Last week was International Week at Bowdoin—a week when the international student community celebrates its members’ cultures while reflecting on unique struggles that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. In an Orient feature covering International Week, many international students voiced concerns about a lack of sufficient support from the College. These issues aren’t new, and they deserve our attention.
When COVID-19 cases first began to spread in the United States in early 2020, Bowdoin’s shutdown and the government’s subsequent restrictions posed a myriad of challenges for international students; factors such as travel bans, excessive time differences and U.S. laws surrounding VISA status threatened the ability of international students to successfully engage in classes. In the features piece, international students reported that the College had made an effort to meet their needs, but many feel they had not been provided adequate solutions to the obstacles they continue to face.
As reported in this week’s feature, international students are demanding the College do better, and they are now asking for access to safe, on-campus housing this summer. Many of their home countries still face grave threats from COVID-19, whether due to economic and political roadblocks hindering access to vaccines or new strains making the virus more dangerous than ever. The challenges that prevented international students from feeling comfortable returning home last summer when Bowdoin supported all international students who requested housing are still in place. The offer of guaranteed on-campus housing is not.
Even in non-COVID-19 times, the infrastructure in place at Bowdoin for supporting its international students is lacking. Unlike many of our NESCAC peers, Bowdoin does not have any single staff member entirely devoted to working with the unique, and often more delicate, circumstances that international students face. Currently, one dean is responsible for advising half of all Bowdoin sophomores, juniors and seniors as well as aiding all international students. Just like our peer institutions, such as Bates, Hamilton, Middlebury and Trinity, Bowdoin should have one staff member who is entirely dedicated to helping solve the challenges that international students face.
International students have expressed frustration at constantly being treated as an afterthought throughout this past year, and yet, the College has still not adopted more intensive measures to aid them. This does not match the College’s goal of upholding the Common Good and building a network of community support and care. We need to finally start listening to students when they ask for help.
We urge the College to prioritize finding solutions to the problems faced by international students. We ask that Bowdoin consider how its administrative systems may best be altered to support these students through the pandemic and beyond and make the necessary changes as soon as possible.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Julia Jennings, Katie King, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay, Dylan Sloan and Emily Staten.