There’s something in the air at Bowdoin, and it’s local politics.
The Brunswick Town Council just unanimously approved a new ordinance expanding opportunities for Bowdoin students to serve on town committees for up to three one-year terms. On Monday, the Department of Government and Legal Studies is hosting an open forum on the Pine Tree Power referendum in Kresge Auditorium for Maine voters. All the while, Bowdoin Votes continues to operate in full swing ahead of Election Day in November, tabling on the quad to register students to vote in Maine.
The message—from the town, the College and our peers—is clear: Bowdoin students have a place in Brunswick politics. This is a space we should each work to inhabit with humility, grace and conviction.
Town councils are an integral part of the communities they serve. With new positions come a crucial opportunity for Bowdoin students to bridge gaps between the College and the greater Brunswick community. We have a responsibility to interpret this privilege as a call to action and a way to demonstrate our commitment to the town that exists beyond the bounds of our campus.
We urge students to fill these positions as they become available. If we do not answer the town’s call for our engagement, we risk discouraging the town from extending similar offers in the future.
Even if you don’t hold a seat, contact your representatives. Learn their names and their positions. Ask questions. It is vital to stay educated on matters of state and local importance, especially for those registered to vote in Maine. The Pine Tree Power referendum, for example, will determine the future of energy use for all Mainers, including college students. Attending the forum on Monday is a great first step for students to hear community perspectives on this issue and develop their own.
While we encourage students to “burst the Bowdoin bubble” by getting locally involved, we urge you to do so humbly and thoughtfully. The term “Town versus Gown” is not just a pithy phrase—it is a real challenge that colleges and college towns continue to confront. In Brunswick, concerns over the environmental and residential impact that the recent Farley Field expansion will have on the town have exemplified the conflicting priorities of some Brunswick residents and the College.
When doing local work, you will often encounter people who have lived in Brunswick far longer than you. Effective participation can mean being a leader, but it also often means deferring to those with more knowledge and playing a supporting role. Understanding long-term residents’ perspectives is necessary for any student’s engagement with the town. Approach these perspectives openly and without arrogance.
We recognize that diving into local issues is both daunting and time-consuming. However, on a campus where your focus can be pulled in so many directions, we hope that you will devote some of that focus to the greater political community that, for now, is your home.
This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Sara Coughlin, Nikki Harris, Abdullah Hashimi, Emma Kilbride, Campbell Zeigler, Austin Zheng, Sam Pausman and Juliana Vandermark.