During my time at Bates, I have regretted choosing a liberal arts school and especially, the Politics major on several occasions. What the hell had I been thinking? Had I been thinking at all?
Last week, one of my housemates and I had lunch with her friend, a prospective student, and her mother. Trying to overwhelm the prospective student and her mother with all of our Bates love and ultimately convince them that no other school that they planned to visit would even come close to Bates, I started asking myself: What makes Bates so special?
At some point, all liberal arts schools become one in the same. We hear Bates tour guides across campus, detailing the small classroom sizes, the writing and reading intensive coursework, and the accessibility of professors. I look at the prospective students and their parents thinking, haven’t they heard all of this before? And why didn’t you wear more layers?
So then, why Bates?
Is it the fact that I can sit in the fireplace lounge at any hour of the day and turn on a timed fireplace? A fireplace with a timer—I wanted to make sure that was clear—or maybe the fact that we have a “fireplace lounge” with a grand piano nonetheless. Could it be the unlimited meal plan? Maybe that nothing on campus takes you more than ten minutes to reach by foot? I think that it comes down to one thing in particular: the people.
As nauseous as it makes me to write that, after hearing it over and over again from companies, other schools, and the like, and thinking what BS they had been dishing me, at Bates this seems to really hold true.
After reading an article from the Forum last week on the need for Bates to offer a computer science degree, I thought: what else could Bates do better?
Asking around campus, I came up with a laundry list of pretty consistent items: (1) The gym: more treadmills, more equipment in general; (2) Printers (we all know where this is going, and there have been improvements); (3) Revamp the General Education Concentration (GEC) system; (4) A library makeover (also on its way); (5) More majors, e.g. computer science, finance, or anything business-related; (6) An advisor system, where your advisor does not just approve of your classes, but one who you actually maintain a relationship with; (7) In Commons: more big bowls and mugs, Greek yogurt, and Chai tea—not a general consensus suggestion obviously, but certainly one of mine—and the list could continue on.
Despite comments on all of these issues, one thing went overlooked. At Bates, the lack of knowledge of current events never ceases to surprise me. Swamped with tests, papers, sports, finding a job or an internship, and other activities, we might not have a minute to read the front page of The Boston Globe or sift through another paper in Commons or on one of our million electronic portals.
In my Economic Sociology course this semester our professor asked the class for someone to discuss the latest happenings in Cyprus and the current situation. Sure maybe I have a shy class, but after the lack of hands raised, literally zero, my professor responded, a bit shocked and taken aback, “Wow you guys really need to start to read the papers, man.”
After talking with a student from the earlier section of the course, whose class also failed to raise any of their hands, it only reiterated my feelings.
How could we get Bates students to read the news more? Could we spend a quick five minutes in the beginning of each class just to debrief on the latest events? Could we up the amount of free subscriptions that Bates started to provide this year to certain newspapers online?
Knowing and, more importantly, understanding events happening all around us coupled with possessing the ability to clearly articulate events like Cyprus to others is an important piece of our education and Bates should ensure that all students have that ability.
How could we guarantee that when a question arises about Cyprus next week, a few hands might go up?
I always wonder whether if we had attended non-liberal arts schools, we might not have such a tough time finding a job or an internship. Perhaps with the millions of employers that swarm their campuses and the wide range of business-related degrees available, life might have been a whole lot easier.
Maybe Bates can keep making itself different and more “liberal-artsy,” or eventually, will it have to conform, add that Computer Science degree, and really start competing?