Barry Mills: Setting the Record Straight

 

Bowdoin President Barry Mills responds to a report about Bowdoin by the National Association of Scholars.

 

 

Our College came under attack last week. It was an attack on our students, our alumni, our faculty, and our values. It is an attack that continues today on the blogs, in the comment streams, and on Twitter.

It’s time to respond.

Why has it taken us a week to answer the charges contained in a 359-page document (plus another 119 pages or so of background material) financed at a cost of “well over $100,000” by an individual who has not spent more than a few hours on our campus and produced by a 25-year-old organization whose investigators have no first-hand experience with what we teach or how we teach it?

The answer might well be found in “The Offer of the College,” which urges us “to gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work and the criticism of your own.” When the report was made public last Wednesday, the College issued a statement promising to review it, “because we encourage open discourse on the effectiveness of American higher education and because we support academic freedom, which is the essence of a liberal arts institution.” A week later, that review is complete.

Let me be clear and direct: the report by the National Association of Scholars is mean-spirited and personal. It exaggerates its claims and misrepresents both what we do at Bowdoin and what we stand for. This is not just my reaction. It is the considered opinion of many members of our community, including those who ought to know best—our current students and their parents, and alumni who have spent many, many hours in our classrooms and labs, and who describe an experience very different from the one contained in this report.

Let me be clear and direct: the report by the National Association of Scholars is mean-spirited and personal. It exaggerates its claims and misrepresents both what we do at Bowdoin and what we stand for.

I will not attempt to address every misrepresentation or factual error in the NAS report. There will be time in future weeks to take these on. Today, I will simply focus on the most egregious among them—the inaccurate statements getting the most “air time” on blogs and through social media.

Among these is Bowdoin is somehow un-American—that our “worldview” and what we teach here are “antithetical to the American experiment” or that “Bowdoin on the whole shows little interest in the West.” Frankly, it’s hard to know where to begin with such nonsense. The American flag flies high over our campus atop a flagpole dedicated to our graduates who died in defense of America in World War I. This memorial abuts another granite structure—dedicated not long ago—honoring those who served our country in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. On the other end of the Quad stands Memorial Hall, built and preserved in memory of Bowdoin students and alumni who fought in the Civil War. We are proud of these memorials and eternally grateful to the people whose names are etched on their panels. We are also proud of the Bowdoin graduates currently serving in our nation’s armed forces and of the young men and women who are inducted into the military each year during public campus ceremonies that immediately follow Commencement. Beyond the armed forces, Bowdoin graduates serve our nation in government and in the law. They are teachers, doctors, artists, non-profit leaders, and entrepreneurs. They are the backbone of our country, and to suggest otherwise is to insult their accomplishments and to demean their significant contributions. We are told by the NAS that “American Exceptionalism” is “a term of derision” on the Bowdoin campus. Yet, this is the same campus that just this year hosted a public performance of the United States Marine Band in Farley Field House and where each year at Convocation, we open the ceremonies by singing “America the Beautiful.”

It’s important that we honor America through memorials and music, but most important is what we teach our students about this nation and its traditions. Perhaps the most repeated criticism by the NAS is that “history majors at Bowdoin are not required to take a single course in American history;” that we do not offer and do not require a general survey course in American history; and that “there are no courses devoted to political, military, diplomatic, or intellectual history except those that deal with some group aspect of America.” Let’s take these one at a time:

It is true that history majors are not required to take a single course in American history, but why is that? Requirements are generally put into place to guide students to courses that they are otherwise disinclined to take. At Bowdoin, we know students interested in history have already studied American history in high school and that they will naturally gravitate to these courses here. Last year, 100% of our graduating history majors took AT LEAST one course in U.S. history. Many took more than one such course. This year, that number stands at 98%. With this level of participation, a requirement is…well, not required.

Last year, 100% of our graduating history majors took AT LEAST one course in U.S. history. Many took more than one such course. This year, that number stands at 98%.

Quickly on the other two points: we do not offer a survey course in American history because our students come to Bowdoin well-grounded in American history and seek more in-depth analysis. As for the charge that we don’t offer history courses dealing with political, intellectual, diplomatic or military history, a look at our course catalogue would set things straight. It is a charge that is obviously incorrect, since among the courses offered this year alone are:

History 140: War and Society

History 139: The Civil War Era

History 231: Colonial America and the Atlantic World

History 232: History of the American West

History 233: American Society in the New Nation, 1763-1840

History 226: The City as American History

History 238: Reconstruction

Beyond these, our government and legal studies department offers important courses on the American presidency, Congress, the U.S. Constitution, and other areas in the fields of American government and political theory. As our community knows, government is currently—and has long been—the most popular major at Bowdoin, and it is nearly impossible for these students to graduate from Bowdoin without having read the Federalist Papers at least once.

Speaking of courses, a whole lot has been made of another point driven home by the NAS Report. Yes, there are some courses offered at Bowdoin that come with provocative titles. We are not alone in teaching these subjects, which are offered at every elite college and university in America. The one cherry-picked by our critics to make a point is “Queer Gardens,” a first-year seminar proposed (but ultimately never offered) by our English department. Since lots of people have asked, here’s what that course was all about:

Explores how the garden in Western literature and art serves as a space for desire. Pays special attention to the link between gardens and transgression. Also considers how gardens become eccentric spaces and call into question distinctions between nature and culture. Examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces.

…it is nearly impossible for these students to graduate from Bowdoin without having read the Federalist Papers at least once.

Okay, admittedly, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea because it is viewed by some as scholarship that isn’t serious, and there are other courses in our catalogue with attention-grabbing titles and descriptions that may not appeal to every student. But consider for a moment what the students would have actually DONE in this class. They would have read works by Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett, and several other notable authors. In my view, the title and course description are what get you in the door (or not, in this case). What happens next is education. The point is that our students are reading and discussing great literature. That’s one of the important things we do here. Oh, and by the way, the folks at the NAS can exhale—we regularly teach courses that include the works of Spenser!

There are many, many more questionable assertions about Bowdoin contained in the NAS document, but these are the ones seen and heard most frequently in recent days. They are also the points promoted most widely—without investigation or corroboration—by columnists and correspondents using the Internet and social media who have no first-hand knowledge of the College.

So, this is a start. Will we take the time to respond to, challenge, or debunk everything contained in this report and promoted by its authors? Probably not. Time is precious these days, as we prepare to graduate an exceptionally-prepared Class of 2013 in just under six weeks. That said, we have the right and the inclination to fight back when we believe it is necessary to do so. We are not a fragile or insecure institution, and we will not abide personal attacks and unsubstantiated tirades by those with deep pockets and a personal or political axe to grind.

In closing, let me restate as forcefully as I can what we stand for at Bowdoin:

We are committed to building and supporting a student body that is representative of America and the world.

We are committed to providing opportunity to those previously excluded.

We are also committed to preparing our students to become global citizens in a global economy and for careers that call for critical thinking, judgment, and principled leadership.

As “The Offer of the College” reminds us, there is nothing wrong with well-reasoned, objective, and constructive criticism. Bowdoin as an institution—and all of us as individuals—can always improve what we’re doing and how we approach learning and education. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to take seriously a vindictive effort such as this intended to harm and discredit this historic college in order to satisfy a personal agenda and retrieve a bygone era.

During this past week, as we have endured “our turn in the barrel,” I have never been more proud of and grateful to our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Bowdoin is a great college, and we choose to move forward, confident in our values and reinforced by our record.

****

EDITOR’S NOTE: Comments on this post are now closed. While we welcome reader responses, we have now received 150 comments for this post. As indicated in the “About Us” section of the Bowdoin Daily Sun, we “reserve the right to limit comments based on volume,” due to the staff time necessary to moderate these reader contributions. Thank you for offering your views on this subject.

Comments

  1. Mary Hogan Preusse '90 says:

    Well said and inspiring. Thank you Barry!

  2. This “conversation” is hardly new. “Loyalty oaths” didn’t originate in the McCarthy era in the early 50s and, although less popular 60 years later, there are apparently those who would bring them back. It is hard for me to imagine first year Bowdoin students pledging to prefer courses in American History to courses regarding the history or cultures of other countries. Perhaps it is not as difficult for others to imagine such a stated allegiance.

    In _The National Review College Guide_ by Charles Sykes and Brad Miner (introduction by William F. Buckley, Jr.) a similar hue and cry rang out: quoting the National Endowment for the Humanities “50 Hours: A Core Curriculum for College Students,” the authors opine that students may be graduated from “78 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities without ever taking a course in the history of Western civilization.”

    The report and the book are published in 1989 and 1993 respectively.

    So if there is nothing novel about the attacks, how best to respond? Might I suggest that we allow students to choose where to get their education? Let the market place—or more accurately the market place of ideas—speak. _Choosing the Right College_ published by ISI books recommends colleges where the “core” is alive and well and decries those colleges—Bowdoin among them–where students are given more curricular choices. Perhaps “I won’t pray in your school if you won’t sleep in my church” should be updated to read, “I won’t force you to focus exclusively on non-Western cultures if you’ll allow me to take courses in addition to ‘US History to 1877.'”

    Bowdoin College has nothing of which to be ashamed. President Mills has nothing for which he need apologize. As long as our great country allows its children to choose where to attend undergraduate college, I support and endorse my child’s choice of Bowdoin.

    Go you Bears!

    David Altshuler
    Father of Ellery Altshuler, ‘15

  3. Jill DeTemple '93 says:

    Well done. This is an appropriate, restrained and scholarly response to an inappropriate, poorly “researched” and vindictive piece of propaganda from the NAS. You did Bowdoin, and Higher Education, right.

  4. Jotham D Pierce Jr says:

    I have a comment about the American history point. I graduated from Bowdoin in 1965, majoring in history, and we wern’t required to take any American history courses back then either. I took only one semester of American history. However, that was because of my own interest in European history, not because American history was being downgraded. Professor Whiteside’s American history courses (incuding History of the American West – see History 232 above) were very popular. We were allowed to choose our courses then, as I believe students are now. I see continuity in all this, not some radical break with the past.

  5. Thomas Costin '73 says:

    Barry,
    You have well-expressed the College’s rebuttal that relies on “critical thinking, judgment and principled leadership”. It is regrettable that Mr. Klingenstein and the associates of NAS who submitted this report have forgotten or missed out on these values in their own educational experiences.

  6. Peter Richardson '79 says:

    It is most unfortunate that President Mills and other officials of the College have to devote so much time and energy to defend our beloved Bowdoing against a pile of scurrilous claims by these cranks. Thank you for your response. I hope this issue dies a quick and well deserved death and we can all go on to more important matters.

  7. Sam Lazarus '09 says:

    Intelligently reasoned and fairly stated – Thank you, President Mills, you will always represent the best of us at Bowdoin.
    -Sam

  8. Theodore Lund '85 says:

    A thoughtful, reasoned response – what I would expect from Bowdoin to a deliberate smear orchestrated by an ideologue. Based on the state of the conservative/liberal divide that exists today and politicizes the issues which gave rise to the “study”, I fear that a reasoned and thoughtful approach is not enough to sway the views of the very people that the “study” was intended to goad into a further smear campaign. time and time again, I have noted neutrally named interest groups like NAS making forays into highly politicized issues and offering lies and mischaracterizations as facts. The headlines and internet commentary follows and the damage done to reputation cannot be completely reversed. But, hey, is it so bad to be known as a liberal bastion … of truth?

  9. Rick Caras '71 says:

    As a Bowdoin, grad with my daughter now a student and the fifth Caras to attend the school, I find it amazing that someone would go to the effort and expense to tear down the hallowed halls of one of our country’s most respected colleges. Surely the money could have been better spent as a donation to a school more to Mr. Klingenstein’s liking, rather an outflow of negative energy toward the faculty, staff, alumni and students of Bowdoin.

    Two points struck home when I read the Wall Street Journal article and President Mill’s comments.

    First, Bowdoin is a liberal arts college with offerings designed to allow the young adult attending to map his or her own course. If a criticism of this system was to be made, perhaps the researchers should have examined a larger sample of liberal arts schools and published a study of that along side this focus on Bowdoin. (I confess, I have not read the full report, just the WSJ and Bowdoin Sun articles.)

    Second, I have reflected on my views and life experiences as impacted by the school’s offerings and structure. I consider myself a “Republi-crat”, a fiscal conservative and social liberal. I have never registered for either party, rather choosing to vote for candidate I feel more qualified for the office, and the policies most beneficial for us as Americans. I look at young people today, and though sometimes in disagreement on issues(including my daughter Samantha), I have the utmost respect for the open-mindedness’ that their environment allows. Life experiences will dictate how they think and feel as they progress through life. An open-mindedness will allow them to learn from those experiences.

    We live in an increasingly global world and in a nation that promotes the thought of a world culture and economy. Bowdoin has prided itself for years as a school that matriculates well rounded classes of individuals, and provides an environment for them to learn and grow by exposure to faculty, staff and each other. Go Bears!

  10. Christian Potholm says:

    I have been associated with Bowdoin College for over 50 years as student, alumnus, and professor. At no time during that period has Bowdoin ever been more vibrant, more interesting, or provided a more holistic and finer education. In my judgment, the College has never been stronger nor delivered a higher caliber of true educational value. The best years of the College are both now and lie ahead. Our rich past is but prologue to our outstanding present and future.

    Christian Potholm ’62

  11. Ryan Naples '04 says:

    I was disappointed that the report did not mention that two of Bowdoin’s most important and revered professors, Jean Yarborough and Christopher Potholm, are died in the wool conservative Republicans. And Professor Morgan and Professor Franco? Potholm is also well known and very involved in state politics. Plus I’m sure the advice he gives to Republican candidates for office far outweighs whatever small amount of donations a professor could afford.

    Also, isn’t this issue of professors being more to the left a fact of life – conservatives are less likely to pursue PhD’s and teaching careers in the humanities.

    Barry Mills’ response does Bowdoin proud.

  12. Jim Campbell, '74 says:

    I am disappointed by the shallow, dismissive, and ad hominum nature of many of the responses to the NAS report. I have not read the report in full at this point, but from what I have read it presents a serious and troubling study of the College. Who funded it, why they funded it, and the ideological tilt of NAS are irrelevant matters. The question is whether the analysis is fair and the conclusions valid. For instance, is it true that only a tiny fraction of faculty at Bowdoin are politically conservative? If so, it is difficult to see this as being anything but problematic. President Mills’ response touches upon a few matters raised in the report, but those are but the tip of the iceberg. I hope that study is addressed seriously and that the College does not “stonewall” the controversy with the hope that attention to it will just fade away with time.

  13. Yabing Liu '15 says:

    Unless someone can prove that Bowdoin favors prospective students and faculty with liberal inclinations in its admissions and employment process, there is no value in complaining that the proportion of conservatives at Bowdoin is lower than the national average. A more convincing explanation would be that people who seek a college education or faculty positions are mostly liberal, so when Bowdoin accepts students and employs professors based on merit, it just ends up that we have more liberals. This theory also accounts for the fact that most college campuses in this country are liberal. If the goal of a college is to accurately represent the American population (which I think is ridiculous), there will be no point in applying to colleges–we can just put everyone’s name in a hat and randomly select our pool of students and professors–that will make a “fair” representation of America.

  14. Tom Schulenberg says:

    Is it possible that institutions of higher education have developed a myopic liberal view? Is it possible to point out evidence of an extremely liberal culture without be chargeed with McCarthyism? Mr. Mills without some aknowledgement that your college leans hard to the left your responce sounds shrill.

    “at a cost of “well over $100,000” by an individual who has not spent more than a few hours on our campus and produced by a 25-year-old organization whose investigators have no first-hand experience with what we teach or how we teach it?”
    Finally, I didn’t realize you had to attend a university in order to research it’s practices.

  15. Pio Poblete says:

    Thank you, President Mills, for such an eloquent defense of Bowdoin. As the parent of a student enrolled in the Bowdoin Class of 2017 I am more convinced than ever that my son has made the right choice and that his education is in excellent hands.

  16. Gerald J. Prokopowicz says:

    As a Bowdoin parent I am proud to stand by President Mills and all that the College represents.

    As a professional historian, I am amused to note that the forward to the NAS report, by William Bennett, contains a spurious quotation from Abraham Lincoln. It’s something that Lincoln did not write, although it is misattributed to him on various websites. Apparently this national organization of “scholars” accepts material copied uncritically from the internet as research. Bowdoin’s professors, my daughter reports, are far more rigorous.

  17. Patrice Loucks says:

    in response to Conrad Spens: Your proposal to have equal conservatives and liberals would be fine if The Kings College is willing to do the same?

  18. William T. Stewart says:

    I am glad that Barry Mills has offered his statement on this report. The report circulated in the local opinion column in the press and was probably gladly accepted immediately by many. The question is valid but the facts picked do not fit together as neatly as the authors suggest. President Mills at least asks us to think in more depth about all of this

  19. J. Peter Prins '48 says:

    After enlightening myself by way of Google about the National Association of Scholars I am more pleased than ever to be a Bowdoin graduate. Thank you for your response!

  20. Nick Gess says:

    A classy response by a classy guy.

    We’ve become inured to fake “astroturf” groups engaging in smear tactics as part of political campaigns. It’s hardly surprising that extremists have expanded to the area of higher education.

    The difference is that a dirty trick in a campaign can hurt because campaigns are fleeting by nature. Bowdoin has endured much worse from real people with credentials and, when the dust settles here, well it will settle and nobody will even remember the extremists.

  21. Bill Gibson '69 says:

    Well done, Barry! I read the entire report and the lack of any degree of objective analysis was startling. I have read very few “research studies” that were so obviously designed to produce a desired outcome. Great job, and thank you!

  22. Peter Brine says:

    “Our College came under attack last week. It was an attack on our students, our alumni, our faculty, and our values. It is an attack that continues today on the blogs, in the comment streams, and on Twitter.”

    No, it is an not an attack on students or alumni but a questioning of the values that Bowdoin’s administrators and faculty insert into the educational process.

  23. Mark Winkeller Class of'68 says:

    Excellent responses from our President. With all due respect to Mr. Gray, the NAS has an agenda that has little to do with scholarship unless it is “scholarship” on their terms. This is a great country with plenty of room for debate and disagreements. Taking NAS seriously given its agenda as proclaimed on its own website simply encourages them.

    By the way, what were the respective golf scores?

    I am very proud Bowdoin alum and doubt that the NAS will succeed in reducing the qualified pool of future Bowdoin students.

  24. Joe Adu '07 says:

    Thanks for so clearly setting the record straight, President Mills.

  25. Conrad Spens '77 says:

    Patrice Loucks- what in the world does Kings College have to do with Bowdoin? The real issue here is not the history department and what it does or does not offer in terms of classes, but the idea of campus wide intellectual diversity. Is there a diversity of intellectual and political thought that matches efforts to diversify (in the spirit of inclusiveness) by skin color and sexual orientation?

    If you are concerned about Kings College I suggest you start and/or follow a similar discussion there.

  26. David Kilgour '64 says:

    Thanks Barry

    The Alumni with whom I have spoken stand solidly behind you and the college.

  27. Katherine Deming Brodie '90 says:

    Thank you for your response President Mills. Just for the record, I had to take Chaucer in Middle English at 8 am in the morning for my English major. Unless that was a bad dream. I read nearly all of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies (with Prof Coursen), I read the Federalist Papers, St Augustines City of God, and many other political philosophy works for my History Minor. I am proud that Bill Cohen, Tom Allen, Tom Pickering and others who have served the US Goverment at this highest level are Bowdoin grads. There are many graduates who serve the common good too numerous to mention. Bowdoin has changed with the times, but it remains in significant ways the same as it has always been – a place where serious students can think, analyze, read, reflect, debate and question the world and their role in it before being launched into positions of responsiblity in all the forms that it takes. Go U Bears!

  28. Daniel Buckley says:

    I fear that if Mr. Klingenstein should ever attempt a similar study at Reed or Oberlin colleges (where, as a Bowdoin student, I had thought all the real liberal students were) he would likely die of shock. I fail to believe that Bowdoin has veered way off to the left. After all, the College still admits its fair share of prep-schoolers, right?

  29. James A Pierce says:

    Thank you President Mills for an articulate, reasoned response to an ill thought and inaccurate response from Thomas Klingenstein and his cronies in the NAS. Kudos also to my classmate, Hunt Dowse, for the citation in Wikipedia on the National Association of Scholars. It is of interest also that the alumnus who posted the WSJ and National Review articles on the alumni page of Linked In is an employee of the Maine Heritage Institute, another neo-con endowed group.

    James Pierce
    Bowdoin 1969

  30. Catherine Glynn says:

    Real life fact: three high school teachers at my son’s school are Bowdoin grads. One is currently nominated for teacher of the year (mathematics) in Maine, another teaches a highly rigorous Advanced Placement course in US History, and the third, a language teacher, instilled in him a deep passion for the Spanish language. He (and we, his parents) count these three professionals among the best teachers he has ever had-in large part thanks to BOWDOIN.
    Thanks Liz Wiles, Brandon Parise, and Marcia Snyder for excellence in education.
    My son joins the class of 2017 at Bowdoin, majoring in languages.
    Catherine Glynn

  31. Stephen Harrington '78 says:

    A reading of the comments certainly solidifies my opinion that a good portion of conservatives really hate it when people disagree with them. Such assertions as ‘Who funded it, why they funded it, and the ideological tilt of NAS are irrelevant matters,’ and that their seems to be some litmus test for denying conservatives into the classrooms (as either students or professors)are, well, crazy. The American right has latched onto patriotism with a vengeance, particularly since the Bush II years, insinuating at every turn that to oppose their views is unpatriotic. For an amazingly concise yet eloquent dissection of their tactics read George Lakoff’s ‘Don’t Think of an Elephant.’ It’s the best explanation for the kind of baiting the NAS and Mr. Klingerstein’s engage in. Thank you, President Mills. It’s unfortunate that you had to respond at all to this kind of yellow journalism.

  32. Isabel Johnson says:

    As a parent of a graduating senior this year, I can attest to the quality and integrity of the educational experience that Bowdoin College provides. President Mills should be thanked not only for his leadership, but for this appropriate and civil response to such an uncivil and ridiculous smear. Ironically, we promoted Bowdoin as an option to our daughter precisely because of its long tradition of not being overly political, and adhering instead to the truest principles of a liberal arts education, including the freedom to let well prepared students form their own opinions within the context of well chosen courses led by excellent faculty. Apparently this idea is something not well understood by all those who criticize higher education, or who go further and attempt an institutional character assassination. Fortunately, Bowdoin College can stand by its record, and the facts speak for themselves.

  33. Peter Anastas '59 says:

    Beyond President Mills’ strong and welcome rejoinder, I would not dignify the NSA’s opportunistic and ideologically based attack on the College and, by extension, the humanistic values Bowdoin stands for and we have all been educated to cherish. I’m both proud of and humbled by the liberal arts education–particularly its grounding in critical thinking–which I received at the College during one of the worst periods for freedom of thought and expression in American history. I’m equally proud of the Bowdoin of today for its even more diverse student body, the richness of the curriculum and the College’s exemplary social and intellectual life. No attack from the enemies of diversity like NSA should deter Bowdoin from its mission, a mission and a way of life we need now more than ever.

  34. Meg Boyle '05 says:

    President Mills,

    Your first year at Bowdoin College was also mine. Even then I had a unique perspective on the diverse experiences of college students across different institutions– my family was in the business (or service, rather) of higher education, and I was exposed to dozens of campuses long before I had to consider which I would call my own. While at Bowdoin, I studied abroad with students hailing from scores of colleges and universities across the country. Afterward, I pursued non-profit efforts engaging student leaders at over six hundred U.S. colleges and universities. I regularly serve as an alumni mentor for a scholarship program of students from schools– community colleges, tribal colleges, state universities, liberal arts colleges, and ivy league schools– in most every state. And, as a graduate student, I experienced the joys and challenges of teaching undergraduates in a large university setting.

    I have, in short, discovered all manner of wonderful places, but I have never found one better than Bowdoin. Given my pick among them now, I would make the same choice all over again.

    I am deeply thankful to Bowdoin everyday. And today in particular, I am also thankful for your grace.

  35. Robert N. Morrison '52 says:

    President Mills-Your response is “spot on”. I am tired of people spouting off who have absolutely no first-hand knowledge or experience with the object of their criticism. My experiences as an auditor each semester for over ten years confirm the comments of Chris Potholm that Bowdoin has never been better than it is now. I am absolutely convinced of Bowdoin’s excellence. I also know that Bowdoin will only continue to get better and better each and every year.

  36. Robert Loeb '73 says:

    You have directly debunked many of the factual mistakes that are in the report. As to the philosophical criticism of the multicultural aspects of the College, well, let’s just turn a deaf ear to the critics and take pride in the diversity.

  37. Larry Pizzi says:

    I am a veteran of 21 years of service as an officer in the United States Army. My career was successful by most standards. At my retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel, I received an award for my service that is reserved primarily for general officers. I served overseas and in this country.

    I am a proud graduate of the college, class of 1975.

    I have gone on in second and third careers to serve as a non-profit executive and a school teacher.

    I am proud to be both an American and a citizen of the world. I attribute much of my success in my varied careers to my Bowdoin education and experience. When I graduated, I was awarded the Andrew Haldane Cup, a leadership award named after a hero of WW 2. That Bowdoin should honor leadership with this particular award is in itself a tribute to all that is faulty and specious in the report.

    Thank you, Bowdoin College and many thanks, Barry, for your rebuttal.

    Larry Pizzi, ’75

  38. Ray Brearey says:

    Superb response Barry! I’m looking forward to a one on one debate between you
    and professor[Mr?] Klingenstein on the Bowdoin campus in the near future! Ray Brearey

  39. Karim Ben Smail says:

    My daughter will spend her first year abroad and first year in college in Bowdoin. I must admit that I was somehow worried when a friend mentioned that the college was subject to criticism on the net. Now that that I have read President Mills response, I am confident that we have made the right choice. Thank you for taking the time to set the record straight. We will soon send you a new polar bear from Tunisia (very rare), happy and proud to seek knowledge in one of the best US colleges.

  40. Kelly Lankford says:

    President Mills,
    I enjoyed your response. But why limit the “proof” that Bowdoin exhibits American pride to various military statues, memorials, buildings, and symbols? There are so many more ways that Bowdoin acknowledges American history via its architecture and public spaces. For example, students study at the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. They also have opportunities to volunteer for and conduct research on behalf of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum on campus, which honors the fine work of two lifelong American explorers.
    Kelly Lankford ’92

  41. Jeff Simpson '86 says:

    My sympathy goes out to Barry Mills for the unenviable task of having to read and digest this NAS report. It is always tempting to refrain from dignifying a hatchet job with a response, but if the report went unchallenged, some would see it as acquiescence, and so the response had to be made.

    I attempted to read the report to look for any merit in the strong assertions contained in the introduction to the report. 100 pages in, I gave up my quest.

    Bowdoin is only a target of ideologues because it is doing something right. That which rankles the xenophobes, zealots, and those that wish to return to the ‘good old days’ is an indicator that Bowdoin must be doing something right (in the 1930s, FDR, in a slightly different context, summed it up with ‘I welcome their hatred.’)

    The best response Bowdoin alumni can offer is to continue to do what we do, to support the college, and to speak out against biased and unfair criticisms.

  42. Bill Mone says:

    I think a more thoughtful and detailed (and less emotional) response is in order.

    Bill Mone
    Class of 1967

  43. Thank you for your response, President Mills. As a proud alumnus and lifelong contributor to Bowdoin, I applaud your reasoned response. I really fail to understand their point. I’m confident that the College doesn’t have a litmus test of conservative/liberal politics in the admission of students or the hiring of faculty. The fact that conservative “scholars” have not found their way to Brunswick Maine is unfortunate, but there is, obviously, no intentional screening of “conservatives”. The choice of course offerings should be as wide as possible. I suppose they probably are concerned that there is no course on “Creationism” but are reluctant to put that in the “study” –that would give it away.

  44. Thomas Kosmo says:

    Chris Potholm above crystallizes Bowdoin: the College that offers limitless resources, stimuli, pride and history to the best of America’s college students.

  45. Emily (Johnson) Work-Dembowski '96 says:

    As a graduate with an American Politics concentration in my Government major, I was surprised to hear we don’t study America at Bowdoin. While I was there I took courses on Congress, the presidency, American Foreign Policy, Con Law, etc. Half the Department was conservative. These courses prepared me well for law school and working in all three branches of our government. If studying America is what you want, Bowdoin delivers. What the authors of the study might not get is that I learned just as much about America in political philosophy classes on German, Greek, British, and French philosophers who helped create the ideas that make our country great. Shallow thinkers only see what they want to see. Thanks for the eloquent response, President Mills.

  46. Debbie Friedman says:

    President Mills, Thank you for your thoughtful response. While it seems a time consuming distraction to respond, it is important to put the basic facts straight. With positive experiences as our family watches our son’s time at Bowdoin, I wanted to understand the nature of the slander. I’m still wading through the report, but I did learn enough about the funder (http://www.claremont.org/about/pageID.286/default.asp) to understand that many times these attacks are based on fear mongering rather than a valid point of view for debate. It would be easier for me to read the National Association of Scholar’s mission and values, and the Claremont Institutes goals, if they were based on an agenda of expanding thoughts and ideas, not one of tearing down others to put forth an old, stale agenda of times gone. Perhaps these groups need to revisit their own ideas of a classical education and learn how to apply it in today’s world.

  47. Rebecca Clark '01 says:

    It was attending Bowdoin that actually sparked my interest in the study of Western classics and of American history at Bowdoin. As at most university campuses, the climate of opinion at Bowdoin is leftish, but Bowdoin is better than average in being a congenial place for genuine intellectual diversity. NAS seems to have picked its target based on the arbitrary criterion of a wealthy donor’s personal grudge.

  48. Harry Noel '65 says:

    Just spent about 30 minutes googling National Associations of Scolars. They seem more political than academic. Wikipedia describes the association as a right-wing non profit whose purpose is to oppose multiculturalism and affirmative action and is funded exclusively by conservative foundations. According to the association, one of Bowdoin’s shortcomings seems to be “excessive celebration of racial and ethnic differences”. The association also considers Bowdoin a member of the elite liberal arts college community. – got that right. You can also find “homophopic” and “racist” used in articles about the association.

  49. Richard Reuter says:

    As the parent of a freshman, I have unexpectedly watched my son burnish his conservative bona fides in freshman seminar though the dialectic exercise framed by his ideological counterparty, the liberal professor. Has anyone witnessed the converse? — a conservative professor attempting to elucidate the external costs of environmental degradation?

    There is a conservative argument to be made, but as with all topical conservative movements, ad hominem attacks are the coin of the realm. Intellectual inquiry requires a counterargument and this study offered nothing other than shopworn, moribund arguments from 30 years ago. There is a liberal bias in higher education. There has to be. Change requires thought and not reliance on old, often misguided dogma.

    By the beginning of sophomore year, I expect a Bowdoin student will be able to discern cheap rhetorical tricks. For example, they would know that by disclaiming an ulterior motive in advance of committing the affront, they are simply amplifying its arc, not disavowing the intent. The hundred thousand would have been better spent on Bowdoin tuition.

  50. Barbara Kaster says:

    Perfect response! The facts should beat their suppositions and twists.

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