Bowdoin President Urges Incoming Students to Be ‘Intellectually Fearless’

Bowdoin College President Clayton Rose challenged members of the incoming Class of 2020 to embrace being uncomfortable, to question their beliefs, and to develop the “skills, knowledge, and disposition” that will make them “intellectually fearless.”

“Our education and experience are about questions more than answers,” said Rose. “They are about challenging deeply held views and pushing ourselves to comprehend new material—to engage with new ideas and ideas we disagree with and, in doing so, to consider material that shakes us up, that unsettles us, and yes, that may offend us.”

President Clayton S. Rose welcomes first-years to the College on the steps of the Museum of Art August 27, 2016.

President Clayton S. Rose welcomes first-years to the College on the steps of the Museum of Art August 27, 2016.

“If you think the same way, and think about the same things in the same way four years from now, something has gone wrong.”

Picking up on themes he introduced last fall in his inaugural address and again at Bowdoin’s commencement exercises in May, Rose addressed the first-year class of 503 students from the steps of the Walker Art Building on Bowdoin’s main quadrangle Saturday evening, in what has become a traditional welcome from the president.

Gathering for the president's Welcome to Students August 27, 2016.

Gathering for the president’s Welcome to Students August 27, 2016.

He urged the students to use sound judgment, to abide by the college’s academic honor and social code, to be smart and safe about the use of alcohol, and to respect one another while pursuing excellence in everything they do.

But he focused the bulk of his remarks on the need for open discourse and engagement on “the most challenging issues and problems.”

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The Class of 2020 poses on the Museum of Art steps. It is a Bowdoin tradition for each incoming class to take a group photo here, at the spot where the students will receive their diplomas four years from now.

“Tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now, when you are in a discussion in class, listening to a speaker—in the dining hall, dorms, wherever—and you hear something that really pushes your buttons, that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, you should run to it, embrace it, figure out why you are uncomfortable, unsettled, offended, and then engage with it. Engage with it in a thoughtful, objective, and respectful way,” said Rose.

“This is how you learn. This is how you become intellectually fearless. And this is how you change the world.”

Read the full text of Rose’s remarks here or watch the video below.

Bowdoin President Urges Incoming Students to Be ‘Intellectually Fearless’.

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