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BowdoinEvery Day

February 24, 2023

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

As Bowdoin celebrated another year of a successful BowdoinOne Day, students were met with free coffee and doughnuts, high-fives from the Bowdoin polar bear, letter-writing stations in Smith Union and an overwhelming sense of school spirit and campus camaraderie.

Held around the National Random Acts of Kindness day, the College aimed to link its fundraising initiatives with the holiday for the second annual year. Free coffee and tea from the Café to raise awareness about a College fundraising goal is not a “random act of kindness.” It is strategic.

In an email to the College last Thursday, Janet Lohmann wrote, “Being kind matters, and at Bowdoin, we celebrate making kindness the norm.”

We agree with this statement, but we challenge the efficacy of BowdoinOne Day at achieving this goal. Kindness should not be something we relegate to just one day. Rather, it should be something that is encouraged and celebrated all the time. While an excellent sentiment, and a fun day, it would be even better if the College put these words into action throughout the year.

This year’s BowdoinOne Day was by all accounts a success, and the College surpassed its goal of one donation per student. This is an unalloyed good, as those donations will go towards helping students’ financial aid and improving the campus that we all share. However, the marketing around One Day raises the question of the extent to which these gestures are performative or genuine.

In April of 2020, the College postponed its One Day fundraiser in an effort to “focus on Bowdoin.” This is because the day isn’t about no-strings-attached kindness, it is about fundraising for the College—a worthy goal, but a different one.

Reminding our community of the importance of kindness is a useful goal. But linking kindness to a one-day event creates the impression that kindness is an outlier rather than a core principle of the College. Giving to the College is not something that Bowdoin needs to associate with one day of kindness, anyway. Honoring and reflecting on one’s experience at the College with the goal of maintaining and improving that experience for current and future students is reason enough to donate.

Promoting fundraising as an act of kindness can also create an overjustification effect, in which the incentive to donate by way of random kindness distracts from the obvious and more real reason to donate, which is to improve the College.

Infusing BowdoinOne Day with kindness is a great way of centering the day around students and our campus community, but college-wide kindness initiatives should not stop here.

Decoupling kindness from fundraising looks like kindness for the sake of kindness. It can look like community-building initiatives, but just as importantly, if not more, it can look like exemplifying and implementing more random acts of kindness every day.

This can be holding the door open for a friend, but it should also be more deans opening up their office doors and holding office hours for honest and kind conversation with students. Encouraging relationships and understanding between faculty and students should be the norm, not a One-Day-a-year performance.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Robeson Amory, Andrew Cohen, Nikki Harris, Juliana Vandermark, Halina Bennet and Seamus Frey.


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