The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: May 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Experiencing the Nepal earthquake

Before the earthquake, I spent three months studying development and social change – as well as Nepali language and culture – at a small American organization in the center of Kathmandu.  I lived with a host family full-time and also got to spend a couple weeks living in a village in the rural, heavily mountainous Mustang region of northern Nepal (as well as one week in the rural plains of the Terai of southern Nepal).  I can’t possibly express the profundity of the experience in a few short sentences… the experience has completely changed my outlook on the meaning and truths of culture.  Living in Nepal was difficult, especially at first – load shedding meant that, for months on end, 16-18 hours per day electricity would stop flowing to certain sections of the city.  My shower was a bucket of lukewarm water in a dark room, and the thick layers of pollution trapped in the bowl-shaped city meant wearing a mask on my 30 minute walk to school every morning.  But, as these difficulties turned into annoyances turned into habit, I began to absolutely love everything about the culture – how it had welcomed me with open arms at every turn, shoved food into my mouth in every room as a customary hello, brought me to puja ceremonies with my aama and holi celebrations with my daai.

Living in Kathmandu as a Westerner, the aspects of Nepali life that I had at first understood as chaotic faded into normalcy. My sense of cultural center became flipped upside down, and eventually destroyed altogether. As I learned to eat all of my meals with my hands, ride the bus gasping for air and clinging on to hundreds other people for hours on end, and lightheartedly argue with taxi drivers in Nepali over whether I deserved the tourist price or the student price, I began to understand that so much of what I had thought of as objective aspects of living are actually entirely culturally subjective – and that the West had done a hell of a job engraining its standards of normalcy into the deepest levels of my consciousness. You ask what my biggest takeaway has been – that one is definitely way up there. Culture in the United States and culture in Nepal don’t exist relative to each other, and there’s really no standard measurement upon which to judge them.

When the earthquake hit, I was with fellow Batesie [sophomore] Alex Ulin on a public bus just outside of the valley. I had been in Nepal three months, and she had arrived a few days before to work with a women’s organization in the city – we had decided to go trekking for the weekend, to get away from the bustle of Kathmandu life for a bit.  By U.S. standards, we were in a relatively remote area – about a minute after we stepped onto a bus, it started violently shaking from side to side.  People around us seemed confused at first, and then scared – nobody had any idea what was going on. The bus kept shaking and shaking, it felt like it might overturn at any moment.  I looked outside and saw a crowd of people flailing their arms and sprinting toward our bus – behind them I saw pillars of dust and dirt rising from the hills around me (I later realized they were collapsed buildings and houses) – I thought maybe we were under attack.  We shoved our way through the crowd and off the bus, as others followed. We ran to a nearby field where a crowd of villagers had begun to gather – some praying, some crying, and some screaming. We were the only non-Nepalis in the area.  We stood, sat and paced in that field for three hours as tremor after tremor continued to come – as the Nepalis we were with watched their village collapse. No one knew what was going on, and we all understood that, if this was the end, there was nothing we could do. We didn’t know if the ground was going to open up under us, didn’t know where the center was, had no idea of the extent of the damage outside our line of sight. Eventually, Alex and I decided we had to make our way to a major road, to a place with food and shelter for us. We said goodbye and good luck to the friends we had made, and hiked a few hours to the larger town of Dhulikel, pausing in fear every time we felt another tremor and running every time we had to travel next to or in between buildings.  Right as we arrived in Dhulikel – just as we entered the old town – the first large aftershock hit, sending rubble and bricks into the streets all around us. I remember sprinting for a field with our hands over our heads. After two hours sheltering in Dhulikel, exhausted and scared for our lives, we found a group of people who were leaving on a bus – we got on the bus and stepped off once we reached a nearby guesthouse. I’ll never forget how the driver refused to accept payment, instead wishing us good luck and safety.

We eventually made our way to Kathmandu and met up with a few other students and staff from my program.  We sheltered at the program center for a week, and did our best to help out with relief efforts. We spent long days (and nights, sleeping under tarps outside) debating what to do next, how we’d be able to be the most helpful – what the least selfish thing to do under the circumstances would be. We received an evacuation mandate from my university, and the embassy recommended leaving. Needless to say, our parents were not happy when we told them we would prefer to stay. In the end, though, we decided the resources we would be taking up, as untrained and unspecialized students, would do more harm than good.  The truth is, if I stayed, it would have been for myself and not for Nepal. There are thousands and thousands of Nepalis staying in camps right now with more than enough willpower to do what has to be done. I didn’t want to contribute to the problem with my own personal white savior complex. So we left.

If I have learned one thing studying development in Nepal, it’s that development – more often than not – is a colonial process for Westerners to exert influence and arrogantly impose values onto cultures and peoples they label as “inferior” or “underdeveloped.” No one was “underdeveloped” until the West invented the idea of “developed.” Aid and relief processes, as I’ve experienced, are all too often similar. Even if well-intentioned, arrogance can fuck things up in ways outsiders have trouble fully understanding.

A few days after the earthquake, Alex and I were working with a women’s organization to help organize the camps and distribute hygiene supplies and food.  The organization had spent a full morning organizing information about the camps–-which families were sleeping where, who needed what, etc. At about 12:00 P.M. that day, a truck showed up with a well-meaning tourist who had bought $1500 worth of noodles. He and two armed police force guards he was with rolled up to a camp and started flinging the noodles off the back of a pickup truck into a group of people as if it were candy. Grinning, they seemed to feel like heroes. Slowly, the group became a crowd, and the crowd became a borderline riot. Some walked away with armfuls of noodles, while women (traditionally looked down upon for displaying aggression), children, those with disabilities, or those who happened to be in the back of the crowd remained empty handed, frustrated, and even physically hurt by the stampede of people chaotically rushing for food.  It could have killed someone – just one example of well-intentioned ignorance doing more harm than good.

As it says on my Facebook, since leaving Nepal my friends and I have struggled a lot with the distance between us and the place that has given us so much over the past few months.  Having spent three months studying Development and Social Change in the country – and a considerable amount of time each doing our own independent research in that field – we’ve each had a good deal of on the ground experience with community work in Nepal and established a fund hoping to help funnel money into the right places. So much of the money going into the country now WILL be squandered by bureaucracy, cultural politics, and international egos. Our fund skirts this by directing money to organizations that aren’t already in the headlines and that are doing absolutely essential work and which we have 100% faith in the integrity of. These organizations are all small and Nepali led, are working around the clock and struggling for funds, and deserve so much more attention than they’re getting. So far we’ve raised $7,500, and are goal is to push $10,000 within the next week.  Anything you can do to help us out by spreading the word will make a HUGE difference. The link to donate is below.

Click here to donate.

A thought to end on – just because the news cycle has phased Nepal out doesn’t mean the crisis is over. For many in Nepal, the worst has yet to come.  I’m sure you’ve heard about the second major earthquake earlier this week – and the turmoil it will cause, the ways it will compound already-scarce food supplies and disease risk. It’s truly absurd that I am completely safe right now – with more than enough shelter, food, and water – just because I was privileged enough to be born in America.

Bates crew conquers New England and ECAC Rowing Championships

Though they may not compete under the spotlights in front of hundreds of fans at Alumni Gym or Garcelon Field, Bates rowing has been quietly dominating on the water. In the wake of the team’s historically excellent performances at the New England and ECAC Rowing Championships, a national championship is not an unreasonable prospect at the NCAA Division III Championships on May 29th and 30th in Sacramento, California.

The Bates women’s team has solidified the number one spot in the nation on the strength of their recent successes. At the New England Championships on May 2nd, Bates swept the first, second, and third varsity eight grand finals, the team’s best showing ever at New England’s. In the first varsity eight final, Bates’ time of 6:57.656 beat both Trinity and Williams, who were ranked first and second in the nation respectively at the time.

The first varsity eight boat for the Bobcat men matched their women counterparts, winning the varsity eight grand final for the first time in Bates history. Their final time of 6:14.338 was comfortably ahead of Boston College in second place (6:17.008). They qualified for the grand final by defeating NESCAC rivals Trinity (who crossed the finish line at 6:12.384) in the first heat, posting an impressive time of 6:10.564.

Stakes were even higher for Sunday’s ECAC Championships in Worcester, Massachusetts. At ECACs, the varsity eight grand final also counts for the NESCAC Championship, as the highest finishing NESCAC team takes the title. Automatic qualification for NCAAs is also on the line.

Despite being beaten by Michigan and Hobart, the men’s varsity eight took home the bronze with a 6:28.404 time in the grand final. Crucially, fellow NESCAC competitors Williams and Wesleyan came behind the Bobcats, in fourth and sixth respectively. Bates’ NESCAC championship snapped Williams’ streak of six consecutive conference titles, and is the first NESCAC championship for any Bates men’s team in three years. The first varsity eight boat was comprised of freshmen Rod Pratt and Daniel Sparks, sophomores Erik Divan and William Lehrer, juniors Welles Mathison, James Naso, and Marit Wettstein (cox), and seniors Matthew Silverman and Nicholas Flynn.

On the women’s side, the ceaseless dominance continued. As they had done a week earlier, the first, second, and third varsity eight teams triumphed, winning both the ECAC and NESCAC titles. This is the second straight year that the top three Bates women’s boats have accomplished this incredible feat, meaning that the Bobcats have again earned the right to travel to the NCAA championships. The first varsity eight boat will include sophomores Kate Traquina (cox) and Elise Emil, juniors Emma Taylor, Emilie Muller, and Alison Simmons, and seniors Rebecca O’Neill, Mallory Ward, Jenna Armstrong, and Eliza Barkan.

Bates head coach Peter Steenstra was named ECAC Coach of the Year in both women’s and men’s rowing, a tremendous honor that highlights just how much Bates crew has achieved so far. They’ll be searching for even more in Sacramento on the national stage.

Nepali students respond to earthquake

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 15th caused more than 8,000 deaths and set back Nepal’s economy by approximately 20 years. The earthquake’s epicenter was near Kathmandu, the capital and largest city.

A 7.3 aftershock quake hit Nepal Tuesday morning.

According to the U.S. Embassy website, the United States has pledged to donate $27 million to support humanitarian relief activities in Nepal.

The Dharahara tower, the oldest and one of the most significant cultural heritage sites of Nepal, was completely destroyed. Many palaces, temples, and other heritage sites were destroyed as well.

Nepali students at Bates include senior Adnan Shah, junior Sonish Pant, sophomore Aashu Jha, and first-years Deepsing Syangtan and Pratap Khadka. Shah, Syangtan, and Khadka have lived in Kathmandu for most of their lives.

“My house is fine; the wall behind it is not,” said Khadka. “The destruction that the earthquake caused was very random; some very old houses (like my previous employer’s) are fine, while newer modern buildings have turned to nothing but rubble. Lots of aid will be needed to rebuild Kathmandu.”

“After this disaster, people are trying to get back to the normal way of life. It’s going to be very difficult—economically and socially,” Shah said.

After the earthquake, Shah, Syangtan and Khadka have frequently communicated with their family and friends via Facebook, Skype, phone or Viber. Their families keep them updated o the recurring aftershocks that afflict the country.

“This past week there was another minor shock. It wasn’t put in the media, but I got to know that from my mother,” Shah said.

Khadka recalled when he first found out about the earthquake: “I woke up on the last day of April break with twenty two messages from my friends and family on my phone and many missed calls. The world had found out about it so much earlier than I did. Thank God that I read a message from my brother first saying that everyone was fine and did not have to deal with the apprehension of finding out if they were ok or not.”

Syangtan did not hear back from his family until two days after the earthquake.

“I thought the earthquake was small since we have frequent small earthquakes,” he recalled. “However, one of my friends at Bates called me at 3:00 A.M. asking if my family was okay. Then I realized the earthquake was really massive and [caused] huge destruction in Nepal… That period was so scary. I wanted to get information about my family. I felt so sad for not being with my family.”

After the earthquake, the Nepali students hosted a vigil to raise awareness about Nepal and the damage the earthquake caused.

“The vigil was a very good gesture from the Chaplain’s office. It brought together people who wanted to help and support us,” Shah said.

At the vigil Khadka talked about his friend who died in the earthquake, Syangtan gave an overview of the history and culture of Nepal, and Shah shared his response to the earthquake.

The Nepali students later organized a fundraiser, which so far has raised $8,000 from online donations. Their goal is to hit $10,000.

“For me, being far away from home, knowing I might have been able to help them physically–I was feeling guilty. I tried to get over that feeling, and I used that motive for the fundraiser,” Shah said.

The fundraiser, which started on the Bates Facebook class pages, received support from friends, professors and student clubs such as Sangai Asia and Bates Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine. Shah’s friends organized a pay-per-view showing of a boxing fight in the Benjamin Mays Center, and AASIA and Bates Democrats coordinated a bubble tea fundraiser to help the Nepali students reach their goal.

Furthermore, Shah said that Bates students can show their support for Nepal by “Spreading the word; raising awareness. Ask people to donate.”

“As a collection of drops of water can for an ocean, a single contribution from a person can help impact many lives in Nepal. So I would encourage everyone at Bates to support the fundraiser in any way possible. Nepal and [the] Nepalese need support to overcome this situation,” Syangtan said.

1 dollar is worth 100 Nepali rupees, which is enough to buy a full meal for an earthquake victim.

The fundraiser can be found at this webpage.

Click here to read a first-hand account of the earthquake by Max Silverman, who was studying abroad during the disaster.

 

News from Short Term abroad

First-year Nate Stephenson on the Budapest, Hungary trip:

Right now, we’re in Budapest, the capital, but last week, we visited Prague for a few days in the Czech Republic, which was a really cool place. We’re in a big hotel here, and we stayed in a smaller bed and breakfast type place in Prague.

We’ve been learning about the history of Central Europe (mostly having to do with the Cold War era and communism), and we’re looking at how that history expresses itself in the local cinema and theater. We’ve been reading about the history, reading and seeing a lot of plays, and watching a lot of films, but also we’ve visited [some] historical sites, like the former headquarters of the secret police of the various regimes that used to control Hungary.

It’s really been incredible to see how communism, [a concept so foreign to] people our age in the United States, has had a lasting impact on the society here today. Anyone here will tell you “Hungarians don’t forget,” and that’s really become evident to me.

The hardest part for me has been operating relatively independently in a country where I know only the most basic words in the native language, but even that’s not so bad. For the most part, people here speak English, so it hasn’t been too hard of a time.

We’ve seen some really incredible performances here, which I’ve absolutely loved, and one weekend a bunch of us went to the Budapest Zoo [to] feed camels, which was pretty fun too.
The biggest difference [between Budapest and America], I would say, is the way people treat you. It’s likely that this is because we’re Americans in Europe, but when you go to restaurants, the servers don’t act as friendly as they do in the United States, even though (unlike many European countries) Hungary does have a tipping culture. That’s not to say that we’ve only met unfriendly people, but people are definitely much more distant at first than they are in the U.S.

Sophomore Gina Ciobanu on the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia trip:

I am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (the capital). Fifteen other students [and I] are staying at Mr. Martin’s Cozy Place. It’s a big [guest] house with a lot of rooms, and a family lives here and looks after the house, but it’s built to accommodate thirty people.

Our group is split between two sites, the Horn of Africa and the Somali Youth Literacy Center. These are two Somali schools in Ethiopia, and we are working as English teachers and teacher aides in classrooms. Most of the students we are working with want to move to a Western country, so they are intent on learning English. We are all working with different levels of English proficiency and different ages, but most of us are teaching basic grammar and common vocabulary words. Yesterday we taught a group of students the song “head-shoulders-knees-and-toes.” Another day we taught informal phrases like “it’s raining cats and dogs” and “jump on the bandwagon.” The students are so excited to learn and have been very receptive of [us], appreciating our American accents.

My biggest take-away of this trip so far is that I am so incredibly blessed in the U.S. Every day we pass by countless homeless people and young children begging for money. It breaks my heart to see so many people struggling. There are also so many comforts that we are used to that aren’t a norm here. The power and wifi will often go out for a couple of hours, or the water will get shut off for a night, and people don’t think twice about it. Another big take-away I have is how excited the Somali students have been to learn and how thankful they are for everything they have.

The hardest part of the trip has been standing out in Ethiopia. For the first time in my life, I am a part of the minority group, and people take notice of that. Wherever we go, people will look at us or at times call out to us, saying things like “America” or “USA.” It is challenging being in a city environment and being guarded about where your money and phone are. It is different than the Bates environment, but I suppose similar to a city environment anywhere else.

The most fun thing we have done has been hiking Mount Entoto as a group. There is an absolutely incredible view of Addis and the country at the top, and there is a marketplace that sells hand crafted scarves, baskets and other handmade goods.

The culture and dress is much more conservative, with Muslim women completely covered up wearing hijabs, floor length skirts, and with arms covered. Even those who aren’t Muslim [dress] very conservatively. I have also noticed that women are viewed as second-class citizens in some instances. We walked into a restaurant that was segregated with the men in the common room and women in small back rooms.

Also, there is not much money in the schools, and many schools are getting by with the bare minimum. All they have are desks and one whiteboard at the front of the room.

Think before you party, themes can hurt

Organizing and attending parties is one of the main ways people socialize at any college. It’s how we bond with friends, meet new people, and strengthen our sense of community on campus. But when we are partying and simultaneously making fun of a certain demographic we do not identify with, it becomes classism, racism, and ethnocentrism, and it’s not cool.

Over the past couple of months, we have seen and heard about theme parties on and off-campus that make fun of and misrepresent certain marginalized groups of people. On more than one occasion there have been social gatherings involving a “white trash” theme. We understand that the intentions of a “white trash” theme party are not meant to be offensive. Dressing up in clothes we don’t typically wear is fun because it’s exciting to do something different. Plus, when planning outfits together it creates camaraderie and a chance for new friendships to be made.

We don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. We too have participated in theme parties that may have misrepresented and mocked groups of marginalized people in the past. All we want to do is start a conversation. Let’s take a minute to really think about the implications of parties that clearly mock people who have been subject to generational poverty and degradation in America. What is being said when predominantly middle to upper class students wear jorts, trucker hats, and wife-beaters? What does “white trash” even mean? Who is “white trash”? And more importantly, why do we think it’s funny to dress up like “white trash”?

For the most part, “white trash” is not a term we would use to label Bates students. And for the most part, we think we can all agree it’s a term that labels a group of people struggling to overcome poverty who are probably unable to attend academic institutions like Bates. Do we need to remind you of our through-the-roof tuition?

By dressing up in costumes portraying this specific demographic of marginalized Americans, we are perpetuating widespread stereotypes of poor, uneducated whites. These stereotypes further alienate poor whites from middle-class whites. In doing so we are creating distinct class identities, rather than one unified American national identity. The term “white trash,” like all the costumes that go along with it, separates a population who physically, emotionally, or economically fail to measure up to standards of the middle class. When middle to upper-class students, which is predominantly what the Bates student body is comprised of, dress up as “white trash,” we are distinguishing ourselves and proudly saying “we are not ‘white trash.’” When we dress up in these costumes, we are having fun at the expense of the people we are ridiculing; we are taking pleasure in thinking we’re superior to poor working class whites.

As Bates students, we have a responsibility to carry out the Bates mission to “engage the transformative power of our differences, cultivating intellectual discovery and informed civic action.” By organizing “white trash” parties and furthering these misrepresentations, we aren’t cultivating civic action–we’re destroying it.

As students attending a progressive liberal arts college, we need to embrace and respect the differences of all human beings. Instead of dressing up as marginalized groups of people for fun, we need to question our actions and the ways in which we are partying. We aren’t saying we should stop having theme parties. Theme parties are great. But there are countless themes that don’t make fun of other people’s circumstances. Let’s think about themes for social gatherings that don’t isolate and make fun of marginalized groups of people. Let’s have these conversations and talk about how we can promote the understanding of all different races, religions, ethnicities, and socio-economic classes.

Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine statement on eviction notices

Last night, around 500 students at Bates received mock eviction notices posted on their doors. We, the Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine, joined other university campus movements and participated in distributing these notices to raise awareness of the regular practice of home eviction as a part of Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The purpose of this action was to raise awareness of the reality that affects hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. While the response that students may have experienced pales in comparison to the experiences of Palestinians, our goal is to compel students to think empathetically about the violence that we are complicit in as Americans and as students at an academic institution invested in the state of Israel.
We want this to be a part of a larger conversation about political apathy and the myth of neutrality at Bates and elsewhere, especially with regards to Israel and Palestine, but not excluding other resistance movements across the world. We hope you will join us for an open and critical discussion about home demolition and the egregious colonial exploitation of Palestinian bodies and land. We also encourage you to start conversations about Palestine that venture outside of conventional Western narratives.

BEAM states racial justice is environmental justice

This year, more Bates students have become politically conscious and environmentally active than in the last four. The Bates Energy Action Movement (BEAM) sent the most students of any Maine college to the first Maine Students for Climate Justice (MSCJ) rally in Augusta last month. Similarly, over seventy Bates students made the long drive to New York City to attend the People’s Climate March in September.

This high level of students taking environmental action is without precedent in our years at Bates. Many students have realized that they are capable of significant political action, and that the capacity for social change is in their hands. These students have not looked to any higher power for change. Rather, they have gone to the streets to demand it.

The environmental movement at Bates is not alone in its growth. The protests surrounding police brutality on the national level have sparked responses on campus. Last week, we are proud to note, over one hundred Bates students marched all over campus chanting “Black Lives Matter,” “This Is What Democracy Looks Like,” and “No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police.” We, the members of BEAM, have never before observed a more unified group of students taking collective political action on campus, and we find a certain kind of solace and hope in this solidarity.

We see an obvious connection between the environmental and the Black Lives Matter movements, but so far, we have not been able to effectively portray this connection on campus. At the MSCJ rally in Augusta, the organizers attempted to make this association clear by inviting speakers from the Portland Congress of Racial Equality, which organizes anti-racism actions in Portland and by having the attendees chant “Black Lives Matter” while they marched.

We were concerned to find that some Bates students in attendance were not only ignorant of the connection and surprised by the direction of the rally, but were also explicitly and actively opposed to this direction. Perhaps BEAM did not make clear the intersection between racial and environmental issues before, so, moving forward, we want to make it explicit: it is impossible to separate environmental justice from racial justice—both movements are, in fact, one and the same.

From a philosophical perspective, racial oppression and environmental destruction stem from a similar principle: colonialism. Colonialism and the imperial urge make false distinctions to justify exploitation, separating alike the civilized person from the savage, as well as civilization itself from “the wild.” The same impulse that would drive a “civilized” man to attempt to tame a “savage” man would also encourage civilization itself to attempt to tame nature.

These attempts at taming have nevertheless failed. They have only served to engender the brutal system of racism that has destroyed and is continuing to destroy the lives of black Americans and the brutal system of environmental exploitation that has destroyed and is currently destroying the planet.

When one looks upon another person as subservient and as an object because of their race and exploits them, this is a clear injustice; this is the cause of racist brutality. Similarly, when one looks upon the planet as an object that is totally subservient, waiting to be dominated by the powerful, this is the same form of injustice. Thus, the root cause of racist brutality is also the root cause of environmental degradation.

But the definite connection between environmental injustice and racial inequality is not purely a philosophical matter. Rather, it is a material and concrete problem, manifested in every city in America. It is poor communities, especially of color, that have had to face the brunt of environmental crises. Poor communities are often industrial communities, and because of this, they have faced health issues from pollution.

In Baltimore, a black infant is nine times more likely to die before the age of one than a white infant, according to the Johns Hopkins Health Institute. Similarly, African-Americans in Baltimore have the highest rate of death from cancer than other racial group. The correlation between race and environmental vulnerability is environmental racism: a system that further oppresses racial minorities by polluting and destroying the environment in which they live.

The aforementioned philosophical and material intersection calls for a redefinition of the environment. The environment is not solely the wild parts of nature: the forests, lakes, and mountains. The environment is much more than that; it is, quite simply, everywhere on Earth in which we all live. The streets of Lewiston—especially the dirtiest, most impoverished, and dilapidated —are just as much a part of Maine’s environment as the peaks of the Appalachian trail.

Consequently, we all must realize that all social issues are environmental issues. Poverty is an environmental issue. Income inequality is an environmental issue. Racism and police brutality are also environmental issues. After all, if police brutality makes one afraid to leave his or her very house, to move about freely in his or her own neighborhood, is this not itself an issue of the environment? To only attempt to protect an abstract sense of “nature,” and to ignore the need to protect one’s own neighborhood, is to fail to practice a responsible environmental ethic.

Environmentalism is ultimately and entirely about trying to find a just, peaceful, and sustainable way to live on and with planet Earth as a whole; therefore, to act as if a gritty street is any less part of the planet than the ocean or the forests is to delude oneself. Environmentalism should be about respecting not only the remote, pristine, adored environment – but also the immediate, industrialized, and overlooked environment.

This new understanding of what constitutes the environment shows how the environment becomes a host for societally engrained structures of oppression and control regarding gender, race, and class and how these associations shape power relations and unequal control and access to resources.

In totality, BEAM would like to assert the intersection between environmental and social issues. At this time, when the majority of Bates students are capitalizing on collective power, the potential force of future political action on campus is substantial. Unification of all campus-recognized, socio-political issues would allow for Bates to create a stronger network of aware and engaged students with the potential to enact serious change.

Lastly, BEAM would like to note that while the intersection of the environmental and the Black Lives Matter movements can appear obscure and intimidating at first, recognizing and acting upon the aforementioned connection could be a catalyzing force for successful change.

Constructive action, concrete change: J Street U takes on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Last week, students across campus awoke to find mock eviction notices taped to their doors, which members of Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) had posted the night before. These notices ordered students to “vacate the premises,” as their dorms were “scheduled for demolition,” a comparison to similar practices used by the Israeli government in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. SPJP notes that these “forced evictions are devastating,” as are many other daily realities for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

J Street U agrees that these practices are violent, immoral, and horrifying, and we agree that the occupation must end. However, we do not believe that mock evictions, or similar antagonistic actions, move us toward this goal. In fact, these actions serve to further polarize students and further entrench an increasingly one-sided and hostile situation. It is vitally important to confront and think deeply about these controversial issues, but not in such a way that inhibits critical thinking. Now more than ever, dialogue and constructive, meaningful action are absolutely crucial.

J Street U at Bates seeks to move beyond the typically polarized discourse that so often plagues conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are a group of students from all walks of life who are as equally committed to ending Israeli occupation as we are to ensuring Israel’s existence as a Jewish and Democratic state. We believe that the only just way to ensure dignity and security for both Israelis and Palestinians is the creation of an independent state of Palestine alongside Israel. As one of over sixty J Street U campus chapters across the country, a national student movement actively working for American support for a negotiated two-state solution, we educate, advocate, and take action for freedom, justice, and peace.

Unfortunately, conversations at Bates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are rarely two-sided. Op-eds are written, flyers are posted, and people yell back and forth, forcing students to choose sides. The lack of nuance surrounding this issue is astonishing, especially at Bates, an institution that claims to value diversity of thought and intellectualism. It’s about time this campus moved past the status quo of two sides volleying back and forth with one another. It’s about time we all reminded ourselves that we don’t want to just talk about the conflict, we want to end it. J Street U students recognize this, and stand firmly as pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and most importantly, pro-peace.

Tired of so much antagonistic rhetoric, we are choosing to take concrete action and support activism of individuals on the ground in the region. Starting this Short Term and continuing into next fall, J Street U at Bates will be collaborating with EcoPeace Middle East, a grassroots organization jointly run by Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian environmental activists. We hope to raise at least $1,000 to benefit communities in the Gaza Strip, desperately in need of clean water in the wake of last summer’s war.

Working closely with BEAM and the Environmental Coalition, we also hope to educate ourselves and the broader Bates community about the complex interaction between environmental issues and political conflict.

Now, we recognize that this small initiative will not end the conflict, but we see it as an important way to support everyday people whose lives and homes have been destroyed by this conflict. Rather than polarize a campus with inflammatory actions that have no clear impact on the ground, J Street U is taking a concrete step toward cleaner water, increased dialogue and communication across borders, and ultimately a safer and more peaceful future. Join us.

The Alumni Dance Show: An ode to Marcy Plavin

Hours of rehearsal, tears of happiness, and reminiscent rendezvous were rampant at the Bates Alumni Dance Reunion on the weekend of May 1st through 3rd.

This event marked the 46th anniversary of the Bates Dance Department by the iconic Marcy Plavin. Plavin served as the dance director at Bates until her retirement in 2003 when Carol Dilley, the current director, took over.

The reunion (occurring only every five years) not only served as a reconnection for dance alumni, but it was also comprised of dance pieces and other special events honoring Plavin’s remarkable achievements at Bates and the lives she changed along the way. All of the returning alumni agree that Plavin holds a permanent place in their hearts as she passionately instilled lifelong lessons and friendships in and out of the dance studios.

“I really can’t put into words what Marcy Plavin has meant to me and to Bates Dance,” Sarahbelle Marsh ’05 said. “I can quote my own mother though. In all my major life decisions she has asked, ‘Well, what does Marcy think? Life is easier when you just do what Marcy says,’ and like Marcy, my mother is never wrong.”

The weekend began with rehearsals for a piece featuring current Bates students as well as alumnae Marsh and Laura Medina ’02, choreographed by Lynda Plavin, Marcy’s daughter.

Medina moved to New York City right after graduating, where she took dance classes before getting her masters degree in religious studies and gender from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She now lives in South Portland, Maine and owns her own Rolfing practice and teaches yoga. In 2013, she married a fellow Batesie, also a member of the class of 2005.

Prior to the alumni reunion, Medina was in contact with Dilley about bringing a dance piece she made as a senior and creating cast of half current and half graduated Batesies.

“We thought it would be nice to have a piece showing a continuing thread of new and old,” Medina said. “However, that particular piece is a beast and there was no way to get it together in time.” However, being in Plavin’s piece with current students was a perfect alternative.

After working with the current Bates students, she said, “I LOVED dancing and performing with the current students. Walking back into the studio felt like nothing had changed, that space is home to me, and all the faces in there are my dearest friends, whether I have met them or not. The current students are an amazing bunch of young dancers and I feel so privileged to have been able to get to dance with them.”

Sam Thomas ’15 was also part of the cast for this particular piece.

“I was really interested in this show because I knew that so many past Bates dancers would be coming back to campus to take part in the same program that has welcomed me at Bates,” she claimed. “I knew that there would be so many different types of Batesies in one space that had something in common and that my turn to join the outside world as one of them is just around the corner.”

Reconnecting with fellow Bates alums for this heart-tugging event always creates a warm environment in the studios and on the stage that spreads into the entire Bates community.

“Reuniting with my college dancers is always the highlight of my year,” Medina said. “This is the second reunion I have been to and they are truly heart-filling. It never ceases to amaze me how we can come back together like no time has passed. We create dances like we have always done. We dance like we have always done. And we hug, a lot. Creating art with someone builds a bond that is unlike any other friendship, and being able to step back into the creative process is a wonderful gift that only Bates College can give.”

Although Thomas is not yet an alumna, she still had much to say about reunion.

“The Alumni Reunion this year confirmed everything that I knew about dancing at Bates: it is the most wonderful community and shared space to be a part of,” she exclaimed. “When taking a class with Dante Brown this semester, I learned one of the most important lessons about the dance community I had become a part of. He told us that the space we had entered was to be a positive one, where we encourage our fellow artists and cheer them on in energy, spirit, and movement; in that one moment Dante had inspired me to be the best version of myself and to smile while doing it. This idea of positivity and support stuck with me as I realized the Bates dance community was all of that. I was walking in the footsteps of so many dancers before me who came back for reunion to relish in the same moments that I have found so special here.”

Bates sports: A year in review

From the waters of the Androscoggin to the turf of Garcelon, the slopes of Sunday River and the baseball diamond at Leahey Field, it’s safe to say that it was a great year to be a Bobcat. Bates had one the most successful years for athletics in school history. The ‘Cats remained at the forefront of competition through all three seasons, claiming national championship titles, dethroning powerhouses, and raising standards for athletic achievement. All the while, the Bobcat faithful never lacked a team to cheer for or a big game to attend.

The fall proved an exciting season on Garcelon for the football team. Matt Cannone, the senior quarterback for Bates, reflected on a fall campaign that brought another CBB football title to Lewiston, as the team finished at a strong 4-4.

“We developed toughness on the field that was instrumental in preparing for each and every game,” Cannone said.

It certainly showed, and a dynamic Bates offense hung at least 30 points on opponents on three separate occasions. Their season was highlighted by their victories over both Colby and Bowdoin, defeating the Mules in overtime and clinching the CBB title in Brunswick in a defensive battle.

Both the soccer teams struggled this year, winning five games combined in the conference between the men’s and women’s programs. But there appears hope for the coming years, as the women won the most games in a season since 2006 (seven), and the men will be glad to have sophomore phenom and All-Conference selection Peabo Knoth back in the fall next year. Peabo was the first Bates sophomore to earn All-NESCAC honors since 2008.

The men’s cross country team enjoyed success this fall, as has been the tradition. The men placed eighth at the NCCAA regionals, making this their fifth year in a row finishing eighth or better. The women’s team also performed well at regionals, finishing tenth, which stands as the third year in a row they have recorded a top ten finish.

As the campus grew colder with the coming winter, the men’s basketball team was just starting to heat up. The Bobats made old Alumni Gym a dreaded place for opponents, as Bates remained undefeated at home for 12 straight games until hosting in the NESCAC playoffs against a tough Wesleyan team. Not only did Bates finish with an impressive 19-5 regular season record, but their play was also deemed worthy of a first ever NCAA tournament bid. But this team wouldn’t settle for a bid, they were after more. Bates won their first two games, making a run that was nothing short of epic to the Sweet Sixteen.

Senior captain Cam Kaubris relayed the basketball team’s mantra, calling this season, “the year of the bull.” Kaubris explained that the team’s focus this year was on “ownership, responsibility, focus, and loyalty. As seniors, we wanted to create a culture that highlighted these characteristics.”

It appears this mantra was exactly what the team needed. When you combine the ability of senior All-Conference point guard Graham Safford with sophomore twins Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche down in the post, junior Mike Boornazian’s clutch fourth quarter play, and senior Bill Selmon’s ability to wreak havoc on defense, you’re left with a team that has ample talent. They just had to show the horns.

While the basketball team was capturing the hearts of Batesies, junior squash player Ahmed Abdel Khalek was putting together perhaps the greatest season by a Bates athlete ever. He captured the College Squash Association National Championship, overcoming a two-set deficit in the final and entering the pantheon of Bates athletic legends. He was undefeated this year, with a staggering record of 25-0, extending his winning streak to 42 matches dating back to his freshman year. Khalek found himself in Sports Illustrated in a section called “Faces in the Crowd,” the first Bobcat featured since track and field star David Pless in 2013.

Reflecting on the season, Khalek remarked, “If you just remember how it feels after you lose, then you’ll do everything you can to get out as a winner.” Just because he always wins doesn’t mean Khalek forgets the constant possibility of defeat.

As if the winter season didn’t have enough fireworks, the spring teams brought more flare to an already great year. The only thing that could possibly rival men’s basketball’s Sweet Sixteen appearance would be another NCAA tournament run. After a tough start to the season, the men’s lacrosse team found themselves among a select group, receiving their first ever NCAA bid and getting the opportunity to host the opener on a hot night underneath the lights for nearly 1,400 fans. Bates rolled to victory over Keene State, the peak of a season in which the Bobcats won six straight NESCAC contests, dethroning number one nationally ranked, defending national champions Tufts in Medford and toppling Middlebury, who had never before lost to Bates.

“This season was almost everything we had hoped for,” senior Conor Henrie said. “Hopefully the bar has been raised for future teams.”

The baseball team made the NESCAC playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in program history. Needing a sweep over Trinity to grab the last spot, the Bobcats came through in the clutch. Bates fell to Wesleyan and Amherst in the double elimination tournament, but had an impressive win over Tufts.

Throughout the last couple of seasons, the rowing program at Bates has enjoyed consistent success. The spring of 2015 has been no different, as both the men’s and the women’s teams captured first place at the New England Championships. This podium is a familiar spot for the Bates women, as they stood in the same place a year ago, but the men enjoyed first place in this regatta for the first time in program history. The women now stand as the top team in Division III and are primed to make another run at the national championship.

Batesies will be sure to keep their eyes on these two teams as they move forward, for it appears that Bates athletics still has some more in store. From the new success stories to the old reliable teams and players, this school has been filled with an energy that has sent shock waves through the NESCAC and the nation. Be proud Bates, the ’Cats showed their claws this year.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén