Demand a Just Reopening from Bowdoin College

Demand a Just Reopening from Bowdoin College

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Bowdoin Students For a Just Reopening started this petition to Bowdoin College

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We, Bowdoin students, alumni, parents, and community members, are upset and disheartened by the College’s stated plan for the Fall 2020 semester. This plan disproportionately burdens students with financial need, including first generation and low-income students, and those who receive financial aid from Bowdoin or external institutions. We see the College’s refusal to provide students with food and shelter, as well as the charging of full tuition for a fundamentally different semester, as directly contradictory to what the College promised us when we committed to the school. 

In the Spring, Bowdoin was a leader in public health when they made the progressive and moral decision to move to remote learning and implemented a universal Pass/Fail policy. Although the current plan for the Fall likewise makes sense from a public health perspective, it is not a student-centered plan. We see similar institutions making bold decisions to support their students and communities in this Fall 2020 semester, notably Williams College and Harvard University, and call on Bowdoin to join in their attempts to provide wide-ranging support to students and their families during the pandemic. 

We acknowledge that this petition is inevitably incomplete and will not address all the ways in which Bowdoin students and community members feel harmed or discriminated against by Bowdoin’s decision and conduct. We have issued these requests because we believe Bowdoin has the responsibility to be a moral leader in caring for its students and its larger community during this global pandemic.

DEMANDS

  1. We demand that Bowdoin provide $4,000 allowances, as a direct deposit for all students on financial aid who are studying remotely, to support their living expenses for the Fall semester and ensure equitable learning spaces for all Bowdoin students studying remotely. The $4000 allowance cannot come in the form of a grant for tuition, but as a direct deposit. This number is based upon Bowdoin’s calculation of indirect costs for off-campus fall semester, totaling $3500. However, because this cost calculation was for Cumberland County, Maine, it will not be enough for students living in cities or anywhere more expensive than Brunswick. Furthermore, a $4000 allowance has already been provided by Williams College to its students on financial aid, and Harvard University is offering a $5000 allowance to students on financial aid learning remotely.
  2. We demand that Bowdoin College reduce tuition for the 2020-2021 school year by 10% for all families. All families on financial aid should have their expected contribution reduced by 10%. By echoing Williams’ commitment of a 15% tuition reduction, Bowdoin will once again be a leader among peer institutions during this pandemic. Our demand of a 10% tuition reduction takes into account the approximate difference in endowment per student of Bowdoin compared to Williams. In 2019, Bowdoin’s endowment per student was approximately 68% that of Williams; likewise, a 10% tuition reduction is 66% of the size of Williams’ plan. 
  3. While we believe Universal Pass/Fail is the only truly equitable option (Sign Here for Universal Pass/Fail), we demand that at minimum Bowdoin permit students to Pass/Fail any classes of their choosing for the Fall 2020 semester, at any point in the semester. Pass/Fails this semester cannot count towards the four Pass/Fails they are allocated during their Bowdoin career. This is in line with many peer institutions, including Brown University’s policy, and Williams College’s new policy. 
  4. We demand that Bowdoin permit students to take three classes during the Fall 2020 semester. If students elect this option their overall number of credits to graduate should be reduced by one class. This policy has been adopted by Williams. It will allow students to work full-time or care for family members without having to take an extra semester.
  5. We demand more financial transparency from Bowdoin College. President Rose has said again and again that the reopening plan was not a financial decision. If this is the case, why not do more to support the 48% of students with financial need? Either Bowdoin is making this decision knowing that it will hurt students with financial need, or this was a financial decision. 
  6. We demand that Bowdoin allow students on financial aid or with external student loans to return to campus after a leave of absence for the semester of their choosing. This ensures that students will not have to preemptively pay loans and will be able to finish college on their own timeline.
  7. We demand that all deans provide adequate counseling to students regardless of their aid status should they decide to take a semester off. 
  8. We demand that Bowdoin College meets the demands of the International Students Association.
  9. We demand that Bowdoin uphold its commitment to not fire workers during a global recession, and to increase minimum wage to $17 per hour by July 1, 2022. 

We are upset and disheartened at the institution that we have called home and that has promised to take care of us for four years. We are upset and disheartened that in this time of crisis Bowdoin has chosen, once again, to decenter the needs of students with financial need. We are upset and disheartened that Bowdoin has chosen a plan that prioritizes wealthy students. We are upset and disheartened that Bowdoin refuses to modify academic policies despite acknowledging that this semester will be fundamentally different from previous semesters. 

We understand that we are in an unprecedented time of crisis, and that the administration and the multiple working groups tasked with planning the fall semester had to make difficult decisions. We acknowledge that missteps are part of the process, and as a community that values intellectual fearlessness, we recognize that we all learn and grow from these missteps. 

The current Fall 2020 plan fails to make good on Bowdoin’s promises to provide food, shelter and support for its students. While we agree that the current plan is reasonable in terms of public health, it does not take into account the many inequities students are facing, particularly those with financial need. With our presented demands, Bowdoin has the opportunity to course correct, to learn from their missteps, and be on the right side of history. 

As members of the Bowdoin community, we are holding the administration accountable to the same rigorous standards of care, equity, and education that we agreed to at matriculation. We have learned in our time at Bowdoin to be fearless and always fight for the common good. We are calling on the administration to display the same moral and progressive leadership they showed when making their Spring 2020 decision. We are being clear. Bowdoin, be a leader.

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