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On belonging at Bowdoin and beyond

April 14, 2023

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

Dear admitted students,

As you walk along the quad and feel the cool and gentle breeze, taking in the sight of the chapel, students playing spikeball and a squirrel eyeing someone’s lunch, we hope you get the sense that you are home. You belong here. After years of obsessing over good grades, an extensive list of extracurriculars and standardized test scores, we hope Bowdoin feels like the light at the end of the tunnel you’ve worked so hard to find.

That doesn’t mean that Bowdoin won’t be a challenge in itself but that you are capable of taking this on and more. You have proven yourself to be someone whose character and initiative can create opportunities for change, both on and off campus.

And you are walking these storied paths for a reason. Bowdoin admits students who embrace the common good and are willing to make it their own. Though we are united by common values, we are by no means all the same. In fact, the diversity of backgrounds, experiences and dreams of Bowdoin students enriches our close-knit community. No matter where you come from or what you want to pursue, Bowdoin is here to serve you and help you flourish.

It’s the people that make Bowdoin. The buildings are iconic and the quad idyllic. But it is the students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members, both on and off campus, who make our college what it is. Tennessee state Rep. Justin J. Pearson ’17 is one of these people.

Last week, Pearson was expelled from the state House alongside fellow representative Justin Jones after protesting for more stringent gun control measures during a legislative session. Pearson was reinstated two days ago.

After graduating from the College, Pearson returned to South Memphis to fight for environmental justice for the majority-Black community he grew up in. As an activist and civil rights leader, and now a representative for the 86th District of Tennessee, Pearson has embodied the commitment to the common good that characterizes Bowdoin students.

This week, on his show, political commentator Tucker Carlson speculated that Pearson was “probably” only admitted to the College because of affirmative action.

“Justin Pearson wasn’t white. That’s probably how he got into Bowdoin in the first place,” Carlson said on the air.

This statement, and Carlson’s entire coverage of Pearson, is blatantly racist. Pearson belonged at Bowdoin when he set foot on campus in August 2013, just as he did when he received his diploma in May 2017, just as he belongs in the Tennessee House of Representatives today, and every day.

Pearson’s courageous actions embody the convictions we as a college should strive to represent. He was admitted to Bowdoin because of these qualities among many others. You were all admitted for similar qualities and for similar reasons. Be proud of yourselves for being here–we are certainly proud to have you here.

Love, your (future) Editorial Board

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Julia Dickinson, Catalina Escobedo, Nikki Harris, John Schubert, Juliana Vandermark, Halina Bennet and Seamus Frey.


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