The Cheap Moral Indignation of Bowdoin College

Michael Toscano

Moral indignation is a powerful tool—and on today’s college campuses an increasing number of high-ranking officials are employed almost solely to wield it. Take, for instance, Bowdoin College’s Timothy Foster, dean of student affairs. On December 9, 2014, he issued a campus-wide e-mail to, as he put it, “express my personal frustration and my disapproval of harmful behavior by students who should know better.” Fourteen Bowdoin students had acted with “conduct unbecoming of a Bowdoin student.” They had dressed up as Native Americans and Pilgrims at a Thanksgiving party.

“What can we do?” Foster asked. “What can we do when we educate about prejudice, ignorance, and insensitivity but continue to have people who engage in behavior that is hurtful and demeaning to others?”

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