On Tuesday evening, President Clayton Spencer and Dean McIntosh met hundreds of students in Old Commons to answer questions about the cancelling of Trick or Drink and larger concerns about Bates’ social culture.
The event was moderated by Student Body President Alyssa Morgosh and was an open question-and-answer session. Senior Patrick Tolosky, who facilitated a meeting of student leaders earlier this week, opened the discussion by presenting a number of recommendations for the administration to improve communication with the student body.
“We need policies that take into account the huge gray area in Bates drinking culture—policies that recognize that the vast majority of students who drink do so safely and moderately,” Tolosky said. His opening remarks were met with wide approval from the students in attendance.
In response, President Spencer began by saying she was “in wild agreement” with the issues Tolosky raised. She proposed, “How do you change something like a drinking culture? We have to work on this together.”
President Spencer acknowledged the conversation she had at the beginning of Short Term with students about campus culture. However, she found that even after that conversation, “it was a horrible Short Term” in terms of drinking and its repercussions.
Dean McIntosh found out about Trick or Drink through conversations with students and the administration during his first few weeks on campus. “Do we want to continue and endorse an event that we know causes harm?” he said. “I couldn’t in good faith say yes. Continuing that kind of event was not in our best interest.”
Senior student Sophie Pellegrini, who lives off campus, raised the issue of underage students coming to off-campus houses because of a lack of viable on-campus social options and an increased Security presence. “We’re being put in a really awkward situation where we’re forced to choose between getting in trouble ourselves or telling students to stand in the street.”
Dean McIntosh replied that off-campus residents should not play host to freshmen and that there needs to be alternative social options on campus for first-year students.
“Personally, my question wasn’t answered,” Pellegrini said. “I understand you can only accomplish so much in a forum with hundreds of students, but only about five percent of the questions in the entire forum were actually answered.”
A number of students were interested in how future decisions about social life at Bates will be made, given that there was no student input in the decision to cancel Trick or Drink. Dean McIntosh and President Spencer intend to create a committee of students that will evaluate aspects of Bates social life.
“We need to have a process that’s not hand-picking students,” Spencer said. The committee will be formed and meet during the month of November.
One change that Spencer and McIntosh emphasized is the curbing unacceptable social behavior at large events. “I saw the fall-out from 80s Dance,” McIntosh said, “And we need to do something to help the drinking issue.” For example, McIntosh mentioned that pizza will be provided at Halloween Dance.
“A lot of questions did not have to do with the reinstatement of binge drinking, and I’m disappointed that the administration chose to interpret and answer the majority of questions through the language of binge drinking,” senior Allie Skaperdas said.
President Spencer and Dean McIntosh also revealed that more funds will be provided for on-campus social events. “Part of the job is figuring out what the alternatives are,” Spencer said.
President Spencer noted that this process will take time due to the complex issues surrounding college drinking culture. “These problems are really hard—it’s a problem all over the U.S.,” she said.
Many of Spencer’s and McIntosh’s concerns about Trick or Drink and the drinking culture at Bates stem from sexual assault cases, our relationship with the Lewiston/Auburn community, and dorm and property damage. Last year there was over $500,000 in dorm damage, according to Spencer.
While there will not be any immediate alternative to Trick or Drink, the administration aims to include a variety of student voices in future discussions about Bates social life.