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Faculty debrief affirmative action, first year advising

September 15, 2023

Last Friday, September 8, faculty convened for the first time under Barry Mills Hall’s lofty wood ceilings for their opening meeting of the 2023–2024 academic year. The meeting, which was moderated by Associate Professor of Government Jeffrey Selinger, covered the Supreme Court’s historic decision on race-conscious admissions practices, provided updates about the College’s ongoing initiatives and welcomed new faculty and staff members.

In her first-ever report to the faculty, President Safa Zaki echoed the sentiments of former President Rose’s email to the College in the wake of the Supreme Court’s effective ending of race-based affirmative action policies. The opinion, handed down just days before Zaki’s official start at the College, has raised critical questions about how selective institutions like Bowdoin will now approach equitable admissions practices.

“It’s paradoxical that, almost to the day, my coming here coincided with a Supreme Court decision that ended the use of affirmative action in college decisions,” Zaki said. “I strongly believe in access to institutions like [Bowdoin] just because of the way in which it can transform lives. I want to say that we are, of course, going to do everything in our power to comply with the law but also push forward our key institutional tenets and ideals.”

Expanding on Zaki’s earlier remarks, Senior Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Student Aid Claudia Marroquin further explained the process behind the College’s response to the shifting admissions landscape.

“The [Supreme Court] decision affects decision-making,” Marroquin said. “There are certainly areas where the College, and my office, will be making calculated decisions on how to move forward. There have been some major changes we have made.”

While unable to fully divulge the details of the admissions office’s shifting approach under the advice of Bowdoin’s legal counsel, Marroquin highlighted the College’s addition of a supplemental question asking students to consider an experience that required them to navigate difference. Though the question was first included in Bowdoin’s application last year, it may nonetheless play a crucial role in allowing admissions officers to learn more about applicants’ backgrounds while still complying with the legal constraints of the decision.

Friday’s meeting also touched on several ongoing initiatives from the previous academic year. Associate Dean for Curriculum Dallas Denery provided faculty with an update to the College’s continued transition to Workday.

Additionally, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Katherine Dauge-Roth and Associate Dean for Faculty Recruitment and Pre-major Advising Rachel Beane presented the progress made by the working group dedicated to developing a new pre-major advising model. Dauge-Roth and Beane outlined the tentative advising model, comprising an online orientation to the liberal arts curriculum, completion of placement surveys and selection of first-year writing seminars in June; submission of remaining course preferences in mid-July; and meetings with pre-major advisors once on campus in August. The working group’s proposed plan marks the first step in concluding a prolonged and contentious debate over alternatives to first year advising—a debate that figured prominently in meetings in the previous academic year and ended with a vote to change the existing model.

Faculty also took the time to welcome new members of the College community. Selinger read out the names and positions of each new faculty and staff member, who were welcomed to the College with a warm round of applause.

The next faculty meeting will take place on October 6, 2023, in Mills Hall.


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