At Monday’s faculty meeting, faculty members voted 49-31 to release a statement to the student body in the wake of the presidential election that “reaffirm[s] that we stand together in support of each other as individuals and as a community.” The letter acknowledges the spectrum of political views on campus and asks students to “join with us in creating an environment on campus in which acts of hatred and violence of any kind are resolutely rejected.”

The statement was first drafted in mid-November by a small group of professors. It originally contained language more explicitly addressing students who are upset by the election’s results, but was modified after feedback from faculty. While some faculty felt the statement was unnecessary or counterproductive, others defended its importance. 

“I have seen [from the] students involved that they do not feel safe. And not only students but staff members and faculty members are being affected by this singling out and targeting of particular groups in the country,” said Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Nadia Celis.

Celis helped pen the original draft and is a member of the joint student and faculty campus group Intersections: People, Planet and Power (IP3).

“The original letter, the one that was first circulated among faculty, had a statement basically in solidarity with those particular members of the community that were particularly attacked,” Celis said.

That original letter was given to the Committee on Governance and Faculty Affairs (GFA) which drafted its own version of the statement and then sent that statement out to all faculty for comment. After hearing comments, the committee revised the letter and brought it to the faculty meeting for a vote.

Eighty faculty members were present and voted at the meeting. According to the College’s common data set from last academic year, Bowdoin has 240 faculty members.

Although there was talk of circulating the original letter to all faculty members who could individually choose to sign the letter or not, the professors who drafted the original version and the GFA decided to hold a faculty vote.

“As a committee we were concerned about just having to sign their names and would there be pressure on one another and we didn’t want to put any of our colleagues in that kind of position,” said Bion R. Cram Professor of Economics and chair of the GFA Rachel Connelly. 

“We decided to go with the route of having a vote at the faculty meeting and then if it passed with a majority then the statement reads as it does, passed by a majority of the faculty, or the majority of the people present at the faculty meeting and that way it has a sense that it’s coming from everybody, or at least from a big group of people.”

As the 49-31 vote suggests, not all faculty members favored the statement. Professor of Government Paul Franco thought the statement was divisive and not necessary. At Monday’s faculty meeting, he proposed an amendment to the letter which was passed and diluted some of its language. Franco still voted against the statement.

“My objections were basically that the statement had a certain political bias built into [that] seemed to almost assume everyone voted one way and was disappointed,” said Franco. “Another dimension of my disagreement is I find that these statements, which are designed to bring people together, often become a source of division.”

Franco also believed the original tone of the letter was too therapeutic.

“There [was] a lot of sympathy or sentiments to the effect that we support and empathize with our students—sentiments I certainty do not disagree with—but I thought it was kind of unnecessary to articulate them,” he said. “I think that’s kind of goes so much to the core of who we are that to kind of recite these things suggests we weren’t honoring these [sentiments] in the past.”

“In some ways that isn’t the relationship,” he added. “We’re here to think about it, reflect about it, dispassionately analyze it, but not necessarily to therapeutically council.”

Celis, who could not attend the meeting due to a personal conflict, wished she could have been at the meeting to share the expressions and stories she has heard from students and faculty. Despite the changes to the statement, she is still happy that it was circulated.

“The letter is not sufficient from my perspective but I think it’s something that we can give to our students, and it’s important that we do it,” Celis said. “I still think this is a time for action and that this sort of non-engagement and being a good person kind of personal politics is not going to enough.”  

Celis and other members of IP3 are considering writing another letter next semester that more closely resembles this statement’s original draft.