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A necessary discourse

April 25, 2024

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

“It ought always to be remembered, that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good, and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education,” President Joseph McKeen said in his 1802 inaugural address. The Common Good continues to be a guiding principle for students and the College alike.

Since October 7th, the United Nations (UN) has reported that Israeli attacks have killed 34,000 and displaced 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza. UN experts have characterized the crisis as “a genocide in the making” and called Gaza a “graveyard for children,” estimating that a child is killed every ten minutes.

Yesterday, Bowdoin Students for Justice in Palestine released a petition in solidarity with the Palestinian people, calling for Bowdoin to take what we view as reasonable and necessary actions. We believe that this petition asks us as a community to fully live up to our pursuit of the Common Good. While the college is not required to enact the requests of the referendum, if it passes, the referendum would continue to push much-needed discourse. We encourage students to sign the petition and, if it moves to a referendum vote, to vote yes.

The petition makes the following four requests of the College:

1. “To take a public, institutional stand against the Israeli government’s ongoing scholasticide in Gaza.”

2. “That Bowdoin disclose its exposure—both direct and indirect—to arms manufacturing across its entire portfolio.”

3. “That Bowdoin, in selecting future funds, commit to not investing in defense-focused funds and funds with significant holdings (over 33 percent) in … corporations, whose weapons have directly facilitated the mass killing of Palestinians.”

4. “That the Board of Trustees reinstate an independent committee comprising students, faculty and staff to oversee social responsibility in the College’s investments.”

An integral component of fulfilling the Common Good is ensuring that the College makes ethical investments. The College’s $2.4 billion endowment should reflect its values. In the late 1970s and ’80s, Bowdoin created a temporary committee to divest from apartheid South Africa, fully divesting in 1987. Though the committee dissolved in the mid ’90s, Bowdoin has continued considering the ethical implications of its investments. In 2006, Bowdoin divested from the Sudanese government in response to the genocide in Darfur, acting upon a recommendation from an advisory committee. And last year, Bowdoin confirmed that its investment in fossil fuels is less than two percent of the endowment’s value. In creating a committee of student, faculty and staff voices to promote socially responsible investing in the future, the referendum would ensure ethical investment and offer the chance “to cooperate with others for common ends.”

We encourage our peers to practice their continued commitment to the spirit of the Common Good by signing and voting yes.

This editorial represents the view of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Miles Berry, Lily Echeverria, Jane Olsen, Talia Traskos-Hart, Kristen Kinzler, Sam Pausman and Juliana Vandermark.


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