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February 23, 2024

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

Yesterday President Safa Zaki sent an email to the Bowdoin community with details about the search for the College’s next senior vice president and dean for student affairs. The College has retained the search firm WittKieffer to assist with the hiring process. Next week, the search consultant with that firm, Shelia Murphy, will host campus listening sessions to gather insights from students, administrators and faculty.

We encourage as many members of the Bowdoin community as possible to attend these sessions and share their perspectives on what they value and hope to see in the next senior vice president and dean of student affairs.

To enact the changes we students want, we need to make sure our voices are heard. It is not productive to be complacent in your woes and ruminations on the mythical Bowdoin of the past. Instead, take this opportunity to channel your discontent into constructive complaints for the administration. They are opening the door to listen.

We ask that our voices be valued and that the search firm and committee use the feedback from these sessions to inform their decision. To enact adequate change, two things need to happen: We need to attend these meetings, and the College must take our input into account. One cannot happen without the other; it is absolutely imperative for the future of student affairs at the College that we act now.

This is especially important when it comes to deciding who will be the next dean of student affairs, the head of an office that, in recent years, the student body has not always felt fairly represents its needs or desires.

Student approval of the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs has been low over the past several years, reflecting a disconnect between the office and the student body. In the May 2023 Bowdoin Orient Student Survey, only 26 percent of students reported approving or strongly approving of the office. In May 2022, amid controversial changes to Ivies weekend, this number was just 12 percent, while 55 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved.

Even before the pandemic, the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs has consistently had the lowest approval rating of the offices at the College. In 2019, less than half of the student body had favorable feelings toward the office.

Clearly, students have been discontent with the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, but the campus listening sessions are one of the first opportunities for the administration to truly hear and address our concerns. These offices should prioritize students’ needs. The Office of the Dean of Student Affairs is in charge of guiding the student experience. It is about time that this office is actually representative of the student body.

We are optimistic about what positive changes a new dean of student affairs can implement at Bowdoin. We thank the search committee and firm for giving our community an opportunity to share our perspective. We ask that they please listen.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Sara Coughlin, Abdullah Hashimi, Kristen Kinzler, Margaret Unger, Sam Pausman and Juliana Vandermark.













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