Racial diversity in tenure and tenure-track faculty has more than doubled in the last twenty years, and women now comprise the majority of tenured and tenure-track faculty, moving from 34 percent in 1996–1997 to 53.8 percent in 2022–2023. The College’s senior staff is the most diverse ever in terms of race and gender. Meanwhile, since 2015, the proportion of women on the board of trustees has increased from a third to nearly half, and the proportion of people of color on the board has doubled from 12 to 24 percent.
Beyond the NumbersThese efforts to increase representational diversity at Bowdoin continue, but that is only part of the challenge in creating an inclusive campus community where everyone has the opportunity for an equal experience and a solid sense of belonging. In December 2015, President Rose asked Camille Charles (University of Pennsylvania) and Rory Kramer (Villanova University) to help the College move beyond the percentages and better understand how to create a more inclusive community, with a particular focus on our students and on race and ethnicity. The Charles/Kramer Report on Diversity and Inclusion was taken up in 2016 by an Ad Hoc Committee on Inclusion chaired by Olufemi Vaughan, the Geoffrey Canada Professor of Africana Studies and History, and the committee recommended in 2017 that Bowdoin implement an “Inclusive Excellence” (IE) model and appoint a senior officer to lead a new office of institutional diversity and inclusion. Both recommendations were adopted.
Another important initiative, the creation of the Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity (now the Sexuality, Women, and Gender Center), has helped to support the increasing number of students who identify as LGBTQIA. The work of the center, partnering with several offices on campus, led in 2019 to the Lived Name Initiative, which formalizes the College’s support for each member of the Bowdoin community having their lived name as a part of their experience on campus from day one.
The work to make Bowdoin more accessible in the past few years, which is led by the Accessibility Task Force, has created a testing center for students who need accommodations and created one full-time and three part-time student-facing staff positions focused on accessibility and disability culture. The Accessibility Task Force has also worked to increase our community’s understanding of digital and physical accessibility—including helping shape how buildings are built and renovated—and they continue to enhance our understanding of the ways we can be more inclusive of the different needs of those who access our website and other services.
From “The Work Ahead” to the Here and NowIn the fall of 2020, following community reflection after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd along with the tragic killing of Breonna Taylor, we moved our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts into the next chapter of the work. In particular, we launched an ongoing effort to better understand Bowdoin’s history with respect to race, beginning with an examination of our relationship to Black and Indigenous peoples, while not losing sight of the need to continue our work regarding other identities, including gender and sexual orientation, ability, among others. Each division of the College created a “work ahead” plan intended to help make meaningful progress on our commitment to create a community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are generous in spirit and embody our ethos of serving the common good.
We cannot do diversity, equity, and inclusion work independent of the challenges of the larger world—we recognize and understand that these challenges are also very much present on our campus. Few institutions have clear systems in place to respond to racism, sexism, and homophobia, and we know we have a responsibility to enhance and streamline ours. We need a clear process to respond to reports or complaints of discrimination, a strong system to investigate those complaints, and a support network for students and employees who experience such discrimination.
We also know that doing the work of inclusion is not possible without profound collaboration across the College—it is the responsibility of everyone at Bowdoin to understand diversity, equity, and inclusion work and commit to it.