Bowdoin Orient Highlights NAS Study

Ashley Thorne

Today's edition of the Bowdoin Orient highlights NAS's recently opened study of Bowdoin College's education. The article, "Study to Track Intellectual Diversity at College," tells how the study came about after a dispute over a conversation on a golf course between Thomas Klingenstein (the funder of the study) and Bowdoin president Barry Mills:

Klingenstein contacted Wood after reading his book "Diversity: The Invention of a Concept," a critique of traditional conceptions of diversity in higher education. 

"Going to the NAS, I went to Peter, because of my high regard for his work," said Klingenstein. 

In the months that followed, Wood suggested an in-depth study of Bowdoin's curriculum and drafted a proposal, which Klingenstein agreed to sponsor.

The author, Samuel Frizell, quotes NAS president Peter Wood:

"We hope that we will be able to answer the question [what does Bowdoin teach?] in a way that can withstand any accusations of bias on our part," said Wood. If our study is biased, "we fully expect we'll be called out on it." 

Michael Toscano, the research fellow who is working full-time on the project, emphasized the benefits of having an outside party do a study like this. Klingenstein talked about his hopes for results in Bowdoin's favor:

"I actually think this could be a real opportunity for Bowdoin," he said. "This is a way for Bowdoin to distinguish itself, to differentiate itself if it really takes intellectual diversity seriously."

One faculty member from the history department, Patrick Rael, is quoted as being skeptical about the study's neutrality. He said, "I'd be concerned about the objectivity of any study commissioned at the behest of Mr. Klingenstein, who has made his preconceptions abundantly clear."

The lack of evidence to support these preconceptions is exactly why the study was commissioned to begin with. As Peter Wood wrote in the NAS proposal:

[Klingenstein] conceded however that his own charges remained unsubstantiated and, noting that both sides were making factual claims without sufficient evidence, called for further study.

We are glad Bowdoin is paying attention to this project and we look forward to its results and to working with the Bowdoin community.

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