I came to the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) with zero outdoor experience. I decided to join because I went on a hike led by a student as part of the Explore Bowdoin program, which provides prospective students who are underrepresented at the College with the opportunity to visit Bowdoin before deciding if they will apply. After getting my first check from my work study job as a line server at Moulton, I walked to the BOC and paid the membership fee. I was excited, but nervous—was this a place for me?

I did every possible activity I could do with the BOC; from whitewater kayaking to camping at Merritt Island to joining Spring Leadership Training in order to be qualified to lead student trips. I quickly realized something that many students have voiced concern about. The BOC was overwhelmingly white, which seemed odd for a college that is as diverse as Bowdoin. I wanted to change this and led trips with Explore Bowdoin and Out of the Zone Leadership Training, trips mostly comprised of students of color and low-income whites. While minorities were getting in touch with the BOC, it was clear that the BOC needed more.

In the past year, since the student-organized Meeting in the Union and open letter to the community published in the Orient, the conversation about race in the College has shifted. With this shift, different spaces on campus have changed to some extent as well. The BOC started off this academic year by putting a free trip pass for all students in their mailboxes and advertised that it would give financial aid to students for whom the joining fee presented an economic barrier. Intergroup dialogue has also been implemented in some programs. There is space for improvement, but for the first time in my four years at the BOC, I felt like we were on the right track to make it a diverse and inclusive space.

But now the BOC faces new financial difficulties, which will force it to reduce its activities and its generous financial aid. Students who have cars, financial resources and experience will still be able to participate in outdoor activities, but for others, the BOC is the only opportunity they’ve ever had to do outdoor activities. The telemark skiing class, which the BOC subsidized for me my first year at Bowdoin, might get cancelled because the BOC can’t afford to pay for the bus that takes students to Sugarloaf. The BOC will also have to reduce other trips that go out every weekend, especially the ones that are overnight. This is concerning because it is a halt to the progress the BOC has been making in creating a diverse environment (and I mean diverse in the racial, economic and cultural sense). Despite the BOC’s commitment to being financially accessible to all students, there is no doubt that students who will be most affected by the BOC’s budget shortage are those who don’t usually have access to the outdoors and haven’t gone on trips before because of the financial barrier it presents.

Bowdoin is not a college that is financially unstable. We have many resources (hopefully a type of emergency fund for when there are budget shortages as well). I’m not asking the Student Activity Funding Committee to give the BOC a disproportionate amount of money which would take away from other clubs. I’m asking the College to change the way they give funds to the BOC and to show they’re going to make sure we have the diverse and inclusive environment we’ve been struggling to create. I want to know that students won’t be the ones who have to pay the consequences of a budget mistake and bureaucratic processes of getting access to monetary resources.

President Barry Mills greatly changed the demographics of the College by increasing the amount of financial aid the college offered to its students, which was a great step in the right direction. Now the College faces a new challenge: how to make students at Bowdoin have the same access to resources in their four years here and thus also increase its diversity in spaces like the BOC which have been mostly white. The question now is if this is a priority for the College.