The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: February 2014 (Page 1 of 3)

Obama’s State of the Union address and his “Year of Action”

Were you stuck in the “Bates bubble” this past week? Did you happen to miss one of the most important speeches the president gives to the nation every year? Or, maybe you didn’t realize you missed the State of the Union address until just now.

What did you miss? Another speech eloquently delivered by President Obama that addressed income inequality, health care, immigration, national security and the war on terror, foreign policy and Iran, and education. In typical fashion, the President told the stories of the American people he had met and how their stories encouraged his agenda for the year. If you’ve been paying attention to politics in Washington and Obama’s frustration with Congress then you likely weren’t surprised by the content of the president’s speech and his plans for the year.

Already, it appears that 2014 will be the president’s so-called “Year of Action”—and this, I will tell you, is by far the most important aspect of the president’s State of the Union speech. Prior to explaining exactly what the “Year of Action” would entail, President Obama addressed the obvious—that passing legislation through Congress is a fruitless effort and that the nation is tired of partisan fighting.

“The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem… But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can,” Obama insisted.

It’s true: most of us would like to see some laws of weight be passed through Congress, and we would prefer not to have our government experience another shutdown.

But President Obama took that logic to the next step, stating: “I’m eager to work with all of you [in Congress]. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Simply put, President Obama will use executive orders where he can and bypass Congress whenever possible.

President Obama then referred to one example of how he would use these executive orders: to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to $10.10.

“In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour—because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” President Obama stated.

This executive order appears to be rather reasonable. Unfortunately, $10.10 per hour won’t necessarily raise families out of poverty. And unfortunately, the invocation of the troops and my American pride does not prevent me from wondering about the wisdom of bypassing Congress and using an executive order in this situation. His relationship with Congress is like that of divorced parents; the use of an executive order only strains these tensions.

Many Americans are nervous regarding the power of the executive branch and the use of the executive order, believing in the supreme goodness of checks and balances. As one Democratic strategist commented, “People are suspicious of executive power, so you have to tread carefully.” It would be of no surprise then that President Obama only used the word “executive” twice and “executive order” once in his entire address.

While President Obama has used less executive orders than his last two predecessors—George W. Bush and Bill Clinton—the difference is in the type of executive orders President Obama has enacted. Obama’s push to force federal contractors to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 is seen as a significant executive order by many, although perhaps not as significant as his 2012 executive order that stopped the deportation of young illegal immigrants.

Believe me, I have nothing against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for employees of federal contractors. In fact, I would love to see the minimum wage raised to $10.10 throughout the nation. My criticism of Obama’s decision to use this executive order, and to “take steps without legislation” is the precedent that it sets and the message it sends. While President Obama’s Democratic platform is similar to my own, I can see the problems that bypassing Congress will incur.

GOP politicians have already begun their attacks. “President Obama has this fantasy that he can just use his pen to write laws,” said Rep. Steve Scalise. “We don’t have a monarchy in this country—there’s an executive branch and the legislative branch, and the president has to work with Congress to get things done.”

While obviously this comment is an exaggeration of President Obama’s use of the executive orders, it is important to remember how much our nation is wary of executive action and see it as undemocratic. Congress is needed to pass important laws that have a large impact, however, the more significant executive orders President Obama passes, the more future presidents will take it as an example of how they can use executive orders to get through components of their platform. I don’t fear President Obama’s executive orders—not in the short term at least—but I fear the precedent they may set for the next president (especially a conservative one) that enters the oval office.

Not only does President Obama set a precedent, but by using executive orders Obama is essentially showing his weaknesses early on in his second term. President Obama’s executive orders highlight his inability to inspire Congress to pass bills into laws and underscore his lack of faith in Congress. The “Year of Action” could very well be one of inaction.

Bates Arts Society adds to campus community as an all-encompassing student organization

The Bates Arts Society launched their website last Thursday January 30th, dedicated to spreading the art of Batesies across the campus community and signaling the true start to their presence on campus.

The first thoughts on founding an arts society – that is, according to the group’s website (batesartssociety.com), a “connected and cohesive artistic community that all individuals… can be a part of” – first came about last year; but it was not until this past semester that things really got started.  Although there have been several students organizing the Arts Society over the past semester, the club officially went public this past Thursday.

BAS pic 2All of the site’s current content stems from Bates students and spans the entire artistic spectrum, from photography and film to music and other performing arts.  The website promises, “Bates Arts Society is a creative showcase for your work – photographs, sculptures, science research videos, poetry, music, dance, painting, design, architecture, any creative work – to display to the Bates community everywhere.”

Currently certain sections of the website “don’t have a ton of content, because we’re trying to get it off the ground for now,” according to sophomore Web Designer and Co-Webmaster Michaela Scanzillo.

Because of this, the Arts Society is also always looking for new submissions to expand the arts community they’re trying to foster at Bates.

“The whole idea is that it is collaborative and non-exclusive.  If you give us work to put up, we’ll put it up,” explains Scanzillo.

Currently most of the work displayed online is from the Arts Society members themselves, but others have contributed through open mic nights and the art currently displayed at Le Ronj coffee house, a joint product of the work of the Arts House and the Arts Society.  To this day, 23 Bates artists have been featured on the website, mostly in the fields of studio art and photography, but also in film and original music.  Because the site is ever expanding and has only just launched, the amount of content is likely to increase in the coming days.

As the Bates Arts Society expands, its members continue to look for new opportunities to involve others in its goals of creating its artistic community.

BAS pic“Anytime we can collaborate with other clubs, faculty, and students in regards to planning an event, we’re more than open to partnering,” says the group’s president, sophomore Julian Bardin.  “Our whole premise is to provide the Bates community both on and off campus with an innovative, creative, and inclusive artistic community at the college.”

The Arts Society and the Film and Culture House plan to feature student-made films next Thursday, and other potential future projects, including an arts festival that might take place during this coming Short Term.  Future events will be featured on the front page of the website.  Students can also follow the Bates Arts Society on Instagram.

The Arts Society meets every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Chase Hall Room 203, and is open to anyone.  Those wishing to submit their work can email, call, or message the Arts Society, and more details can be found online at batesartssociety.com.

UCS lecture sparks a discussion about Maine’s relationship with nuclear weapon defense systems

“For more than a year, ominous rumors had been privately circulating among high-level Western leaders that the Soviet Union had been at work on what was darkly hinted to be the ultimate weapon: a doomsday device.”

Yes, I am quoting the opening lines of Dr. Strangelove, but Dr. Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientist delivered a lecture at Bates January 29th that coincidentally fell on the same day as the 50th anniversary of this film. The timing could not have been more perfect, for the film satirizes the Cold War attitudes towards weapons of mass destruction, while simultaneously making a comment on the difficulty of reducing nuclear weapons stores. Similarly, Dr. Grego’s talk “Putting the Nuclear Genie Back in the Bottle: Nuclear Weapons, Missile Defense and How Maine Fits In,” discussed the threat of a nuclear weapons arsenal and the challenges faced when trying to reduce the presence of nuclear weapons.

Dr. Grego cited one of the major obstacles in reducing the arms store as the US missile defense system. She stressed that nuclear weapons are a liability, not an asset. These defense systems that have been put in place are not an effective means of preventing a wide scale disaster.

 “Keeping thousands of nuclear weapons safe and secure from accidents, accidental or mistaken launch, [or] sabotage, for decades is a tough assignment, and you could fairly say that we are struggling with it,” says Grego.

Although one may think that professional and well trained individuals are handling the weapons, this is not the case. Grego noted that recently dozens of officers responsible for handling nuclear weapons lost their security clearance because they cheated on tests that checked their competency to handle said weapons.

“There are still thousands of weapons in the US inventory, many more than needed to deter a country from using nuclear weapons against the US, and the US has not been quite ready to declare that that is the only reason for having them,” says Grego.

So why do we still have so many nuclear weapons? And why, instead of depleting our stores, does Congress insist on revamping our nuclear defense systems? “

The main obstacle to the US reducing nuclear weapons even further is political will to do so” Grego argues. She also insists that the false sense of security that these defense systems create is a major problem. Decades after Ronald Reagan proposed a defense system in his “Stars Wars” speech, little success or progress has been made with the program, yet the government continues to invest Millions of dollars into it.

The defense plan is meant to shoot down ballistic missiles before they reach the US. It involves an interceptor that would track and destroy the warhead before it reached US soil. Grego says this plan “sounds better after 10 seconds than 10 minutes.”

This defense system is what Grego calls a “scarecrow.” Over the past few decades, the defense programs have continued to fail key tests, and costs the US millions of dollars. Tests that had success were idyllic in nature; that is they would never be effective in real life situations, for they were tested in “scripted scenarios.” Any sort of successful countermeasure would require knowledge of the time of the launch and accurate location of the warhead. But if there was the threat of a nuclear attack, it is highly unlikely that the enemy would send a warning. Additionally, Grego argues that any country that has the technology to build an intercontinental missile can do this well, meaning they could take into consideration any countermeasures that could interfere with their weapon.

Despite the failures of the defense system, Congress is now funding the study of five potential new locations for the establishment of a nuclear defense testing site. And Maine is in the top five. Grego argues this is not a good allocation of funds, and is only adding to the nuclear weapons problem. She claims that by enhancing our defense system, our “

mistaken confidence in the system could lead the US and it’s allies to act more aggressively or to pursue military action before diplomatic ones are exhausted.” This behavior is only antagonizing the nuclear weapon problem. Alexandra LeFevre ‘16 wishes Grego more adequately explained the diplomacy behind nuclear negotiations, but she does agree that it causes problems with international relations “Nuclear weapons have totally altered international relationships. Politicians are hesitant to approach the subject of disarmament not because they are stubbornly ignorant when it comes to the physics (though some of them probably are); it›s because it means an absolute revolution in the way the United States establishes relationships with other countries.

Things have changed since the Cold War era and the days of Dr. Strangelove, but nuclear weapons are still a prevalent threat today. And without persistence from the public and a change from the government, we are not that far at all from where we were three decades ago.

2014 Grammy Awards: A night of surprises

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards, which honored outstanding achievements in music, aired live last Sunday from Los Angeles.  This year’s show did not disappoint, as it featured amazing performances, big name winners, and bold red carpet looks.

Music’s hottest couple, Beyoncé and Jay Z, opened the Grammys with a sexy production of their collaboration “Drunk in Love,” from the former’s latest self-titled album.  The song began with Beyoncé writhing sensuously in a chair, while the stage filled with smoke.  A few minutes in, Jay Z joined his partner onstage for a performance of his rap verse.  Their chemistry was palpable as they danced and sang seductively together for the remainder of the song.  The crowd gave the power duo a standing ovation as they hugged and exited the stage, arm in arm.  Later that night, Jay Z picked up two awards:  Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Holy Grail,” featuring Justin Timberlake, and Best Music Video, for his work on Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie”.

Lorde, a seventeen year-old singer-songwriter from New Zealand, gave the crowd a stripped-down version of her hit “Royals”.  From the stage lighting to her dip-dyed black fingertips, Lorde’s performance was performed in an eerie, dark light. The singer’s unconventional clothing choice and animated mannerisms matched the off-kilter pop tones in her chart topping hit.

Former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunited onstage for a performance of “Queenie Eye”, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of that band’s milestone performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which first aired in February 1964.  The collaboration brought many audience members to their feet, dancing, including Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow.

same love grammysThe most memorable production of the night was easily the emotionally-charged production of “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, which also featured Madonna and Mary Lambert.  As presenter Queen Latifah passionately declared, “Same Love” is “a love song for not some of us, but for all of us.”  The vocalists poignantly sang about stereotypes, unfair persecution of gays, and the importance of love for all.  Queen Latifah then appeared, entering through a chapel on the stage, to announce that thirty-three couples in the audience – gay and straight – were gathered at the Grammys at that very moment to get married; as a commissioner legally appointed by the state of California, she was declaring them each “a married couple!”  As the couples kissed, Madonna joined the performers onstage to deliver “Open Your Heart,” backed by a gospel choir.

Rebecca Wolinski of Central Maine Community College noted, “The fact that there was a standing ovation after says a lot about how much our country is progressing towards equal rights for everyone.”

In addition to making history with their ground breaking performance, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song for “Thrift Shop”, and Best Rap Album for The Heist.

The biggest winner of the night was Daft Punk; the French electro duo earned five awards:  Album of the Year, Best Dance/Electronica Album, and Best Engineered Album for Random Access Memories (which was engineered by Maine’s own Bob Ludwig); as well as Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Record of the Year for “Get Lucky”.  Pharrell Williams also won three Grammys for his features on the Daft Punk album.

Metallic dresses were the trend on this year’s Grammy red carpet.  Ciara, Rita Ora, Amber Rose, Christine Teigen, and Taylor Swift all opted for gold, copper, or shimmering green gowns.

Haley Kaliher of College of the St. Rose stated that Swift “was on point, as usual.”

Another popular look featured the combination of black and white, with Madonna, Katy Perry, Sarah Hyland, and Paula Patton all sporting dual-color ensembles.

My best-dressed pick goes to Best Song Written for Visual Media nominee Colbie Caillat.  Although she did not win for her collaboration with Gavin Degraw of “We Both Know,” Caillat’s look was certainly a show-stopper.  She donned a red dress by Dubai-based fashion designer Ezra Santos.  The gown was made of a feather-like material, featuring a high neckline and an eye-catching cross-body cutout.  Although a looser hairstyle would have been more flattering than her tight topknot, Caillat’s appearance on the red carpet was still breathtaking.

The 2014 Grammy Awards featured steamy performances and a few hidden surprises.  And, among other things, with its first ever live wedding ceremony, the night was certainly one for the record books.

Dallas Buyers Club proves to be a film worth buying

Dallas Buyers Club, a recently released critically acclaimed film starring Matthew McConaughey, tells a moving story about a man suffering from AIDS.

McConaughey’s character, Ronald Woodroof, represents a stereotypical 1985 Dallas “redneck.” He takes part in bull riding, heavy drinking, casual sex, and frequent hard drug use. He enjoys his extreme lifestyle until he is informed he is HIV positive and had only has 30 days to live. Ron is in denial that he has a disease that only “faggots” have, as he is incredibly homophobic and associates the disease with homosexuality. However, after extensive research, he realizes his diagnosis is likely true. His research also brings him to discover the drug AZT, the most effective drug at treating AIDS at the time. However, the drug is currently only available in clinical trials in the United States, so he goes through illegal means to get access to it.

Dallas-Buyers-Club poster-2013-movie-poster-HDWoodroof’s leads on the AZT drug leads him to Mexico, where he discovers other unapproved drugs that treat AIDS and smuggles the drugs back to the U.S. for both his own personal use and to sell to others infected with HIV. Woodroof becomes business partners with Rayon, a transvestite who he met in the hospital. Rayon has contacts with the gay community, so together they begin selling drugs, calling their business the “Dallas Buyers Club.” Participants of the “club” have to pay $400 to be a member or to receive the drugs.  Through his business partnership and eventual friendship with Rayon, Ron’s homophobic mindset gradually fades and the two prolong the lives of hundreds of HIV positive victims.

The FDA and Dr. Sevard, Ron’s doctor, eventually become aware that the two are selling these unapproved drugs to the public. Dr. Sevard believes the only way to see the efficacy of the drugs is through clinical trials. But, it is clear that Ron, Rayon, and their “club members” would have likely died long ago without these drugs.

The FDA eventually sues Ron and shuts down his business, but many, including the judge, doctors, and the  “members,” are sympathetic to the purpose of Ron’s business.

“Not only were his treatments well researched, but they were also effective,” states Zoe Moss ’17. “He and all the other people with HIV/AIDS in that time should have been able to get any treatment that would extend their lives or make them more comfortable. In a time when no one knew much about HIV/AIDS drugs, anything that was helpful should have been used.”

I found the movie to be very moving because McConaughey’s character displays significant character development throughout the film. At the start, he is living fast, homophobic, and close-minded. He believes it is impossible for him to be HIV+ since he has never engaged in homophobic sex. Furthermore, upon meeting Rayon in the hospital, he treats her poorly for being a transvestite. However, through his partnership with Rayon and research on the disease, he becomes more educated about the causes of the disease and more open-minded to the gay community.

“I thought the movie really portrayed how ignorance and fear factored into prejudice,” states Sarah Tobin ’17. “Ron was a homophobe because that’s the stigma he grew up with. But once he got to know Rayon, he realized he’s not so different.”

So make sure to add Dallas Buyers Club to your movie bucket list! It is a captivating film that speaks against the stigma of homosexuals, AIDS, and illegal drug use. Powerful and moving, this movie is sure to leave you feeling inspired and desperately wanting to wear a cowboy hat.

This summer: Oppurtunities here and abroad

There are many resources Bates for students looking to get involved during the summer months. At the end of Short Term, many of us return to familiar jobs in food service, retail, or the commanding summer-camp industry. While these positions help to pay the bills, they may not offer something greater, a future or an experience, that is central to Bates’ purpose.

The Bates Career Development Center (BCDC) was founded with the intention of “deliver[ing] exemplary career-related services including career coaching and exploration, skill-building and training.” Since its founding, the BCDC has helped hundreds of Bates students achieve career-advancing opportunities and reach meaningful global institutions aiming to effect change in developing countries.

All Bates students receive emails from BCDC regarding various opportunities on JobCat almost every week. But how often do we read them or even visit the website? According to BCDC director David McDonough “February is the biggest month of the year for internship postings and currently through Jobcat we have 239 internships posted in a wide variety of industries and geographies.” This number is only a fraction of the opportunities in which Bates is in touch. There are over two thousand more available through the Liberal Arts Career Network, which can be accessed via Jobcat, as well.

For one example, the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) offers numerous internships available for those interested in the sciences. In its fifteenth year partnering with undergraduate institutions, NOAA has opportunities in science, policy and science communication. In past years interns have studied everything from ecotoxicology and invasive species to climate trends and ecosystem services evaluation. Some even designed web sites and added to policy for protected species. This new and interesting position could forward the career of anyone interesting in environmental studies. JobCat has many other fascinating positions and internships in all disciplines and areas of study.

Independent of BCDC a small start-up NGO called Community Water Solutions (CWS). This relatively young institution offers a three-week fellowship up to Bates Students this semester. CWS was founded back in 2010 when several recent college graduates discovered the lack of potable water in northern Ghana. These powerful young women decided to change that.

The founders of CWS facilitated the cleansing of huge amounts of torpid water by teaching local women the skills and resources they need in order to purify the water. Once it is purified the women work on the entrepreneur side of their newfound businesses and sell the water to their community at very reasonable rates. This not only allows them to cover the cost of materials but also gives them a steady wage with which they are able to better their lives. The opportunity available for Bates students entails establishing a new business in a new village within the operating region of CWS. Through this tutelage these businesses are founded and become independent over the course of the three week fellowship under fellow-directed instruction.

No formal skills are required; the applicant simply most possess a desire to impact progress in the world. CWS currently operates in 60 villages and empowers 98 women entrepreneurs. Almost 35,000 residents have been served with newly purified water. Cosmin Bardan plans to apply for the fellowship. In his own words, “I am applying because I believe that the fellowship is more than a project and it can be a mind-changer for me.”

With all these opportunities out in the mix, more Bobcats can take control of the summer and advance themselves, in mind, position and understand not only to be in a good place to join the work-force, but also to increase their understanding of the world. Summer is the perfect time to take a step back from the day to day Bates life and observe the world in a new way.

Back to back losses for women’s basketball

Women’s basketball has had a tough season thus far. With the two most recent losses to Wesleyan and Conn College, the Bobcats drop to 7-13 overall and 0-6 in NESCAC play. Senior captain Meredith Kelly believes the team needs to put the weekend behind them, saying, “We need to take the positives out of the losses this past weekend and build off that, while also working on the areas we need to improve on.” The team looks to make these improvements for their next NESCAC game vs. Williams on Friday.

This past Friday night, Wesleyan prevailed 72-59. Despite being down 39-31 at the half, Bates kept fighting on-eventually tying the game 50-50 with ten minutes left in the game. Unfortunately the Cardinals went on an 18-5 run, led by senior Jenna Klaes. Leading scorers for Bates were seniors Meredith Kelly with 15 points and Julia Rafferty with 13. Sophomore Chelsea Nelson scored 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds while freshman Allie Coppola had 10 points and 14 rebounds, her fifth double-double of the season. Wesleyan’s bench put up 32 points and recorded 30 points in the paint whereas Bates only had 6 and 12, respectively. Kelly addressed this issue saying, “We need to step up our defense and limit teams to taking more difficult shots.”

The next day the Bobcat’s were at it again, facing a tough Conn College team. The Camel’s prevailed 64-56 as senior Meredith Kelly scored a game high 24 points. Bates tied the game 51-51 with 5:53 left to play but Conn ended the game with a 13-5 drive. Top scorers for Bates were Kelly, junior Allaina Murphy (12 pts, 8 rebounds), and freshman Allie Coppola (8 pts, 7 rebounds). Kelly moved into tenth place on Bate’s all time scoring list with 1,131 points. Despite her individual success, Kelly is more focused on the team’s success. “The main goal is to make NESCAC playoffs. That’s all I, as well as the rest of the team, is focused on.”

The team has one week of hard work before facing a talented William’s team next Friday.

Do current events make it inside the “Bates bubble?”

I can recall a moment in which one of my friends joked that she made CNN her browser homepage after learning about the Chilean mining accident weeks after the story had become front page news. While my friend’s anecdote was comical, it also pointed to a larger issue and prompted me to wonder, do Bates students make a good enough effort to keep up with current world events?

It has been said many times: Bates College is kind of like a bubble, a designation that our school has received for multiple reasons. For one, the campus is small in geographic size and therefore can feel physically confining. It is also possible, and even likely, for a Bates student to complete his or her daily activities without even having to step outside the boundaries of the small campus. Even those who live “off campus” essentially still live on campus, as the majority of off campus housing is positioned around the campus’ immediate perimeter.

The “bubble” phenomenon, however, is about more than just the size of the Bates campus. Bates has also been regarded as a kind of solitary entity due to the fact that the day to day existence at Bates can feel alienating from the outside world.

At Bates, as is the case at other small college campuses, students step foot in the same buildings and see the same faces every day. In a more unique circumstance than the majority of American colleges and universities, Batesies even eat meals in one large room with the rest of the student body. Such facets of a Bates student’s life can all contribute to an overall sense that we are somewhat disconnected from what is occurring outside of our immediate environment.

In terms of keeping up with current events, the problematic nature of the Bates bubble lies in the fact that it can threaten our knowledge of and appreciation for things that are happening outside of Bates. On a smaller scale, Bates students have been criticized for failing to learn about the people and history of the Lewiston/ Auburn area. On a larger scale, however, some students fail to keep up with important events taking place all over the world.

Certain academic disciplines lend themselves to more frequent discussions of current events within the classroom. A professor in the Politics department, for example, is more apt to incorporate current events into his or her course material than a professor in Chemistry. But does this mean that only students who take courses in disciplines such as Politics or Economics are awarded the opportunity to learn about current events?

The truth is that, despite whether or not Bates students live with a “bubble,” it is our responsibility as conscious individuals to remain in the know with world events.

I brought this concern up in conversation with a fellow student, and she asserted that she simply doesn’t have time to fit news stories into her routine academic demands.Many students will attest to the reality that Bates students conduct busy lives. Between demanding academic courses, choosing from a diverse array of extra curricular options, and leaving time to socialize with friends, the average Bates student manages various tasks and has little time left for personal pursuits.

The busy schedule of many Bates students does not offer an excuse for failing to care about current events, however.  Keeping up with current events can be seen as an aid to things that occur in the classroom, as global issues serve to provide relevant context to all academic areas.

News stories are now more available to us than they have ever been before. We can receive news stories on our televisions, computers, phones, and tablets. And if those options don’t work, don’t forget that newspapers still publish in print! The New York Times and The Boston Globe are available for free every morning outside of Commons.

I do not mean to suggest that Bates students are too wrapped up in ourselves and our school work to appreciate that there is a greater world of issues occurring outside of our campus borders. Rather, I believe it is easy and all too common to become absorbed in  individual responsibilities and overlook the important act of regularly checking the news.

It is easier to read a newspaper when something momentous is taking place, like a major election or a security scandal, but these kinds of events don’t claim the headlines every day. Rather, it should be our goal, if not our responsibility, to pick up a newspaper in passing, scroll through a news app on our phones, or bring up current events while conversing with friends.

There is always time to check the headlines. If need be, steal an idea from my friend and make CNN your homepage.

Papa John’s and prejudice: Delivery gone wrong

Bates students received email notifications from Bates security last summer about burglary suspects in the local community. The suspect description: black males in hoodies. If I were an African American male, I can say with confidence (as I stare at my wardrobe) that I would have been suspect number one.

Jourdan Fanning described his experience being on campus this summer as a time when he “tried to walk around and be as approachable as possible so that people wouldn’t assume that he was the suspect.”

Such vague alerts, delivered to the entire community, make any student of color on the Bates campus feel uncomfortable going about their daily lives. Someone always thinks that they’re a suspect, and is ready to accuse them of causing trouble in the community. On a day-to-day basis, these students “suck it up” and go about their daily lives hoping that community members will treat them in accordance with our school’s implied moral code.

papa johnsRecently at Bates, four African American students ordered a pizza for a relaxing weekend night, and were quickly roped into a racially charged incident involving Papa John’s pizza delivery, Lewiston Police Department, Bates security and the Bates Deans Office. Jourdan Fanning described that “This situation brought to light a composite of larger negative experiences that students of color have on this campus. This one situation wasn’t that big but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back…It’s a lot larger than the administration is giving it credit for.”

When an event involves a variety of figures from the Bates and local community, there are a variety of perspectives that could be presented and explored. Today, however, this story serves as the crucial medium through which the students will make their story known to the Bates community. With a verse common to the “Law and Order” TV show, I preface this portrayal of events, which was told to me by the students involved, as ‘their story’.

Two weekends ago, Thomas Koshi, Leroy Barnes, Jourdan Fanning, and Matthew Duca were hanging out in Room 34 in Webb House when they decided to order a Papa John’s pizza. Papa Johns’ chip promotion meant that with their six chips, given to them by the delivery car driver over the last few months, they had earned a free pizza.

When the pizza came, Thomas Koshi handed over six Papa John’s poker chips to a new deliveryman. Unfortunately, the deliveryman believed that since some of the chips were unmarked, the men were cheating him out of paying for their pizza. Instead of refusing to accept the chips, however, the deliveryman accepted the men’s payment of $2.97 for the delivery fee and got in his car. He drove away, thus symbolizing an end to their brief miscommunication.

Minutes later, the four friends are sitting in the same room in Webb when they hear a loud knock. When Fanning opened his door, Lewiston police walk in (accompanied by Bates security man Paul) and ask if anyone has ordered a pizza. When he finally realizes the large pizza box sitting in the middle of floor, he exclaims “Aha!” (well done, Sherlock) and in Barnes’ words; “immediately accuses us of the crime.”

LPD explained that Papa John’s called them to retrieve money from this location; however, that the pizza deliveryman didn’t demand that the men pay in monetary form. He had already accepted the chips and driven away.

The police officer then presented his ultimatum: pay for the pizza, or go to jail. Koshi, Barnes Duca and Fanning chose to pay for the pizza, but none had cash and all were dumbfounded by the situation. Duca volunteered to pay with his credit card, but when he called Papa John’s the line was busy. The police officer believed the students were lying and started calling them “idiots” for not calling the store to pay.

When the police officer finally reached Papa John’s by phone, a worker told him that the transaction had been closed.

Still the cop did not believe that the men were telling the truth. He wanted to know whose room they were in. He continued, “Did you burglarize this room?” Bates security man Paul, who is standing next to the LPD officer at the scene, knows Fanning and has opened his door for him in Webb when Fanning has lost his keys. Instead of telling the police officer that the room belongs to one of the men, he remains silent. “He didn’t come to our defense at any instance,” Fanning added disappointedly. Only when the LPD officer took the men into the hall to scan their IDs and check for warrants does Paul announce that an official report will be sent to the Deans Office, and that the room is indeed Jourdan’s.

The police officer, immediately realizing that he was in the wrong, expresses his profound guilt by being uncommonly friendly. He quickly shares with the men the name of the deliveryman who made the call to the police department, even though that information probably shouldn’t be shared with fellow citizens.

Five days later, the men had a meeting with Ted Goundie and Crystal Williams; however, the meeting was focused on the verification of their story rather than a discussion of the campus environment toward African American students. The Deans themselves may have been dumbfounded by the situation, but according to Barnes and Fanning, Dean Williams and Dean Goundie were hesitant to confront the Lewiston Police Department on behalf of the students.

Apparently, confronting the LPD regarding this social justice incident would discourage LPD from being as lenient with students partying on Frye Street on the weekends. In other words, we wouldn’t want to bite the hand that feeds us our Friday night fun even if it meant garnering some justice for previous race-related incidents.

Fanning eloquently summarized his and his friends’ experience on that night; “The reason that we have qualms with Bates as an institution right now is because on that night in particular, and experiences beyond that night as well, it is well known especially within the black community that security is not necessarily on our side, per se.  There have been so many situations in which students of color, particularly African American males on this campus, are treated in a way that starkly contrasts the morals and ideals that the school holds itself up to, and also the promise that was made to us by security when we decided to come to this institution.” Fanning recalled that all freshman during orientation walk past a table set up by security and are told, “‘we’re here to protect you all.’ But on that particular night,” Fanning continued, “he (Paul) stood there and left us hanging. We watched him, as he didn’t do anything. That situation could have progressed in so many different ways.”

There are many conclusions that can be derived from this scenario. Perhaps the feeling of discomfort that African American males in particular frequently feel on the Bates campus could be different if Bates security made an effort to back up their students when they were innocent. Perhaps Bates administration and Bates security should apologize to the students for their misconduct in this situation. Perhaps Papa Johns should end their pizza promotions because they cause more disagreements over paying than they do enjoyable experiences (I grew up in New York City, so frankly I’m appalled that people classify what Papa John’s makes as pizza…).

Bates United, a club started by Jourdan Fanning himself, has been incredibly supportive by discussing these events and brainstorming ways to educate the Bates and national community. They have started a “boycott Papa John’s” trend at Bates, and in the coming days, students will see signs requesting those ordering pizza to pick from a variety of other local options (Lewiston House of Pizza is a fantastic choice).

This is one story in a long chain of events that comprises the experience of African American students at Bates College. As an institution, Bates prominently advertises its abolitionist roots as the cause of our friendly and engaging community. What our institution should remember is that the impressive quality of abolitionists was truly their ability to engage in challenging conversations and confront harrowing situations.

Bates students provide foundations for child literacy at Montello School

Bates Bobcats are always lending a helpful paw to the Lewiston/Auburn Community. As part of the Bates mission, students are encouraged to weave community-outreach programs into their academic studies, creating a more civic-minded education. The Harward Center for Community Partnerships provides a variety of volunteer opportunities ranging from hospital work at St. Mary’s to serving meals at the Trinity Soup Kitchen, helping to cultivate a deeper connection with the people surrounding Bates.

Education students frequently visit local elementary, middle, and high schools as a part of their classwork. However, there are other opportunities to volunteer at local schools without taking an education course.  A few bold Bobcats took the initiative to set up two student-run programs, Project Storyboost and Bates Buddies.

montelloProject Storyboost was created in the mid-90s to serve young elementary school students with little or no literary exposure between the ages of 0 to 5. “In those years, children develop critical pre-literacy skills, such as an understanding of basic story structure, that stories have a beginning, middle, and end, with a conflict to resolve,” said Harward Representative Ellen Alcorn. Many students enter elementary school not knowing skills that we may take for granted, like how to hold a book, or that we read from left to right.

“We try to recreate the bed-time story format, and teach them to love reading,” said Project Storyboost’s Student Volunteer Fellow Brenna Callahan ‘15. Brenna is in charge of coordinating and training Bates volunteers, as well as volunteering herself. Without these pre-literacy skills, students are placed at an educational disadvantage early on. Project Storyboost is looking to fill that gap in pre-literacy education.

Bates students travel to the familiar Montello Elementary School twice a week for two hours during the day to conduct one-on-one reading sessions with elementary students in the school’s library. This schedule gives more Bates students the opportunity to participate in Project Storyboost regardless of afternoon commitments.

Bates tutors read storybooks aloud to the students during these sessions, while monitoring their behavior. Discussions of plot and characters, as well as predictions, are crucial to developing the child’s ability to understand a storyline. At the end of the book, the elementary student is asked to retell the story using picture cues and the story elements (characters, plot, setting) that they have learned.

The Project Storyboost program strives to give students the literacy skills that will allow them to excel in coming school years. Bates tutors assess each child at the end of a session, examining the attentiveness, distractedness, and responsiveness of the elementary schooler during the story reading. “Our hope is that we are able to see student growth over time,” said Alcorn.

While Project Storyboost focuses on literacy among young elementary school students, Bates Buddies strives to serve as an afterschool-mentoring program for students in grades 1-6 at McMahon Elementary School. James Jhun ’16 has revamped what was the defunct Bates Buddies. James was a Bates Buddy for the academic year of 2012-2013. Unfortunately, after the two club leaders graduated, Bates Buddies was unable to gather the leadership to continue. This year, James took matters into his own hands and reestablished Bates Buddies under a new platform.

Bates Buddies originally met with students during lunch and recess once or twice a week, with Bates students serving as all around role models. “The principal and vice principal at McMahon Elementary school offered alternative suggestions that would be more beneficial for the school and the children,” said Jhun.

This semester, Bates Buddies is taking a more targeted approach. The program has 6-8 student volunteers leading an Educational Board Games Club every Thursday from 3:10 to 4:00. Working in close conjunction with the teachers and administration at McMahon, Bates Buddies is able to tailor their program to meet the specific needs of the students. This past Thursday, January 30th, Bates Buddies had their first meeting and afterschool program. “It was a blast. The kids loved it and the volunteers had a great time,” said Jhun. Bate Buddies is already looking toward the future. Jhun hopes to integrate art and music into another after school program.

These two Bates groups focus on the youth of Lewiston and Auburn, instilling them with the value of literacy and education in a fun and engaging way. Bates has the resources and the willing volunteers to make a substantial impact on the surrounding community. With the guidance and opportunities the Harward Center for Community Partnerships provides, Bates and the Lewiston/Auburn community can continue to foster their growing relationship.

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén