A Message about Civility and Respect from President Mills and Dean Foster

In the wake of a series of suicides by young men and boys who had been subjected to homophobic bullying and ridicule, President Mills and Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster  released a joint statement recently reaffirming “the values that make Bowdoin a special community.”

To Members of the Bowdoin Community,

In late September, the world learned of the tragic death of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old first-year student at Rutgers University and an accomplished violinist who took his own life after his college roommate secretly videotaped and then broadcast on the Internet Tyler’s sexual encounter with another male student.

As the Bowdoin community prepares to recognize Coming Out Week (October 25-29), it is important for each of us to appreciate the destructive impact of homophobic bullying and ridicule, and to reflect on how we can work together to ensure that our College remains supportive and welcoming to all.

Tyler Clementi’s suicide is not an isolated incident. On Sunday, October 3, Bowdoin students organized a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Walker Art Building to contemplate not only Tyler’s death, but also the recent deaths of four other boys and young men from every region in the country-Raymond Chase, 19, from New York; Asher Brown, 13, from Texas; Seth Walsh, 13, from California; and Billy Lucas, 15, from Indiana-who chose to take their own lives rather than endure the constant harassment, bigotry, and ridicule directed at them because of their sexual orientation. Over two hundred students were joined by Bowdoin faculty and staff at the vigil, and these tragic events have prompted continued discussion and reflection in our classrooms, among individuals, and within small groups.

This is clearly a time to reaffirm the values that make Bowdoin a special community-one that encourages civility and mutual understanding, and prizes and respects differences of all kinds. Hate in all the ugly forms it can take simply has no place at Bowdoin and is antithetical to the values of our learning community. As Professor Marilyn Reizbaum said at the vigil, “Let us commit to ensuring that hurtful acts such as these never occur at Bowdoin. To be able to say no matter where we are, it can’t happen here.”

Best regards,

Barry Mills and Tim Foster

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