatherings will slowly return to Bowdoin life. But it is likely that what was considered normal before the pandemic will look different at Bowdoin in the years to come. In this vacuum of student leadership on campus, there exists room for new traditions and the revitalization of ideals.
You already are a part of Bowdoin, and you have the exciting opportunity to write the next part of it.
So first years, remember, it’s all in your hands. (And please wash them, too.)
This editorial represents the majority view of the Orient’s Editorial Board, which is comprised of Julia Jennings, Diego Lasarte, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay, Katherine Pady and Steven Xu.