April 12, 2013

Bowdoin president responds to attack by conservative group

The lengthy critique of the college 'exaggerates its claims and misrepresents' our goals, Barry Mills says.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Bowdoin College's president says a scathing critique by a conservative academic organization is "mean-spirited and personal" and misrepresents the venerable college.

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Bowdoin College's president says a scathing critique by a conservative academic organization is "mean-spirited and personal" and misrepresents the venerable college. Above, Hubbard Hall on the college's Brunswick campus.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

President Barry Mills' response to the National Association of Scholars report appeared in the most recent issue of the Bowdoin Daily Sun.

The 359-page critique, entitled The Bowdoin Project, faults the Brunswick liberal arts college for among other things, "an unintentional bias against views that differ from progressive ideas," a curriculum that lacks coherence and inadequate emphasis on American history and traditional scholarly values.

In his piece titled: "Setting the Record Straight," Mills said the report was an attack on the college and its values.

"It exaggerates its claims and misrepresents both what we do at Bowdoin and what we stand for," Mills wrote.

The report criticizes the school for not requiring history majors to take courses in American history. Mills responded by saying that the requirements are intended to steer students towards courses they might not otherwise take and that virtually all the school's history majors take courses in American history every year.

Mills responded to the critique that the school's world view is "antithetical to the American experiment" by listing the school's monuments to graduates who fought in the nation's wars and citing the campus performance this year by the United States Marine Band.

Mills emphasized the validity of the school's values of building a student body representative of "America and the world," providing opportunity to those previously excluded and preparing students to become global citizens in careers that require critical thinking.

"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," Mills wrote.

Alumni have overwhelmingly supported the college in the wake of the report, spokesman Scott Hood said Thursday.

The report's authors, Michael Toscano and Peter Wood, on Thursday issued a response to Mills' column. They said he misrepresented the report's criticism by disputing a few examples plucked from a lengthy report.

They denied that their research was motivated to show the school in a particular light.

"We were not moved by vindictiveness, a desire to discredit, or an urge to retrieve a bygone era," they wrote. "We sought to capture a present reality out of concern for the future."

The dispute originated in a 2010 commencement speech in which Mills recounted a golf game with an unnamed person who said the school over-emphasized diversity.

That person, Tom Klingenstein, later responded publicly, saying he was misrepresented by Mills. Klingenstein ultimately financed The Bowdoin Project.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com

 

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