Eager to influence the election this fall, many Bowdoin students became involved in political activism. For those who don't want to wait another four years to work with their peers for social change, there's the Maine College Action Network, as a coalition among activist groups from colleges and universities around the state of Maine.
Activist groups from Bowdoin, Bates, Colby, College of the Atlantic, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of Maine at Orono, among other MCAN member schools, have been making changes on their individual campuses and communities. To achieve larger, state-wide influence, however, these groups needed to work together.
"Activism at Bowdoin is really small. There's maybe between five to 20 kids on any given week that are excited about doing something, and in a school of almost 1600 people, that's a pretty marginal amount of students," said MCAN co-creator Andy Segerdahl '05.
"If you think of yourself less as a Bowdoin student doing activism at Bowdoin [than] as a student in Maine [who works] with other student activists in Maine, all of a sudden, you don't have five or ten people? you have 50 or 100 people you can work with," he said.
Through meetings and an internet message board on MCAN's website, http://www.mainecollegeactionnetwork.org, students from college activist groups can publicize events and coordinate activities. The organization's primary goal is to keep groups connected to each other.
"Getting to know each other, working with other people, [and] working in communities will really create change," said Ryan Conrad, a senior at Bates who worked with Segerdahl to create MCAN in the Fall of 2003.
While MCAN was first formed to coordinate the anti-war efforts of college activist groups, it now focuses on a broader assortment of issues, including gay rights, women's health, and environmental sustainability.
"The real initiative was September 11 and the war in Iraq, but it's blossomed into other things," Segerdahl said. Most recently, MCAN member groups have been working on a project for Human Rights Day on December 10. Activists at each school will perform a political action of their own design related to one particular human rights issue.
Members of Bowdoin's Queer-Straight Alliance and the Democratic Socialists will focus on human rights related to sexuality, staging a protest in the Union titled "Keep Your Politics Out of My Bed." Bates activists will facilitate an anti-sexism training, and Colby students will stage a protest related to health care.
"Hopefully, because we're all doing it on the same day, [these actions] will create some solidarity among us, and also might be able to elevate some of the issues on Human Rights Day," said Dan O'Maley '05, one of the coordinators of the Bowdoin action.
MCAN was also created to be a social network among student activists. According to Segerdahl, most of the meetings are over potluck dinners, and members often gather at parties as much as they plan political events.
"Next semester, we're really going to try to make political events social events. We're trying to challenge this notion that anything political is inherently boring. A lot of successful political activism is fun, and energetic and creative," Segerdahl said.
Student activists involved in the Human Rights Day action will gather at Colby later that night to share their experiences and celebrate. All Bowdoin students are encouraged to attend the event, which will take place after a performance at Colby by Rahzel, whom O'Maley describes as "a human beat box."
According to Segerdahl, the creation of MCAN is an important first step outside of the Bowdoin Bubble. "In terms of giving activism a fire, [MCAN has] been wonderful. In terms of opening up dialogue between campuses, it's been essential," he said.