This piece is the second in a series written by members of the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) Student Officer Team and individuals within the BOC student leadership. Our goal with these pieces is to share the work we have been doing to examine racism in outdoor recreation and the BOC’s role in creating more inclusive outdoor spaces.
Last week, we briefly addressed the historic and contemporary racial inequity and inaccessibility of the outdoors for BIPOC communities and other marginalized groups. We believe that the BOC can contribute to shifting this narrative, and we are striving to make both the outdoors and our community more accessible and inclusive. This week’s column discusses the reasons to consider changing the organization’s name and adapt the mission statement to more clearly reflect these inclusive values.
We think it is critical that our name and mission statement reflect our purpose to serve every Bowdoin student. The language should communicate that the BOC is a space for outdoor engagement, personal growth and community development. Another focus in these undertakings is to deemphasize traditional narratives of “outdoorsy-ness” and outdoor leadership and to instead build a more accurate narrative that recognizes the whole spectrum of outdoor engagement.
We believe our current title—the Bowdoin Outing Club—and specifically the word “club,” fails to convey that the BOC is a resource open to everyone on campus. The term “club” has a connotation of class exclusivity—think “country club” or “yacht club.” Moreover, the word “club” in the context of a college campus does not accurately reflect the structure of the BOC. Like many college clubs, we have student officers, leaders and members, but we are not purely student-led, as we are also supported by two full-time directors.
Additionally, we think the word “outing” is ambiguous, antiquated and fails to capture the full range of experiences at the BOC. Historically, the term “outing” has been used to reference long excursions, and we believe it continues to suggest expeditionary-style trips when, in reality, most of the BOC’s trips are local, day excursions.
We would like to find a name that better represents our organization and works in concert with our mission statement. Currently, we are rewriting our mission statement so that it more accurately reflects our organization’s goals, priorities and intentions. With the hope of hearing community feedback, we are including our working draft below:
“We are a community of people who seek to foster self-awareness and personal growth through peer mentorship, experiential learning, and fun in the outdoors. We strive to eliminate systemic barriers to make the outdoors and our organization more accessible and inclusive for students from all lived experiences.”
While we don’t yet have a finalized mission statement or a new name, we are actively working on this project. To solicit input from the student body, we have hosted discussions and sent out a survey about name options. These conversations are in response to feedback from a campus-wide survey, the recommendations generated from the Anti-Racism in the Outdoors (ARO) training participants and conversations with students.
Changing our name and rewriting our mission statement may appear superficial, but we believe that these actions are connected to a deeper cultural and structural evolution in our organization, and it is important that our language reflect this. If changing our name and mission statement makes even the smallest of impacts on the perceived accessibility and inclusivity of our organization, then we see it as a worthwhile component in the evolution of the BOC. If you have any feedback that you’d like to share, please be in touch with the officer team.
Aine Lawlor ’21, Chelsea Whiting Puckett ’22 and the BOC Student Officer Team