When we began our time at Bowdoin, none of us could have imagined it would end like this. This is not the Bowdoin we signed up for—we never thought we would finish the semester in little Zoom boxes, eating take-out from the dining hall or living at home again. This year has been difficult, and it has been painful. It has been one of the most exhausting years, mentally and emotionally, that many of us have ever experienced. We have lost so much.
We have all lost different things, some much more serious than others. Some of us have lost fellowship opportunities, some have lost family members and we have all lost a sense of normalcy and grounding.
Nothing can ever quite redeem the damage inflicted by the pandemic. The Bowdoin community has experienced collective social and emotional trauma, further compounded by circumstances where our ability to reach out to one another for support has been decimated. Many students, faculty and staff members, as well as their families, have been impacted by the virus at a personal level to degrees that we can’t and won’t even begin to try to articulate.
We’re not going to try to pretend that the trauma of this past year doesn’t exist and won’t affect every one of us personally. But we do need to find a way out of it somehow.
This week, alum DeRay Mckesson ’07 spoke about his “action-based, optimistic approach” to activism, saying that “sitting in the problem just overwhelms people.” What happens if we take a leaf from his book—look forward, acknowledge, process our suffering and try to see the next step? We see an opportunity.
The next time we see four classes of Bowdoin students on campus, at least half of them will have never experienced what it’s like to live the “normal” college experience so many of us have desperately been wanting back. The campus community will include more competing visions of what Bowdoin should look like, making for less of a collective notion of what Bowdoin stands for and what values our cultural institutions uphold than at any other point in our history—our institutional memory is, to a degree, wiped.
So yes, this is an opportunity. As students, we owe it to ourselves and our peers—to the collective trauma we have all experienced this year—to take this opportunity and make something of it. To recognize the potential to be critical, thoughtful and intentional about evaluating our clubs and teams, our social circles and our relationships with each other in order to steer Bowdoin towards the direction we want it to go. To erase the toxic and exclusive aspects of our institutions and reimagine them free of any expectations or preconceptions of what they are, have been or should be.
We are obliged to do whatever we can to help one another heal from the shared and personal trauma of this past year. Even if we cannot find something good in all the loss we have experienced, how can we come together to make positive change on our campus?
The only thing that will do anything to redeem the emotional, intellectual and social trauma that living through this past academic year has levied on us is the opportunity to rebuild. Let’s do something with it.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Julia Jennings, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay, Dylan Sloan and Ayub Tahlil.