October 28, 2018 | Office of the President

Message to the Campus Community (October 28, 2018)

To the campus community,

As you know, on Saturday there was a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven people were killed and six were wounded, including four police officers. On Wednesday, two people, both black, were gunned down at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, by an individual who earlier had tried to enter the First Baptist Church, a predominantly black house of worship. We mourn for those who are gone and grieve with their families, and our thoughts are with those who are recovering from their wounds.

These tragedies were driven by hate, and the heinous acts and the views that fueled them are inexplicable to any civilized person and society. Sadly, these are not solitary events, with violence rationalized by hateful ideologies a far too frequent occurrence. In our country and around the world, the articulation of hate on the basis of identity is in steep ascent.

As we struggle to come to grips with these senseless tragedies, we also want to understand what more we can do to fight intolerance and hate. It is important to remind ourselves that at the core of Bowdoin’s educational mission is the development of the knowledge, capabilities, courage, and resilience that can make our world better—the work each of us does here matters in this fight. For those who wish to learn more about or become involved in the work against identity-based hate and the violence that it fuels, I have asked the McKeen Center to develop and post to their website a list of organizations that engage in these efforts.

These shootings are also poignant reminders of the importance of the work we do here to create an increasingly inclusive community, and one that understands and celebrates the identities that define us. This is challenging work, but we have made progress, and in particular we have organizations, initiatives, and people that provide support at these very difficult moments, that help us to understand the issues and challenges we face, and that are dedicated to helping us to learn, get better, and change. These programs have been built collectively over a long period by students, faculty, and staff in all parts of our College, and they have evolved and improved because of engagement by our community. A comprehensive list of these programs will be available on the Inclusion and Diversity section of the new Bowdoin website when it is rolled out on Wednesday. 

But, whatever progress we have made, it is incomplete and the work ahead is substantial.

This work at Bowdoin starts with me, and I am committed to it. But it requires all of us, in a sustained effort on many fronts. Your engagement and ideas on what we can do better will be essential in making our community even more inclusive. I encourage you to spend time understanding the efforts we currently have in place. Then, please consider what more you think we could do and how you might best become involved, if you are not already. To do this, you can reach out directly to one of the many organizations or programs, or contact Michael Reed, our senior vice president for inclusion and diversity, or me.

The shootings this​ week are terrible and incomprehensible, and they are moments that can easily erode hope. But, I remain hopeful because I know the power of our education, because I see the goodness and goodwill in our community on display every day, and because, when we surrender our hope, the only people who win are those who seek to divide through hate.