The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Day: September 28, 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

Dear Bates Campus Security

Bates Campus Security works hard to make us feel safe on a personal, student-to-student and institutional level. Many security officers take the time to converse with students, inquiring about our studies and extracurricular interest, and showing genuine personal care for the students they protect. These conversations make everybody feel good: they serve as a break in the power dynamic between security officers and students, and they reassure students that officers respect us. These interactions contribute greatly to Bates’ reputation as welcoming and safe. Security officers help us when we are sick, send us safety warnings, and give us safe-rides late at night. The physical presence of our security officers ensures our safety on campus, and their quick response in situations of crime or danger comforts students in trouble. In these and many more ways, Bates Security has proven its commitment and dedication on many occasions.

In recent weeks, however, there has been an unfortunate breakdown of trust between many Bates students and the security officers. This is unfortunate, since trust between us is essential to maintaining the sense of safety and friendliness among staff, faculty, students, and Lewiston citizens that is such a treasured feature of life at Bates College. The rules concerning alcohol at Bates are clear and firm: it is illegal to consume alcohol if you are under 21, anyone over 21 should not be selling, buying for, or giving alcohol to anyone under 21, and hard alcohol is strictly banned on campus. With the consumption of alcohol, students must remain aware that even though we are on a campus, we are still very close to permanent residents of Lewiston. Noise levels and physical boundaries must be respected, especially when outside dorms. People who consume alcohol can easily and quickly lose sense of their surroundings and unintentionally cause harm or disturbance to others who do not wish to be involved. This can be an issue for students living on and off-campus, especially when weekend activities involve students roaming around Lewiston. So in recent weeks, why have there been issues involving the Lewiston Police and Campus Security because of students wandering around this city?

Bates Security “shutting down parties” is common on campus, especially on weekends. From a security perspective, parties that get rowdy have the potential to result in harm to students as well as annoyance to others. The problem is that at many recent parties, organized by upperclassmen of legal drinking age who understand and respect the rules governing alcohol consumption and weekend quiet times, and who respect our Lewiston neighbors, Security has intervened and shut them down, because of alleged “noise levels.”

Many students are sharing stories of Security shutting down gatherings of upperclassmen who were simply sitting in their dorm rooms having a quiet evening. Even with larger gatherings that may involve music, the “shutting down” of these parties for being “too loud,” especially before midnight, seems incredibly unfair. Quiet hours on weekends begin at 1 am.

The shutting down of legal and allowed campus socializing has resulted in some frustrated students reconvening off-campus, where the potential for disturbing the peace, or doing harm to themselves or others, is far greater. The shutting down of on-campus parties by Bates Campus Security these days has gone too far. Some of the “shutting down” of on-campus parties has resulted in more off-campus confrontations between Bates students and Lewiston Police. More dangerously, the increase of off-campus parties is more likely to result in intoxicated college students wandering around the city and disturbing the peace. These incidents not only erode trust between the city and the College, but they increase the possibility of a dangerous confrontation or accident occurring, which is exactly what Bates Security most wants to prevent.

I believe I speak for many of my fellow upperclassmen when I say: we need Security to stop the excessive policing of our social events before quiet hours. Dear Bates Security: if warnings about excessive noise levels or rowdy behavior are needed, by all means issue them, but don’t assume that a party that has gotten a little loud, has spun out of control. Don’t rush to shut down a social gathering when it is on-campus before quiet hours have begun.

 

BOBCAT ATHLETE OF THE MONTH

jess-wilson-bates-website-photo

The Bates Student: Hi Jess, You are the very first athlete of the month this year, Congratulations! How does it feel to get this accolade?

Jess: I’m very excited and honored that you reached out to me, especially since Bates has so many talented athletes.

The Bates Student: Women’s cross-country has enjoyed some initial success this season, isn’t that right?

Jess: We have. Last week we were at Pineland for the Bates invitational. Wwe raced against Tufts, Wellesley, and WPI and placed second behind nationally ranked Tufts. Last year we came in 3rd, so it is exciting to improve on that result.

The Bates Student: How did you approach the Pineland race?

Jess: There were about 60 or 70 racers so we knew we needed to use good strategy. My teammate, Katherine Cook, and I ran together throughout the race, which helps mentally. We started consistently and conservatively and we gradually picked people off over the course of the race. Katherine and I work really well together and our mindset definitely led to our success.

The Bates Student: CBB. Who’s the best?

Jess: Two weeks ago we raced Colby on their course and we swept them and won all the possible points, partially because Colby’s team is all injured or not competing. Bowdoin we have not seen yet, but we will see them at states at Pineland soon.

The Bates Student: How’s the team personnel shaping up?

Jess: We have five freshmen that are performing very well right now. Our sophomores have stepped up and a bunch of them are in our top seven fastest runners. The upperclassmen on the team have also been running well. We’re a small but mighty team of 23 girls and we are all excited about how the season has gone thus far and excited for the rest of the season.

The Bates Student: What’s next for the team?

Jess: Next weekend, the top ten are going to Kentucky and the rest of the team is going to Colby. Kentucky is the course for nationals so being able to see the course now is exciting. The following weekend is states and then the postseason starts.

The Bates Student: Anything else you want to share?

Jess: Come help cheer us on at the state meet at Pineland. We love to have supporters and it is much more exciting than track to watch so people should definitely come out and watch!

Thoughts on Thesis

Senior Thesis. The two words you hear almost as much as “mozz sticks” “80s” and “Where are you studying tonight?” whispered, screamed, groaned and whimpered throughout Bates campus. Senior thesis is explained to first-years as early as they know what academic requirements are. It is remembered by seniors until the day it is bound. But just how practical is this sometimes daunting, sometimes exciting, yet always around capstone undertaking?

I’m not going to lie, there is not a single quality of this graduation requirement that I find unattractive. Writing the longest paper of my academic career on my OWN topic? Sure. Not having to go to class, but instead have 30 minute meetings (not at 8 am) with your favorite professor once a week? Even better. Did I mention that, for most majors, you don’t have to listen to anyone else when it comes to picking a topic?! Finally, a class I get to dictate. As an extremely nerdy and highly independent learner, thesis is my absolute dream. For the extroverted and less nerdy people in the world, I also think it is a great way to finish your Bates education. What better way than through an intensive and personalized project to showcase your academic labor?

While to some of us, thesis in theory might sound like a great alternative to class, it has some practical drawbacks. The first and only drawback I am going to talk about is Bates’ faculty-to-student ratio. This ratio, which is incredibly small and favorable compared to larger universities, is oftentimes too large to make thesis a realistic goal. Because so many departments, such as Economics and Neuroscience, have a huge gap between the number of students to the number of professors, it can become as much of a strain and source of stress for professors as it does for students. Moreover, it can lead to professors spreading themselves too thin and not being able to properly accommodate every student.

As a result, I have seen efforts to minimize professors’ responsibilities for thesis. This is a necessary effort, but in turn, diminishes the concept of a thesis. For example, the English department gave a thesis option this year to write directly out of a 300-level seminar, rather than as individual research. This caters to the student as well, because there is no “extra class” they need to take, and can fulfill two requirements with one class period. While I think that this is a great compromise, it seems to deter from the original concept of thesis as a guided, independent, semester-long research project.

This creates a power dynamic where students pursuing an honors thesis are going to receive exponentially more attention than students writing as a student in a larger classroom setting. Because these two undertakings, while valuable in their own respects, are completely different, I don’t think it is appropriate to call them both “senior theses.” One way to compromise for this would be to make thesis optional, and have a different capstone requirement. Another, more complex and difficult way to make thesis work for everyone would be to increase the number of professors in departments that are overflowing.

 

Rising over Wesleyan, falling to Williams, confidence and unity to drive Men’s Soccer team

With ten minutes left in the half in the Bates men’s soccer team’s game last saturday, Drew Parsons ‘19 had his eyes on the goal, surrounded by Cardinal defenders. Decisively passing to captain Luke McNabb ‘17, Parsons set up a nice shot for his teammate, assisting the first goal of a 2-0 victory against Wesleyan University.

Six minutes later midfielder Justin Yacovino ‘18 setup Matt Divite ‘17 for goal number two, marking Divite’s second goal of the year.

“We played with poise and confidence,” Parsons said. “Consistency will be what we hope to achieve along with that. Every player on this team plays an equal role in the team’s success, and when you get a group of individuals to buy into that, it creates something special.”

Throughout the entirety of the game goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro ‘19 made three saves, helping the team achieve their second shutout victory of the season and their first NESCAC win.

“We realize if we attack game situations with energy and group work ethic we can get the outcomes we want,” Head Coach Stewart Flaherty said. “Going into the second half, I expected [Wesleyan] to rebound strong being 2-0 down. We set our goal to match their energy levels for first the 10-15 minutes and built upon the game from there.”

Although they lost their game on Sunday against Williams by a score of 0-2, improvement is still on the rise for this developing team, and they are going to be a force to be reckoned with as the season continues forward.

“I think we have a great mindset right now going into games,” Parsons said. “Even after the loss against Williams, we could see our team playing better. We always maintain a positive attitude and hope to translate this mentality to more wins in the future.”

“I feel great about this team,” Flaherty said. “They are a talented group of men who, every day, put in an awful lot of work on and off the field. They really make an effort to realize the impact of their mindset and behavior on those around them. We are on a good path, and we are a good soccer team.”

The men’s team continue their conference schedule with a trip south this weekend to play Trinity and Amherst.

 

Bates Football falls in opener against Bantams, 38-7

Fittingly, on the first official weekend of fall, the Bates football team began their 2016 season. The Bobcats lost 38-7 away against Trinity in a game that was closer than the scoreline indicates.

Last Saturday’s game against Trinity was Bates’ first of eight conference matchups this fall. The NESCAC is unique relative to other division III conferences in that its football teams do not play an out of conference schedule, and are not eligible to compete in the NCAA division III championships at the end of the year. This means that every game counts for Bates’ gridiron gang, but starting the season on the road can be challenging.

“Playing on the road is always an interesting dynamic for the first game of the season. You are so juiced up and ready to go but you have to endure a long bus ride and an overnight stay before you can get after it,” said linebacker Max Breschi ‘18

The Bantams, who were introducing a renovated Jessee/Miller stadium that includes a new jumbotron this year, beat the Bobcat’s in the team’s traditional opening match-up for the 21st time in a row, a remarkable feat that dates back to 1979. However Trinity, a perennial NESCAC powerhouse who have had just one losing season in the past 25 years, had their hands full with the Bobcats in the first half.

On the opening drive of the game, new Bobcat quarterback Sandy Plashkes ‘19 orchestrated an effective march down the field, spurred by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by the Bantams, and his own 57 yard rush into scoring position. His three yard touchdown plunge two plays later put Bates up 7-0 early.

The Bobcat defense was resolute, and made that touchdown stand up for most of the first half, limiting Trinity to just a field goal and three punts on their opening four drives. “During the first half we were really flying around on all cylinders and keeping their game plan in check,” said Breschi, who finished the season-opener with seven tackles. The Bobcats wouldnt relinquish the lead until the 8:41 mark in the second quarter, when Bantam quarterback Sonny Puzzo ‘18 found the endzone to put his team up for good.

Puzzo would finish the game with an efficient stat line, going 17-26 for 182 and three scores. In the second half, the Bantams turned to their run game and effectively ran away with the contest, amassing 295 yards total yards on the ground, and two scores in the second half. The Bantams were the benefactors of a couple of Bobcat turnovers in the second half as well, including a Plashkes interception in the red zone.

As is the nature of the beast, the team has naught to do but put this game behind them, and look forward to another tough matchup away against Tufts this weekend. “We actually have a saying on defense,” said defensive lineman Andrew Segal ‘17, “‘put it down’ which essentially means, put the ball down anywhere on the field at any point in any game, and our approach will remain the same. So when thinking about practice this week leading up to our game with Tufts on Saturday, the only thing I know is ‘put it down’, we’ll take care of the rest.”

 

Preoccupations Self Titled

The Calgary band Preoccupations (FKA Viet Cong) comes from and continues upon a long tradition of excellence in the realm of post-punk. Having formed out of the collapse of one of the better noise rock groups of the past decade (Women), Preoccupations has made a stand as one of the darker, more daring groups of the post-punk revival, having gathered a mass of fans and acclaim for their first album Viet Cong. This new record takes a wider, scoping tour of what post-punk sounds and could sound like all the while maintaining the fatalism and despair that makes the band the band.

The record begins in unformed sound: delicate buzzing and whirring, shimmering scythes of noise. Something that makes itself immediately clear is the band’s return to noise and its versatile utilization throughout the record. Every song is full of whistles and whale calls and blinks. Tracks are embedded onto static and growls. There are so many audible distinctions that it is hard to gather them all on a single take. The songs are gripping and atmospheric. You are seized in sound.

The last three minutes of “Memory” are an experient in auditory imagery and texture. Imagine: bathyspheric submergence into a deep and murky ocean, beasts and bleats all around you. It is not hostile, but hard to understand. The synth work rolls and the guitars pattern these enormous oscillations. Reverb shakes the song itself. Everything is dark and throbbing. Do not forget the darkness. It is there: in the mood and the lyrics. Preoccupations was never a happy band, a celebratory band. They thrive well in the dark and the record shows brightness only through flashes.

Preoccupations does well in their recall of the the old masters of 80’s post-punk: the first to show their worried heads, the New Wave. At certain points, the band’s influences make themselves more than apparent. The second half of “Memory” metamorphosizes into New Order, dancehall beats and all, an unexpected but not unwelcome turn. A latter track, “Stimulation” begins with liquid glossy guitars right out of the Cure. The song “Fever” (one of my favorites on the record) carries a recurring Kraftwerk synth the whole way. Each song holds a different shade of dark, taking on the shapes of songs and groups before.

As much as I love the versatility of the album, there is an issue with the flow of the album as a whole. The album doesn’t have the time to gather mass amounts of momentum (except in the eleven minute foray that is “Memory”) and each song stands as its own as opposed to as a piece of an album. A general mood holds the record together but there isn’t a great amount of coherence. Each track begins with its own expositional noise intro, meant to set the pace and motion of the song but in doing so these breaks alienate each song from the next.

Overall, as far as post-punk goes, this band has done an incredible job at creating an album that both honors the first advances of post-punk while pushing its sound in a more abstract, unwieldy manner. It doesn’t have any real standouts, not like last album’s “Continental Shelf,” but it makes up in the breadth and reach of the sound achieved. I am happy to have encountered the elusive and protean animal that is this album.

 

Alpacas, wine tasting and free food: The 2016 common ground fair

Fresh produce is a staple of the fair. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

Fresh produce is a staple of the fair. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

Katie Stevenson ’17 samples cheese from Fredrikson Farmstead. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

Katie Stevenson ’17 samples cheese from Fredrikson Farmstead. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

The Common Ground Fair features a vairety of farm animals. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

The Common Ground Fair features a vairety of farm animals. EMILY PINETTE/THE BATES STUDENT

This weekend marked the 40th annual Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, a must-see fall attraction for those in the 207 area. Every year the fair pulls out all the stops to provide a fun and educational experience for visitors and vendors alike.

Unity is a little over an hour drive from Bates’ campus. The ride itself is lovely; you get to see beautiful Maine landscapes, including the changing fall foliage. The fair has free parking but charges $15 for admission, which is waived for members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

You’ll definitely get your money’s worth at Common Ground. I was there for three hours, up until 6 o’clock when the fair closed and everyone was herded out. Even with all that time, I still didn’t get to see everything there. I would definitely recommend going earlier in the day so you have more time to explore.

Another recommendation: bring cash and an empty stomach. There are free samples everywhere, from homegrown cheese to maple syrup to hot chocolate. Then there are the actual food tents. This isn’t your typical fair food. You can choose from crab rolls, ravioli, tofu fries, tacos and so much more, all for pretty reasonable prices. Having money on hand is also helpful when perusing the various art stands and craft tents. Jewelry, paintings and of course, alpaca wool – in the form of hats, blankets, scarves and pillows – are just a few of the items offered by vendors. Some take credit cards, some don’t, so play it safe and bring a couple bucks.

There are also farm stands throughout the fair, manned by actual workers who love to talk about their produce. You’ll see blueberries, apple cider, potpourri, flower crowns, raw honey, pumpkins, fresh milk, organic veggies and so much more. Want to give gardening a try? There’s a pick your own veggies tent.

For a more hands-on approach, check out the folk art tent. There, you can get lessons on building shelters in woods, making fire from sticks, chopping wood and identifying animal tracks just to name a few. These vendors know a lot about what they do, and will gladly answer any and all questions you have.

The social justice action tent is especially awesome. With tables from Planned Parenthood, gun control lobbyists and even several promoting the legalization of reefer, you are bound to find a cause that is up your alley. This gives you an opportunity to volunteer for organizations you are passionate about.

My favorite part was definitely the animals who attended common ground. Llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats and bunnies were the true stars of the show.

Throughout the day, live music is playing in various venues including the amphitheater and stages in tents. Muddy Ruckus made an appearance on Friday, while The Oshima Brothers played on Saturday.

Here is a brief rundown of what not to miss next year.

Best Tent: Herbal Revolution Farm & Apothecary, which offered herbal tonics and elixirs, including a “sensually invigorating” potion called “Chocolate Love.” (Note: I sampled Chocolate Love and did not feel sensually invigorated. Perhaps I did not try enough of it.) Herbal Revolution was the winner of this year’s Best Display Award.

Softest Animal: Aztec the llama, who was an impressive 21 years old, and definitely posed in our selfie together.

Most WTF Moment: In the Blacksmith Tent, one of the vendors asked me what’s the first thing you should do when dropped off in the wilderness if you are on the show Naked and Afraid. My answer: I would not go on that show. The correct answer: Make shoes. The more you know…

Coolest Artwork: The giant fold-out posters by the Beehive Design Collective. Their art is all inspired by anti-globalization and global justice movements. The Mesoamerica Resiste piece stretched 34″ by 68″, and it was breathtaking.

Mandatory fall activities at Bates includes apple-picking, pumpkin-carving and eating lots of candy. Be sure to add attending the Common Ground Fair to future excursions.

 

Comedy Club Night takes unexpectedly offensive turn

The Strange Bedfellows performed at Comedy Club Night. THE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS/COURTESY PHOTO

The Strange Bedfellows performed at Comedy Club Night.
THE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS/COURTESY PHOTO

Last Saturday, Memorial Commons was host to Comedy Club Night with Monroe Martin and Jessi Campbell. The two accomplished guest comedians followed up the Strange Bedfellows with stand up acts, entertaining an audience of students and local community members alike. While the Bedfellows consistently delighted the crowd with their improvisation games, the two professionals received mixed feedback.

Although the audience seemed willing to forgive and forget the comedians’ missteps, there is no denying that some of the jokes made during both acts fell flat on the politically conscious ears of the Bates community. Among others, some of the more offensive jokes spoke directly of sexual violence and pregnancy scares, and alluded to cancer, violence within the NFL, and the association of “Indians” with “dum-dums.” With clear negative reaction from the audience members, Campbell seemed to draw back from the line of offense, noting the community’s tendency towards political correctness. Martin, on the other hand did not get the hint and pressed on, insisting that his calling pregnancy scars “bitch-marks” was indeed funny.

Ian Erickson ’18, Vice President of the Strange Bedfellows, commented on the propriety of these jokes, saying that he does “regret that Jessie and Monroe chose to perform (or even write) some of the material they had. . . While it is extremely problematic and unfortunate that Jessie and Monroe’s sets contained offensive material, it’s important that the relationship between comedy and politics be discussed more and the comics provided a useful lens for us to consider this issue through”. Although the audience may have had negative feelings towards the content, it can ultimately be chalked up to what Erickson optimistically calls a “learning moment”. However, knowing that this material which is sensitive by nature can be not only triggering but can also easily “continue dangerous stereotypes and perpetuate oppressive systems”, the Strange Bedfellows tend to avoid treading into its risky territory. The student group has high standards for itself, and “expect[s] the same of anyone who wishes to perform genuine and effective comedy”.

The political/social nature of their material is not the only performative aspect to which the group applies a high standard. Having the level of success that the Bedfellows find themselves with does not come haphazardly, and is not accounted for solely by the talent found within the group. Being able to know one another personally, Erickson observes, has lent itself to a positive dynamic where they are able to work together more cohesively. In order to maintain and improve their comedic talents, the group meets once or twice a week, using their time together to play the improv games that they might perform.

In starting to prepare for saying goodbye to three seniors after this year, the Bedfellows held auditions last week. They are proud to announce that they have accepted one new member, Joseph Alp ’18. Erickson says of Alp that he “brings a unique style of humor that the group can really benefit from, and we are excited to start performing with him!” Those hoping to see the Strange Bedfellows with their new member can look forward to their annual Parents’ Weekend Show on Saturday, October 8th at 3 P.M. in Schaeffer Theater. Like the Bedfellows on Facebook to get updates on their events and to show support for the always-hilarious improv group.

 

Another Black Life Gone

On September 20 Brently Vinson delivered the fatal shot to 43-year-old, Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, NC. Brently and Keith are African-American men who have the potential to suffer the same fate in America today, but it just so happens that Keith is not who the “system” protects.

Although media reports and news coverage would describe Mr. Scott as the stereotypical black man, he was beyond that. The general stereotypical narrative of a black man is that he is worthless, jobless, and careless. Mr. Scott was none of these things. He was a disabled father of seven children who was simply waiting in his car for his son before the man in blue took his meaningful life. News reports says that the police officers went to the apartment complex that Keith was, looking for someone with an ‘outstanding’ warrant. Part of me wonders who the officers were really looking for. Was it just a ploy to invade another black community? Eventually, officers came across Mr. Scott. Although it is unclear whether Mr. Scott was tased at first, he was shot four times for sure because officers said he had a gun. The terrifying video from a police body cam and dashboard shows the disturbing video of another innocent black life being taken away. Family members and neighborhood friends of Scott said that he was a great and friendly guy who did not have a gun, but was reading a book while waiting for his son to return home from school. So, whose story do you believe?

Hopefully, you believe in the side that says black men do not deserve to die in general, but especially by the ones who are sworn in to protect the people. Hopefully, you believe in the side that says that (whether Scott had a gun or not) his life is just as valuable as the white men who are in possession of weapons and drugs, but still get to live and see another day. Hopefully, you believe in the side that says until these absurd deaths stop happening, police officers should have on body cams and the footage should always go public. Hopefully, you believe in the side that says that Black Lives Matter!

The killing of Keith sparked two different types of protest. The media would describe one of the protests as peaceful and the other as violent. When black people are protesting through a more controlled and organized form, the media thinks the movement is peaceful. A controlled black person is peaceful, but the minute that black person yells too loud and adds a little more movement, spunk, passion and frustration to their protesting, they are no longer deemed peaceful. Rather, they are viewed as violent. Certain acts are violent, such as when 26 year old Justin Carr was shot in the head during the protest. This act of violence is unacceptable and should not occur again. We should not be taking lives; we must form bonds with one another and fight the system that oppresses everyone except for cis-gender, heterosexual, white males. The murderer of the violent shooting was caught. Other than that, I do not think the protest, looting of merchandise from stores and vandalism are violent. They are acts that express how upset people are.

I hate to turn situations into a white versus black scenario because in all honesty, I do believe there will be equality one day. By comparing similar situations, hopefully the double standard will be noticed when it comes to violent protest. In 2011 Penn state coach Joe Paterno was fired because of the child sexual abuse scandal. Some students and fans flipped over vans out of anger. Some news articles referred to this particular situation as a riot, but most thought this form of protest was simply “unruly.” In 2014, at the Keene, NH Pumpkin Festival, the media described the behavior of the white college students who were starting fires, flipping cars, yelling and verbally attacking police officers as rowdy, unruly and disruptive. In order to disperse the crowd at the pumpkin festival, officers had to use tear gas. 2014, when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, fans were not so happy. There were a couple of shootings as well as about 40 arrests. Some fans burned furniture while others vandalized buildings, but the media did not refer to this incident as a riot. The list can go on and on. The double standard of how the media describes black compared to white protest is obvious and apparent.

 

Looking ahead to a new year in the Ronj

Just in time for the cold fall weather, the Ronj has opened for the new school year. Adam Rintell ‘17, one of the Ronj’s three student managers, shared how Bates’ coffeehouse has been faring financially, as well as what students can expect this year.

After a long discussion with the administration last fall, the Ronj began taking credit cards. Although there was some hesitation around the processing fee of the credit card company, the switch paid off in the end. “Two years ago we brought in about $8,000 in revenue and this past year we brought in about $16,000,” Adam said. “So we almost cleanly doubled our revenue intake, and the only material change we made was being able to accept debit and credit cards. My thesis is that a lot of people that otherwise were counting out the nickels in their wallets to buy chai and walking away from the register were now buying stuff.”

The increase in revenue is always welcome, but is not what keeps the Ronj in business. The college gives the business a certain amount of money as an expenses budget, and then pays students out of a separate account. Throughout the year, the Ronj aims to make enough to pay back the expenses budget. When the student wages are taken into account, they actually operate at a loss. So what purpose does the Ronj serve on campus? “The point is not to make as much money as possible, the point is to create a community space on campus,” says Adam. The managers also try to orient their staff around the community. “This year we had a huge applicant pool, which was really exciting and really hard. A lot of people assume we hire on barista experience, but that’s not necessarily true…We want a staff that will work well together, while also being thoughtful members of the Bates community, who want to give back and contribute something to Bates.”

One of the most effective ways of actually bringing the community into this space is through programming. Although the Ronj already served as a place for programming and group meetings last year, successful programming has been difficult. “Sometimes we’d have a really cool performer and we’d have ten or fifteen people show up. They’d be thrilled, but it’s not really that many people. We’d talk to people, even members of the staff, and they’d have no idea because it’s not really well-publicized.” This year publicity will be more organized events will be seen on Bates Today and social media.

Unlike VCS, which generally hosts outside performers, it makes more sense, both financial and in terms of turnout, for the Ronj to host Bates artists. Students are more likely to show up for an artist they know than more expensive outside groups. There may also be more movie-night programming.

Beyond programming, the food also brings students in, especially on Wednesday’s dollar Chai night. This year might even see some new items added to the menu. The staff is working to find the right brand of ice cream to make affogatos, a combination of ice cream with espresso poured over the top. Another possible idea in the works is a drink pre-order system somewhat like Den delivery, which would allow students to pre-order drinks from their room and then walk over to find the drink already made and pre-paid. Of course, this system wouldn’t have the convenience of delivery and is not yet a set plan. Will these new changes increase growth? “We’re not setting revenue targets,” says Adam. “We’re honestly more interested in how many more people can come to the Ronj for the first time.”

 

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