Message to the Bowdoin Community (September 8, 2015)
To the Bowdoin community,
I have been on campus for a little over two months, and each day I am reminded of the remarkable community that is Bowdoin. The opportunity to meet and talk with so many of you has been energizing, and our conversations have helped me to better understand the College.
I am writing to you today, though, not about the many wonderful aspects of Bowdoin, but to make you aware of a problem and challenge for all of us.
Over the last few months several members of our community—students, student guests, staff and faculty—all persons of color—have been subjected to racial invectives of the worst kind. These incidents have generally involved the “n” word being hurled by people in cars passing near campus and in town. These are cowardly and inexcusable acts.
Members of the campus community have been notified in the past when something like this has happened, and I want you to know that in recent weeks there have been several such incidents. We will always work to be transparent about the good and the bad at Bowdoin. Along with other members of Bowdoin’s administration, I met recently with town leaders, including the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Brunswick Town Council; the Town Manager; the Chief of Police and several of his colleagues; the Brunswick Schools Superintendent; and the head of the Downtown Business Association. The Assistant District Attorney for Cumberland County also joined the discussion. They asked me to share with you their unequivocal and united condemnation of these acts, a view they know our many wonderful neighbors in Brunswick wholeheartedly support. We agreed that we will work together to shine a light on this behavior, to raise awareness about its effects, and whenever possible, to hold accountable those responsible.
We do not know where these people come from, nor can we understand or rationalize their behavior. There is some temptation to note that these acts occur in many towns and on many campuses, to point to the social forces at play, and to resign ourselves to the sad fact that race remains a powerful and divisive issue in twenty-first-century America. While all of this is true, Bowdoin will always strive to rise above this. As I suggested in my Convocation remarks last week, this is an issue for all of us and we should each find ways to support and care for one another in these moments, and more generally try to understand that one’s racial identity (among other aspects of identity) can bring with it particular challenges, some of which can be quite profound. In doing so, we will further strengthen our community.
If you are (or have been) subject to a verbal assault of this nature, or are witness to one, please contact the Office of Safety and Security (725-3500 or use one of the “Blue Light” telephones located on campus). You may also complete a report online or contact the following individuals or offices to file a report and to receive support:
Leana Amaez, Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion – (207) 725-3048
Counseling Service — (207) 725-3145
Benjamin Harris, Director of the Student Center for Multicultural Life — (207) 721-5028
Human Resources — (207) 725-3837
Office of the Dean of Student Affairs — (207) 725-3149
Roy Partridge, Special Assistant to the President for Multicultural Affairs — (207) 725-3656