Message to the Campus Community — November 2, 2015

To the Bowdoin campus community:

I met for several hours on Saturday afternoon with students from the African American Society and leaders of other multicultural student organizations, along with Dean Tim Foster. We discussed the recent “gangster” party and its aftermath, and the students were candid about their observations and concerns. I am grateful for their candor. They offered thoughtful ideas that we will be discussing with them soon.

The party and the dress adopted by partygoers—the ugly racial stereotyping—were wrong and deeply hurtful to our students of color. There needs to be accountability by those responsible, and the note to campus by the sailing team and their presence at the BSG meeting is a good beginning.

The failure by many—in the moment and in the days that followed, to understand why this party and its aftermath were offensive and hostile experiences—points to the larger problem of recognizing clearly that race is an issue for us all, one that transcends the actions of a single group. At Convocation, I spoke about the challenges faced by our students and other members of our community who are of color, and our collective need to support them and to understand these issues. We have fallen short in doing so.

There is significant work ahead to make the changes we seek, to be a place where all of our students feel that Bowdoin is their community, and where we understand and are engaged with the issues of race on our campus. This work has started and will persist.

Finally, a word about anonymous social media. Honest, thoughtful, and at times deeply uncomfortable dialogue is one critical element to progress, and is a central value of our campus. In situations like this, there is no place for the cesspool that is created by Yik Yak and other forms of anonymous postings. Apart from the content, the anonymity of these postings erodes trust and creates considerable distress within our community. Consider whether any engagement you have with these sites, even as a casual user or for pedestrian reasons, fuels and perpetuates them.

Clayton