Fall break, for some particular reason, always falls around Indigenous People’s Day (formerly known as Columbus Day). However, this piece will not be about how most American holidays are centered around European-Americans and Christanity; the thing most present on my mind after this four-day weekend was the fact that I, for one, did not get any rest or an actual break. Some professors at Bowdoin actually assigned quizzes and exams and papers to be due right after the break, knowing that we would have to use those extra two days to remain caught up or risk falling behind, given the amount of work to be done.
So here we are, a few days post-break, and I wonder: who did this break truly serve? Most students have been burnt out since week two (based on no data, just a plethora of conversations with other students), noting that the amount of work assigned this semester far exceeds the work done during an in-person semester. Now, I am not one who tells someone how to do their job, but given the pandemic and the amount of re-traumatization that is occuring, I think it’s OK that the faculty extend a little grace. As much as I bet you all would like to grade a few less assignments, the student body would appreciate the time to rest, connect with others, sleep and eat.
Many of us are missing meals to get to class and are staying up later and waking up even earlier as we try to “do school” across many time zones. Our sleeping schedules are out of whack, our nerves are shot and the last thing any of us want to do is respond to a European American’s discussion post on the use of Blackface in minstrel shows.
Thus, I now pose a question to the student body: when are we going to do something about it? We’ve had quite a few pieces in the Orient come out noting that this is anything but a normal semester, and yet after this “break” we are still burnt out and stretched thin. On a more radical campus, I think the word “strike” would be getting thrown out a lot more, and we’d see it come to fruition. Just 50 years ago, under the leadership of President Howell, Bowdoin students organized a strike in support of Kent State University students after the Kent State Massacre and to protest the Nixon administration.
The Bowdoin strike of 1970 was pivotal in bringing President Howell into conversations regarding the changes students wanted to see from the College. This resulted in women being admitted and the College establishing an Environmental Science program as well as the Afro-American Studies program and African, Asian and Latin American history courses. The willingness of students to put their assignments on hold in the name of creating an institution that would better serve the world around them is something I wonder if current Bowdoin students are capable of.
Our current culture of complacency combined with the performative white feminist activism that is the norm here in Brunswick makes it hard for me to believe that any true radical movements can occur here. DeRay Mckesson ’07 was a key figure in the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign, a movement campaigning for eight comprehensive law enforcement reforms to become standards across the country. The only two parties that get any recognition in our country are practically the same, and they refuse to do the work that actually helps the people who need it the most. And, most painfully, there are people on this campus who believe that capitalism can be reformed (spoiler alert: where there is capitalism, there is exploitation and corruption).
The need for breaks has never been greater, and it is time for Bowdoin students to reclaim their time through force. If a professor is refusing to budge when it comes to deadlines, then act accordingly and turn in the assignment if and when you can. Most of my professors who’ve had me in the past know that I consider deadlines arbitrary; we both know these papers aren’t being read right away, so why create unnecessary anxiety for students who are doing their best to get out of bed everyday?
Institutions like Bowdoin aren’t forever as much as our tour guides would like you to think. 200 years really isn’t that long in the timeline of the universe; even the ancient Romans couldn’t have foreseen the fall of their empire. We can not wait until the fire and devastation is in our faces. Institutions that are not providing for their people, institutions that lock up their people for petty offences that were done in the name of survival, institutions that require respectability from everyone but white men and those who uphold white supremacy are institutions that deserve to burn. If you aren’t afraid because you think your money will save you, you should be. Last time I checked, paper makes great kindling.