The Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good is hiring a student antiracism fellow for the first time this year and re-evaluating their programming and leadership structures to incorporate more voices of people of color.
Over the summer, McKeen Center staff created an antiracism subcommittee, composed of Sarah Seames, director of the McKeen Center, Andrew Lairde, associate director of service and leadership and Avery Friend, administrative coordinator, to reassess the Center as a whole. The subcommittee looked at each of the Center’s programs to assess how they can be made more inclusive and impactful.
“Seeing everything that was happening in the world over the summer, we started to think more about antiracism work in the McKeen Center and how we should be thinking about both our programs and our internal structures as we think about how race intersects with our work,” Seames said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
The McKeen Center typically hires 14 fellows to run programs for students. This year, however, due to most students taking classes remotely, they only have eight fellows. They are also down one professional staff member since Matt Gee, former associate director, left the Center at the end of the summer. But even with the cutbacks, the Center is still pushing to think critically and improve its programming and structure.
“We saw an issue that many BIPOC are disproportionately missing from leadership roles throughout the McKeen Center—they’re participating in these programs but aren’t progressing to many of the leadership roles, and that’s a problem,” said Lardie, associate director for service and leadership and member of the antiracism subcommittee, in a phone interview with the Orient.
Seames will be directly overseeing the newly-hired antiracism fellow.
The fellow won’t be in charge of all the antiracism work; rather, they will focus on expanding the Center’s connection with programs in Maine, utilizing existing antiracism resources and collaborating with departments on campus.
“We recognize that racism exists at Bowdoin—structural racism, historical racism, for example—and we are a part of that. So we need to be looking at our own programs, our office, how we run things and to make sure that we are really conscious of issues of race and to address any problems or structural issues that we need to in order to be thinking in an antiracist framework,” Seames said.
Seames also pointed out that this restructuring is especially important because of the unique position that the McKeen Center has in the Bowdoin community.
“The McKeen Center has kind of this interesting dual facing role. So, we’re a campus office, and we have programming that we run for students that we administer ourselves, but we’re also providing an outward facing focus for students to find opportunities in the community to do whatever they’re passionate about. So, our approach on antiracism needs to also be both inward focused and externally focused,” added Seames.
The McKeen Center will also be adding a suggestion box to their website to allow students to give suggestions or report issues for the subcommittee to focus on.