Message to the Campus Community — September 22, 2016

To the Bowdoin campus community,

It is exciting and gratifying to see the significant ongoing work at the College to foster respectful discussion and debate around the challenging issues of our time. Ours is a community with varied and sophisticated voices and perspectives on these topics, and I am inspired by these efforts and the clear desire to advance this work.

Along these lines, I am very pleased to tell you that on Monday, December 5, we will hold a debate and discussion on free speech and political correctness on college campuses featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Manhattan Institute fellow and Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley. It will be moderated by Bowdoin Associate Professor of History and Environmental Studies Connie Chiang.

A key part of this event will take place after the formal program, when a number of students who have attended will meet in small groups to discuss what they heard, what they agreed and disagreed with, and what they learned. We expect both Mr. Kristof and Mr. Riley to be on hand for this gathering.

This event reflects ongoing efforts at Bowdoin to help us all further develop the skills and disposition for thoughtful, open, and vigorous discussion on the difficult, critical issues. It is the result of significant time and effort by a small working group of students, faculty, and staff from across campus and with diverse views (members listed below) that was organized last fall to develop programming ideas for events that would encourage a full and open discussion and debate from all sides of a chosen issue. The topic of free speech and political correctness on college campuses was the clear preference of a large number of Bowdoin students who responded last December to a survey on potential areas of focus.

As I have said consistently in my public remarks—beginning with last fall’s Inauguration and continuing through Commencement in May, my welcome to first-year students in August, and most recently at Convocation—rational and respectful engagement with opposing ideas and uncomfortable issues is an essential mission of the College, and achieving the capability to do so is necessary to have an impact on the major challenges and opportunities we face in our world. I am very grateful to the working group for their thoughtfulness and effort, and I look forward to similar events in the future and to the many other events and engagements that are occurring regularly on campus.

Students will be given preference for tickets, and additional details about the debate and discussion and post-event gathering will be provided as we get closer to the December 5 date.

Thank you for your efforts and engagement with this essential element of our mission. I welcome your thoughts and ideas about how we can continue to strengthen this environment of open and respectful dialogue at Bowdoin.



Working Group Members

Tess Chakkalakal, associate professor of Africana studies and English

Tim Foster, dean of student affairs

Jack Lucy ’17

Scott MacEachern, professor of anthropology

Andrew Rudalevige, Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government

Peter Slovenski, head coach, men’s and women’s cross country & track

Tony Sprague, director of events and summer programs

Holly Sherburne, director of digital and social media

Rebkah Tesfamariam ’18

Clayton Rose, president (chair)