At the Bowdoin Democrats’ first meeting of the semester, junior co-presidents Andrew Miller-Smith and Alana Weinstein announced that the group is partnering with Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) to work on climate related issues.
The decision —made by Miller-Smith, Weinstein and vice-president Allyson Gross ’16—is part of an attempt to drum up student engagement on a campus that is regularly less politically engaged in the spring semester, according to Miller-Smith.
“The big thing about this semester is that there are no elections going on, and traditionally the College Democrats have been very active in the fall, in election season, and then gone quiet in the spring. We wanted to change that,” he said.
BCA, an environmental activist group, is best known for its ongoing campaign calling on the College to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. Currently an unofficial club, the group’s new partnership with the Democrats is beneficial for both organizations, according to their leadership.
“It’s a similar pool of progressive students working on similar issues. The Democrats were really excited to join us and I’m pleased they did,” said Matt Goodrich ’15, a leader of BCA.
The Bowdoin Democrats have “really wanted to get on board with environmental issues for a while,” added Miller-Smith.
Talk amongst Bowdoin Democrats about partnering with BCA had been ongoing throughout the past year, according to Miller-Smith, but not all of the members are in support of the recent decision.
“I think the Democrats are making this into a moral issue, joining the BCA, and I think it’s aligning the club with an issue that doesn’t represent the party as a whole,” said Aviva Mattingly ’15, a member of the Bowdoin Democrats.
“When you’re coming from a Democratic club on campus which is supposedly representing a huge portion of the campus, I don’t think we should take such divisive stands,” she said.
“I think that having diversity of opinion within a group is great,” said Miller-Smith, explaining that the two groups are partnering on a “case-by-case basis” rather than fully merging.
“As of this point there is a strong majority for [the partnership]. But I think having people in the club who are not entirely on board is essential to actually getting things done,” Miller-Smith added.
However Mattingly, who served as a liaison between the Maine Democratic Party and the Bowdoin Democrats during the 2012 election season, pointed out that the decision to partner with BCA was made unilaterally by the group’s leadership.
“I think my problem is the way that it was voiced is, ‘This is what’s going to happen, we are going to partner with BCA in order to change the club’s direction.’ It wasn’t a vote or decision by the club,” she said. "I don’t know how that decision came to be because I wasn’t on campus, but it didn’t seem like something that was still up for debate.”
BCA’s initial goals for the semester include continuing to push for divestment, organizing a trip to Washington on March 2 to take part in massive protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and encouraging continued resistance to Central Maine Power’s (CMP) proposed rate increase for customers that utilize renewable energy production.
“We’re thinking of doing a campus-wide blackout for the CMP rate case. Since the administration approached us about CMP we think we would be able to get a lot of cooperation on that,” said Bridgett McCoy ’15, a member of BCA.
“The idea would be that for five minutes on some day we would turn off as much that is turn-offable...to show as a consumer how much power we have over CMP,” she said.
BCA is currently awaiting a response to the request it made this week for an official club charter from the Student Organizations Oversight Committee (SOOC).
The group, formerly a subsidiary of Green Bowdoin Alliance (GBA), has remained an unofficial organization since it ended its affiliation with GBA last spring after violating College regulations by constructing an unapproved “climate camp” on the Quad.
According to McCoy, the SOOC’s preference is for all environmental student groups to exist under one broader umbrella organization, GBA.
BCA is making a point by applying for a club charter separately from GBA and other green clubs, according to McCoy.
“You can’t effectively administer a campaign if you have so many people in the room that are focused on it,” she said. “There’s just too much to do in meetings and too much to split for their budget—it’s just so much more byzantine and complicated to have one overarching organization.”
BCA had expected to hear back from the SOOC on Wednesday regarding the alliance, but had not received word at the time of publication.
The group may find out whether or not they have received an official club charter at a meeting of all green organizations on campus, scheduled for this afternoon.