February 24, 2016 | Office of the President

Message to the Bowdoin Community (February 24, 2016)

To the Bowdoin campus community,

As you know from Tim Foster’s e-mail message on Monday, we are investigating a possible act of bias. Tim and his colleagues are spending considerable time gathering the facts, and he will report back to the community when it is appropriate. Bear in mind that any matter that is referred for disciplinary review cannot be discussed prior to resolution. Therefore, depending upon the findings of the investigation and any possible resulting actions, we may not hear from him in the short term. For the same reason, I am also not able to comment on the incident now, but you will hear more from me when the process is complete.

I am writing to share with you two thoughts that stem from the discussions on campus.

We are reminded of the significant work ahead to make Bowdoin a place where every student has the opportunity for an equally robust experience—where (as I have said before) race, ethnicity, and other aspects of identity are not mocked or stereotyped, but rather are understood and celebrated. Substantial work and engagement has gone on since the fall, much of it generated by our students—in the College Houses, by BSG, at the Multicultural Center and Russwurm, and with our athletic teams, to name a few examples. The College is also fully engaged in this work. These efforts will move us forward and make us better. We are also reminded that, unfortunately, there will almost certainly be more moments of disappointment, frustration, and pain. Whatever the issues and challenges, we will persist in this work.

Yik Yak. Once again, Yik Yak is a place for misinformation and for ignorant and hurtful comments that stereotype, marginalize, and threaten. And it is also where students are unfairly criticized for acts they did not commit. Yik Yak is not a place where controversial and uncomfortable ideas are offered in the service of robust intellectual dialogue and learning. Rather, it is a place where the uninformed, hurtful, and repugnant views of a handful of people are tossed out in a most cowardly way. So, what can we do? Perhaps the most powerful thing that each of us can do is to offer our voice and our heart. We can each be clear in our rejection of these ideas in large and small groups, online, and in life. We should also not forget that words and acts of support and comfort are very powerful—this is a moment to reach out to one another.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.