In no way do I condone the blatant degradation of minorities, especially by those long considered a part of the dominant culture. I detest the misrepresentation of those given no voice, those robbed of their individual liberties and human rights.

I am a white, heterosexual, cisgender male. I practice Christianity and hold traditionally conservative views. In other words, I have tremendous, uninhibited privilege. It is with this privilege that I attend Bowdoin and have access to an elite education.

That’s right—Bowdoin College, a leading and prestigious academic institution. A place abound with spaces and environments meant to further the growth and development of all who attend. A place with nearly limitless means to attain and pursue any educationally necessary end.
That is why, given the nature of the “tequila” party, the “gangster” party and Cracksgiving, I find myself perplexed by the record of administrative response to student strife. Each incident has been met with a degree of punitive justice, entailing a breadth of reprimands and social probations. Even so, these events continue to happen.

Who would have thought, given the backlash the sailing team faced last fall, that anything like the “gangster” party could happen again? But here we are, faced with another Statement of Solidarity, more social probations and the regurgitation of sentiment from relevant administrators.

I understand the use of punitive force in response to these events. Meeting each wrongdoing with what is deemed to be an equal and opposite corrective action makes sense. Historically, humans embrace taking “an eye for an eye” and attaining their “pound of flesh;” a quick, firm disciplinary measure can accomplish this.

But does this ever actually teach us about the emotional harm of ethnic stereotyping? What can be found in punishment other than a new knowledge of what is not to be done and, for that  matter, how to avoid being punished for those actions deemed reprehensible? Had the “Tequila Party” never surfaced on social media, had no invitation ever circulated, could it have, theoretically, gone entirely unnoticed? Who is to say a party won’t fall within those guidelines in the future? The students might not get in trouble or even be found out, thus leaving them unpunished and, more importantly, unaware of the harm in their actions.

What’s more, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) is currently considering articles of impeachment for two representatives of the assembly who attended the “tequila” party. If disciplinary measures taken by the administration were not enough, one universally elected group of students is now considering removing two of its own.

With a two-thirds majority, BSG can act on actions already punished by Bowdoin’s administration, thus making the assembly punitive in nature and essentially an extension of the dean’s office. As it relates to legitimate expulsion, BSG’s Constitution offers only, “A member may be removed from the Assembly by a two-thirds vote of the Assembly” (Article 7, Section 4, Clause a). Removal from office is unprecedented on BSG; expelling these representatives would mean action based on previously unwritten rules and undefined boundaries.

I challenge BSG and all administrators to act, instead, in the name of restorative justice and of proactive measures with regards to inequality and injustice. Restorative justice means meeting offenses with a focus on rehabilitation through reconciliation, both with the victims and with the community at large. An example of rehabilitation might be mandated educational experiences for those accused, something BSG espoused in its Statement of Solidarity released last week. Another approach could be basic face-to-face confrontation between the offender and offended, something one of the accused representatives did long before learning their official punishment.

Similarly, proactive measures foster common understanding. One proactive approach might be to offer more entry-level humanities courses; this semester, Visiting Assitant Professor of Sociology Monica Brannon’s Sociology 1101 had over 100 applicants for 50 spots, meaning more than an entire class worth of students was denied the opportunity to expand their sociological horizon. Another route could be to increase Bowdoin’s recruitment of minority professors—a number which, today, stands at 13.6 percent and puts Bowdoin in the bottom third of all NESCAC schools. This is all to suggest that placing emphasis on exposure to diversity of race and of experience influences an education worlds apart from lessons learned with solely reactive, punitive measures.

I am largely pointed to as a perpetuator of a historically prejudicial, dominant culture. But, I’m willing to work with minority students—my peers, classmates and friends—in finding the most effective way to establish cohesion as we move forward. 

Joe Lace is a member of the class of 2017.