Dear Bowdoin Community,

The 2016-2017 academic year marked the second year of the Student Center for Multicultural Life (SCML or “the Center”). The SCML consists of two buildings and programs: 30 College Street and the Russwurm African American Center. The Center was able to offer a multitude of opportunities for the Bowdoin Community to engage in Multicultural Life from lectures to small discussions and trainings. This year the two Centers hosted over 470 reserved events and or meetings, not including a high number of unscheduled gatherings.

With support and guidance from the Dean’s office, we were able to continue a number of established programs including the First Generation Welcome Dinner, Back for the First Time Retreat, and a First Generation Graduate Luncheon. We also continued the Alumni of Color Homecoming Reception, Desserts in December and Freedom Friday discussions. Our November Freedom Friday discussion, Wearing Blue: Police and the Black Lives Matter Movement: A Conversation with the Police and the People, hosted two police veterans that addressed issues from police brutality to gentrification. Unfortunately, this year’s annual MLK commemorative program was cancelled due to an illness of our guest speaker, Father Michael Pfleger. The Center was instrumental in hosting a sold out lecture with Dr. Noam Chomsky, which turned away nearly 300 guests due to capacity limits in the College’s largest venue, Pickard Theater. The Center also supported the African American Society’s efforts to bring Donna Brazile, former National Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Also, this year the Center piloted a number of new initiatives including, Latinx Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month and Asian Heritage Month Celebrations, which hosted over 20 events.

The divisive nature of the 2016 presidential election left many students of color feeling afraid, unsafe and uncertain about their futures. Furthermore, the increase in hate crimes across the country following the election did not help ease tensions and uncertainty. In response the SCML served as a hub for support and hosted a number of informal meetings/gatherings for students to express and process their concerns.

SCML Highlights for the Year Include:

  • Broad reaching and high impact speakers: We had over 850 guests attend two high profile lectures. In the fall, we had Dr. Noam Chomsky lecture on the state of United States democracy, which was co-sponsored by Government and Legal Studies and a number of other departments. In the spring, the Center assisted the African American Society in hosting Donna Brazile, who addressed the current political landscape in Washington and the future of American democracy.

  • Collaborations and co-sponsorships: The Center co-sponsored over 60 programs and initiatives throughout the year. We also had over 470 formal reservations made for the use of the Centers. In the fall, we co-sponsored a trip to view the film, The Birth of a Nation (a film that depicted the life of Nat Turner, who led a slave revolt in 1831) with five professors that represented three different academic departments. There were over 90 students, staff and faculty members who participated in the trip.

  • Key programs: The Student Center for Multicultural Life hosted the second annual Alumni of Color Homecoming Reception that attracted over 60 guests. The Center also continued the Freedom Friday series which included the discussion, Wearing Blue: Police and the Black Lives Matter Movement. We had an average of 45 guests per event. Our end of semester celebration - Desserts in December was a co-sponsored with the Outing Club and attracted between 80-100 guests. In an effort to encourage more engagement during the event we facilitated an edible house building contest that was an overwhelming success.

  • Student support and leadership development: We supported three of our major student organizations in attending national and regional culturally based conferences: the Native American Student Association (Dartmouth Native Conference & Providence Pow Wow), the African American Society (Black Solidarity Conference at Yale) and the African Alliance (African Conference at Yale).

  • Meaningful initiatives: The Black Men’s Forum hosted five gatherings, a lunch and dinner for Black male students, staff and faculty. The Center also hosted seven first-generation student events, including the Back for the First Time Retreat that nearly doubled in attendance from its previous year.

We look forward to the upcoming year and encourage you to help us make it a good one. Sincerely,

Benjamin Harris
Director of the Student Center for Multicultural Life