Editor's note, September 12, 1:55pm: This story has been updated to clarify that while the original commissioned report only addressed issues of race and ethnicity, President Rose has expanded the charge of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inclusion to additionally examine the experiences of first-generation students and students on financial aid. An earlier version of this story also stated that the report was commissioned in spring 2016, it was commissioned in December 2015. 

In a school-wide email on September 1, President Clayton Rose introduced a new Ad Hoc Committee on Inclusion. The committee is charged with providing recommendations based on the Report on Diversity and Inclusion that the College commissioned last December. The committee, composed of students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees, will use the report’s assessment and recommendations as a springboard to offer final recommendations to Rose by the end of the academic year.

While the report was commissioned to explore race and ethnicity at Bowdoin, the committee members, chosen by Rose, will also consider broader inclusion—particularly of first-generation students and students on financial aid—in making their recommendations.

“Our job now is ... to take work that’s been done by very thoughtful, informed folks who are outside of our community and to determine for ourselves what we want to do,” said Rose.

The report was written by Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania Camille Charles and Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology Rory Kramer of Villanova University. In addition to making recommendations for the short and long term, the report also details the sociologists’ methodology and assessment of the campus climate.

“Overall, I think the report is very spot-on in terms of ... how they describe] the climate on campus,” said Victoria Pitaktong ’17, a member of the committee and multicultural coalition representative to the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG). “[The report] does not just take the side of the student of color. It also talks about how there’s this divided perception that white students...[feel as if] there’s not enough space to talk about these things and they feel unwelcome, while non-white students feel like there are so many opportunities, but these white students don’t come out.”

The report details the sense of “fatigue,” “trepidation,” and “confusion” shared by many members of the student, faculty and staff communities, particularly in wake of last year’s “gangster” and “tequila” parties. While the report praises efforts Bowdoin has already made—including the Bowdoin Science Experiment (BSE) and the new section added to Orientation that addresses race—it also offers many long-term recommendations. These recommendations include developing an office for diversity and inclusion and refocusing the “Exploring Social Difference” distribution requirement.

Amherst, Bates, Wesleyan and Williams all have the equivalent of an office for diversity and inclusion, while Connecticut College and Tufts have deans of diversity and inclusion similar to the position held by Dean Leana Amaez, associate dean of students for diversity and inclusion. Most of these efforts were implemented within the past ten years, and at Amherst, Connecticut College and Tufts within the past two years. Some were based on the works carried out by committees similar to the one at Bowdoin, though unlike at Bowdoin, these reports were conducted internally.

Regardless of which recommendations are adopted, Pikatong noted that the formation of the committee itself is the College’s first formal step in addressing the problems emphasized in the report.

“It’s great that the administration is doing something, because...our [students of color’s] job is not to educate other people and come up with a way of how Bowdoin can be better,” Pitaktong said.

“[This is] the first time I feel like there has been an attempt from top-down to really do something about [diversity and inclusion on campus]...Whether it’s going to be effective or not, that’s something I don’t know yet.”

Geoffrey Canada Professor of Africana Studies and History Olufemi Vaughan, the chair of the committee, similarly praised the way the College has taken ownership of this project.

“It’s very much at the center of who we are and how we do business on campus. It’s not at the margins ... speaking to a particularly group alone,” Vaughan said.

Yet, Pitaktong wondered how this committee will be able to access the entire student population.

“I’m scared that [this committee] could be seen as very top-down and...nothing [will] happen. I’m not saying that this is going to be like that, I’m just saying this is how people might perceive it,” Pitaktong said.

Even though the committee will be focused on internally reviewing the report rather than conducting additional consulting, Rose wrote in his email. that students are welcome to submit their thoughts to the committee.

Pitaktong and Mohamed Nur ’19 already had thoughts on what the committee could address outside of the material considered in the report.

“The experiences of Bowdoin students in Brunswick... is a huge factor in the anxiety or just the stress and maybe fear that students feel on campus or when they’re in Maine,” Nur said. “I think [we should work on] somehow developing a closer relationship with the residents of Brunswick and just the state of Maine in general, so that students at Bowdoin feel comfortable walking down Maine Street.”

The committee will meet for the first time next week.