April 29, 2024 | Bowdoin News

Conversations about the Referendum

Dear Bowdoin students, 

I am writing to invite you to a conversation about the student referendum put forward by Bowdoin Student Government. As you likely know, the referendum requests an institutional statement about the war in Gaza, disclosures about and restrictions on Bowdoin investments, and additional oversight of our endowment.  

My belief, which I have shared previously, is that institutional statements often divide communities, harden divisions, and interfere with the free exchange of ideas central to an academic community.

As a general approach, I believe that imposing investment disclosures and restrictions on our endowment would have significant adverse effects on endowment returns and would therefore have a significant impact on the College’s operations and mission. For context, the endowment funds over 50 percent of our annual operating budget and 75 percent of financial aid.  It may be helpful to know that our investment office does not select individual stocks. Rather, they develop relationships with carefully selected fund managers who are given broad latitude on investment decisions. In choosing firms to invest on behalf of the College, the investment office considers quantitative and qualitative factors. There is enormous demand from other institutions for access to these talented firms who have helped make Bowdoin a top-performing endowment. We risk losing these valuable relationships by imposing restrictions on these firms—not because they focus on weapons-related investments—but because they require flexibility, nimbleness, and confidentiality to best execute their strategies. Superior investment performance may seem like an abstraction, but it allows Bowdoin to realize its core mission.

As you contemplate the referendum, I hope you will weigh this information, ask additional questions, engage in open dialogue about these issues, and consider attending one of these sessions with me. If you can attend, please bring your questions. I know that these are complicated issues, and I look forward to our conversations.

With my best wishes,