In the past week I’ve had several people ask me if it was worth coming to Bowdoin. “Do you regret it? Did it become your home?”

Four years ago I chose to come to Bowdoin because I wanted it to be my new home. I wondered if it could be my home. “Where is home?” isn’t an emotional or existential question. It is a political question. As a bisexual, immigrant Latina woman with no money, I wondered if this country, if this state, if this college, was a place for me.

As soon as I got to Bowdoin, my existence here felt odd. I didn’t want massages during finals, chocolate-covered strawberries for special events and talks about self-care. I wanted to see myself and what I cared about here. I didn’t want men to grab me at college house parties without asking me. I wanted to feel like a respected individual in my own Latina woman skin. The majority of buildings, named after white men, with the exceptions of Russwurm and a few women, did not seem welcoming with their elegance. They seemed imposing. As I walked through the second floor of Hubbard Hall and saw paintings of all the important white men at Bowdoin and pictures of soldiers who had fought in the Middle East, I wondered what it would be like to see something else. What if there were paintings of radical women of color all across Hubbard Hall? What if there were pictures commemorating non-U.S. citizens who had died at the hands of U.S. soldiers? It would seem out of place at Bowdoin. And that is a problem.

We need to recreate Bowdoin as if we were engaging in a deep decolonization project. We need to embrace the people of color who came here and their wisdom and contributions to the world. We need to include the voices of people of color and women in all our departments, not only in Africana studies, Latin American studies, Asian studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. I don’t just want representation—a text or picture of one person of color who managed to become powerful and rich. I want to hear and feel the struggles of people of color and women across the world. Only then will we be able to say that Bowdoin is a home for people of color and women, but right now these walls at Bowdoin are silencing with their overwhelming whiteness. 

Next year many first years will be coming here and they will be asking the same question: can this be my home? 

What will be Bowdoin’s answer?  It doesn’t matter that we say “welcome” with words if in action, we are saying that this is not the place for people of color and for women. No fancy food or destressing event is going to calm this hunger down and answer the home question in a satisfying way.

I don’t regret coming to Bowdoin, but I don’t feel like it is my home. Like many people of color and women on this campus, I’ve carved out spaces, had fun times, and made demands, but to say this place is my home now would have a strong and positive political meaning that Bowdoin doesn’t match up to. Bowdoin is not there yet, but it can get there.