Message to the Campus Community — November 10, 2016

To the campus community,

Some of you were present yesterday afternoon in Smith Union when members of our community came together to discuss Tuesday’s presidential election, its effects and ramifications, and how we are feeling as individuals about the outcome. I was moved by what I heard from students, faculty, and staff, and I was and am incredibly proud of the strength, courage, and conviction of those who spoke.

For those not present, I want to share and amplify my own remarks at this gathering and restate the nonnegotiable values of our College.

This election was historic in several ways—some inspiring and some, frankly, disgusting. The so-called discourse was often xenophobic, racist, sexist, and homophobic. The daily barrage vilified whole groups of people, glossed over issues of sexual assault, and generated fear, anger, and despair. None of that is acceptable and must continue to be called out because it is wrong and because it emboldens those who would threaten others. Bowdoin will always reject the hate.

So, I understand and share the dismay about that part of the presidential campaign, which many in our community feel today. But if we focus only on the profound ugliness, we run the risk of missing another important aspect of what’s going on. We are more divided than united right now, and there is deep concern in America about disenfranchisement and a lack of opportunity.

With the election behind us, we must continue to support one another while we also focus on what each of us can do as citizens and participants in this ongoing and imperfect project of democracy. There is a battle of ideas being waged in America—ideas about the proper role of government; about economic and social equality; about our relations with and obligations to the rest of the world; and about all manner of other critical issues. We should all be working to understand what is driving these legitimate differences if we are going to make a better future.

In my comments yesterday, I noted that Bowdoin is among a small number of institutions in America that are designed and especially well-equipped to engage, understand, and debate ideas, to build the skills necessary to respectfully disagree and bridge differences, and to transform ideas into action. This is at the center of our purpose, and also at the center of our democracy.

As we do our work and actively hold our leaders accountable to do theirs, we will never forget or be swayed from our values here at Bowdoin—values that always reject hate; demand mutual respect, civility, and inclusion; encourage freedom of inquiry and expression; inspire a deep commitment to the common good; and ensure unwavering concern and support for one another.