The Bowdoin Project officially entitled "What does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students", was an educational publication critiquing the educational practices of Brunswick-based liberal arts college, Bowdoin College. The publication, rebased in April 2013, garnered widespread media coverage, for its critique of the college and more generally the liberal arts curriculum and overall practices. The report called for educational reform, and provided critique of Bowdoin's academic, social, and educational practices. The report was later dubbed, "The Bowdoin Project" due to widespread media coverage, and has produced extended analysis of the school's academic and social program.
Financed at a cost of $100,000, the 359-page report criticized and denounced, in thorough detail, the college's academic program, sexual atmosphere, treatment of women and minorities, student and faculty diversity, drug and alcohol issues, student safety, and hazing, among twenty-six other categories.
In 2013, Bowdoin's 14th President, Barry Mills, was reportedly playing golf with philanthropist Thomas Klingenstein who, in the middle of a swing, told him that the college was a "ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons." The incident would go to be referred to as "The golf shot heard around the academic world", by The Wall Street Journal. Yale University's professor of Political Science, Peter Berkowitz, wrote an article entitled "The Sad State of Liberal Education at Bowdoin," reiterating the statements of Klingenstein.
In April 2013, the college was at the center of an educational study entitled, "What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students." The report was later dubbed, "The Bowdoin Project" due to widespread media coverage. Prompted by the National Association of Scholars, it was a 359-page report that was financed at a cost of $100,000. The assessment criticized and denounced, in thorough detail, the college's academic program, sexual atmosphere, treatment of women and minorities, student and faculty diversity, drug and alcohol issues, student safety, and hazing, among twenty-six other categories. The report received national coverage and lead to a discussion regarding the politicization of higher education and Bowdoin's academic reputation.
The report was rebutted by the at-the-time President Barry Mills, who called the assessment, "mean-spirited and personal." President Mills responded multiple times after the college's initial response, concluding in a published report entitled "Setting the Record Straight" in The Daily Sun, in which he formalized his rejection by stating:
"[The report was] financed at a cost of "well over $100,000" by an individual who has not spent more than a few hours on our campus and produced by a 25-year-old organization whose investigators have no first-hand experience with what we teach or how we teach it. It exaggerates its claims and misrepresents both what we do at Bowdoin and what we stand for. This is not just my reaction. It is the considered opinion of many members of our community, including those who ought to know best—our current students and their parents, and alumni who have spent many, many hours in our classrooms and labs, and who describe an experience very different from the one contained in this report."
One of the most covered sections of the report was one that questioned the college's patriotism, as well as asserting that is mission was "antithetical to the American experiment". Mills responded by stating:
"[The report said] that our "worldview" and what we teach here [is] "antithetical to the American experiment" or that "Bowdoin on the whole shows little interest in the West." Frankly, it's hard to know where to begin with such nonsense. The American flag flies high over our campus atop a flagpole dedicated to our graduates who died in defense of America."
Many academic institutions and organizations sided with the college, calling the report, "a failed attack on Bowdoin [that] descended into disturbing conspiracy theories and wild speculation." Two Bowdoin professors, one of social science and one of political science, sided with the report, writing in the college's newspaper, "although I do not agree with all the findings of the NAS report, I believe that it highlights serious problems with the current state of education at Bowdoin and at elite institutions in general."
The study was covered extensively by The American Mind, in which its founder and president Charles Kesler, interviewed the principle architect of the report, and President of the National Association of Scholars, Peter Wood. With a total of four videos being made, the main issues addressed by Wood was lack of political diversity and representation, perceived weakness of academic program, and student life concerning sexual assault, the meaning of consent, and a perceived "doctrine of anti-traditionalism."
In January 2014, the college was again criticized, along with other liberal arts colleges, by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, citing the college's perceived grade inflation, substance abuse, restriction of free speech, and lack of core classes, in a report entitled, "Education or Reputation?"
The Manhattan Report was later dubbed, "The Bowdoin Project" due to widespread media coverage, and has produced extended analysis of the school's academic and social program. The Bowdoin Project has led to an extension, by the National Association of Scholars, of its report by publishing articles with respect to:
- A set of pieces entitled, "Brainwashed at Bowdoin: Anti-Israeli Boycotters Miss a Teachable Moment", "A Setback for BDS", critical of the college's student-body referendum for a "full academic and cultural boycott of Israel."