The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Day: March 15, 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

How do you fix a problem rooted in rhetoric?

When your car breaks down, what do you do? Me, personally, I call my dad who asks me what on earth I would like him to do (he lives three hundred miles away) and then I call AAA and they send a tow truck. Easy. Done.

But not all problems have such a simple fix. In his book Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics? President and CEO of The New York Times Company Mark Thompson lays out the problems with our political rhetoric today. Drawing on basic rhetoric theory and applying it to case studies throughout contemporary American and world politics, Thompson presents the conundrums and posits some solutions about the failures of political language.

Thompson structures his book in a way that is familiar to any student: clear-cut sections with subdivisions and a clear statement of his thesis at the end of each chapter. The structure is easy to follow, therefore leaving more time for the reader to unpack the themes Thompson discusses, rather than trying to figure out his writing style.

The author acknowledges the polarizing nature of his topic and does his best to distance himself from his biases. That being said, Thompson bluntly states that “[t]he crisis in our politics is a crisis of political language.” So, not entirely unbiased, but then again when you pick up a book with a title such as this, you probably knew that already.

But how do you fix a problem as endemic and rampant as subpar language usage? Let’s remember, repairing political language is not as easy as changing the alternator on my Honda; there is no one correct way to go about fixing how people use words.

First, Thompson reminds us that the art of rhetoric goes back to ancient Greece, to Sophists such as Aristotle, Thucydides, and Cato the Younger. Once he presents the foundation, the author applies that rhetorical theory to political leaders nearly every contemporary person would know: Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump, and Margaret Thatcher to name a few. There’s even a Hamilton reference buried in the tome.

Particularly, Thompson notes the immense pull that George Orwell still has on today’s politicians and their choice of rhetoric style. Orwell’s writings have become so prolific in today’s collective memory that they are often hard to escape. The author agrees with Orwell in the sense that they both acknowledge the power language has to change and shape society, but Thompson does not take the utterly dreary tone in which Orwell perpetually finds himself. However, Thompson does note the shortcomings of over edited and processed words.

Language is very potent and must be treated as such. There are even times when language can get in the way of itself. Thompson notes that “[p]olitical correctness is inspired by the rationalist conviction that if you stop people saying prejudiced or hurtful things, over time they will stop thinking and acting prejudicially too [which is] an unproved and psychologically implausible conjecture…”

Along this vain, the author implores his reader to remember that even though he is heavily critiquing mostly Western cases of rhetoric, we as citizens of the Western world have to remind ourselves to be thankful that we have the political latitude to make such mistakes. Freedom of the press and speech are not innate human rights that everyone across the world shares. Everything Thompson writes should be taken with this understanding in mind: we have already fought for the right to express ourselves freely, now we are concentrating on refining the skill that comes with that right.

The dictionary has neither a disclaimer on the front, nor a warning label hidden behind the inside flap, but maybe it should? As for me, I don’t know the answer. But I whole-heartedly agree with Thompson when he reminds us that words have a weight we need to respect.

 

Summer funding opportunities

Unbelievably, second semester is quickly approaching the home stretch. It is an exciting but stressful time with Short Term and summer just out-of-reach behind impending finals. While it is important to stay focused on the present semester, it is also necessary to look ahead and plan for summer. Often, everyone is so worried about what internship they’ll be involved in, where they’ll be travelling, who they’ll be seeing, and what they’ll be doing that they forget an integral component to their summer plans: summer funding.

Bates offers a variety of options for summer funding, and it’s easy to find one that fits your plans and needs.

Perhaps the most well-known source of funding is the Purposeful Work Internship Program which offers up to $4,000. To be eligible you do not need to have an internship with a Purposeful Work Core Employer, but you do need an internship offer. Although the initial deadline has already passed, there is a second deadline coming up on April 9. Go to the www.bates.edu/career and click on “Job Shadows & Internships” to find out more about Purposeful Work Funding.

The Harward Center also offers amazing opportunities for summer funding. The Harward Summer Civic Fellowships are open to anyone with an internship in the US or abroad. This fellowship requires a grant application, and is considered highly competitive. Those who receive the fellowship are awarded $4,000. The deadline to apply is Monday, March 27th.

The Harward Center also offers the Summer Community Work-Study Fellowships. This fellowship is available to those working for nonprofits on environmental or social issues within the US. Students must also qualify for the federal work-study program to be eligible to receive this fellowship. The deadline to apply was Wednesday, March 15th, but applications will be accepted until the funding is gone. To apply to either the Summer Community Work-Study Fellowships or the Harward Summer Civic Fellowships visit the Harward Center’s website and contact Peggy Rotundo (mrotundo@bates.edu).

Amongst many other responsibilities, Peggy Rotundo is Bates’ contact person for community-based non-profits. She helps students come up with a plan for the summer and formulate ideas for internships with local organizations. Ms. Rotundo was explicit, “I am here to help students figure out what they might want to do for the summer. They do not need to have a specific internship in mind when they come see me.”

In addition to the Purposeful Work Funding and the Harward Center, there are various miscellaneous funding opportunities offered by Bates. These include the Bouley Fund for Geology, C3 Undergraduate Fellowship, Hoffman Research Support Grant, Rawlings Grants for Math, STEM Faculty-Student Research Grants, Otis Fellowships, Phillips Student Fellowships, and Technos International Week in Japan. Furthermore, keep an eye out for professors looking for research assistants. History professor Joe Hall is offering an opportunity to earn up to $3,500 researching western Maine environmental and American Indian history. The deadline to apply for this position is Friday, March 17th.

Previous Bates students have received summer funding while working with organizations that include Maine Immigrant Refugee Services, School Square, Raise-Op Housing cooperative, Alaska Arts Southeast, the California Conference for Equality and Justice, and so many more. Josh Caldwell ‘19 interned with the Kennebec Land Trust this past summer and said, “The summer funding I received through Bates made the internship possible. I did not have to work another summer job and I could devote all my attention to the work I wanted to be doing with the Land Trust.”

It is important to note that all of the opportunities mentioned here do not even scratch the surface. There are so many opportunities for summer funding for Bates students who are involved with, and interested in, any and all kinds of fields. The Bates College website has a complete list of opportunities with all of their requirements. Just web search “Bates College Summer Funded Opportunities” and the first hit is the right page.

 

Winning and losing in politics

Jamal Smith ‘03 talks about his struggles and successes in the job force. JOHN NEUFELD/THE BATES STUDENT

Jamal Smith ‘03 talks about his struggles and successes in the job force. JOHN NEUFELD/THE BATES STUDENT

On Monday night, Jamal Smith ‘03 gave a talk to students about what it is like to work in politics. Smith is a positive force of energy and his excitement is contagious. However, if there is one trait that defines Smith, it is persistence. He graduated from Bates in only three years and continued to work on Obama’s and Clinton’s presidential campaigns. Today, he is the Deputy Director of Operations at Planned Parenthood in New York.

Even though Smith has had a lot of success in his career after college, he started off his talk stating that, “I really feel like I’ve made my career out of losing in politics.” He worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, which lost the general election. He then worked on Obama’s two winning campaigns. Afterwards, in 2010 he moved to Miami, Florida to work for a non-profit. People often ask him about what it’s like to win campaigns, to this Smith says, “I’m actually more interested in the story of what it’s like to lose. Because although I’ve had successes, the thing that has brought me forward professionally and personally was knowing how to lose and to get back up and keep on going”

“One month in I was laid off, and found myself homeless and living in my car in Miami. This is after I did everything I was supposed to do. I graduated Bates in three years. I went to law school, you know, I worked hard, kept my nose clean, did all these presidential campaigns, and here I am living in my car. And that’s when I really had to question why it is that we do what we do.”

Smith says that it is of utmost importance to be gracious and not to take anything for granted. After being laid off, he learned that in order to make it in the modern-day professional world he would have to make himself indispensable. Smith discovered his ‘why’, shortly after his first experience of failure: “For me it was because I just believe I had something to contribute. I felt like I believed I could be of help and of service. I felt like being a person of color, I felt like being out, was critical for that. And I made the choice that I was going to stay in politics. And I hustled and I scraped.”

Eventually, the Clinton Foundation asked him to do an interview in New York. Although he was only starting to get back on his feet, he took up the offer and with a little help got a ticket to New York City. This time, he was motivated more than ever to exercise his ‘why’: “There I am working during the day, going to volunteer at night. I was doing a 100 hours a week, a lot of it unpaid because I was volunteering, but I really believed in it. And if I just put my foot in the door, I knew it would work out.”

His hard work paid off, and as Smith said, “Through making myself indispensable, willing to do anything that was asked: from getting coffee to writing memos to making telephone calls, I got connected in the African American outreach department. And that’s when I said this is who I’m going to be and this is what I’m going to do.” And for a while it did work out, until Clinton lost the 2016 general election to Donald Trump.

“And then I was in the position where I was back at square one. Because when you lose in a campaign, it’s all gone. That’s it…Everything I worked for for ten years, everything that I had struggled for, everything I thought I believed in myself was clean board. And I had to start over.”

A lot of millennials are entering a workforce that cannot guarantee a 10 year job. Our generation must be agile, and take job opportunities on a whim. After his Miami experience, Smith knew how to pick up himself and start over. He reflected, “I went back to doing things that I really loved to do. I went back to teaching for a little bit and I just got back to social media and my Linked in…And through that Planned Parenthood reached out to me…And this was shortly after the campaign and honestly I really didn’t want to go to work. Didn’t want to work hard again. [I] wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do anything difficult or be in politics. But you know when there’s a good opportunity you just have to jump on the ticket.”

One of the biggest lessons Smith has learned in his life is that opportunities come at inopportune moments: “A lot of times in life, particularly in politics. You don’t have the luxury to choose when your opportunities are going to come. You have to have the courage to say yes when they come, and jump on them.” Instead of declining the offer at Planned Parenthood, he showed up to the interview and took it one step at a time.

After being asked what a graduate should look for in a job, Smith said, “One rule that I’ve always found super helpful, especially in the first jobs I got out of college, was look for the jobs with two things: where you can learn the most, like get the most skills, and meet the most people.”

Another take away from Smith’s conversation was the need to hustle in daily life: “Bates I think helped me out because, when I was here I learned how to do two things that are really important. I think one, I really learned how to hustle. There are so many opportunities at Bates, whether it’s study abroad or short term. Or even just creating your own opportunities… The other thing is especially being a person of color, being in a marginalized group, learning how to work in an environment where I maybe wasn’t comfortable and wasn’t natural for me, or wasn’t what I was used to, and still being successful.”

Smith ended the talk with a message of hope: “When you understand your ‘why’, everything will fall into place.”

 

Find place, peace, and responsibility: an upcoming art show

On Friday, March 17, the Ronj will host the Sustainable Ethics Week Art Show. The show, organized by the EcoReps. is designed to promote an interdisciplinary take on sustainability while acknowledging and celebrating student achievements in the arts. The show will be primarily composed of photographs by students of all backgrounds and class years united under the theme “Your Environment.” This event is part of a series of events happening during the Sustainable Ethics Week to promote awareness and discussion about sustainability in the community. The show will be in the Ronj for a limited time that has yet to be officially announced.

Even though the Sustainable Ethics Week had its first edition last year, this will be the first art show associated with the event. Talking to some upperclassmen, I found that there used to be an event similar to the Sustainable Ethics Week. Since the art show is one of the new activities in the week, there is much to expect from it. The organizers are EcoReps: Katharine Gaillard ’19, Madeline Mcgonagle ’18, and Abby Horrisberger ’18. They have been working on planning for the event since mid-February and will curate the artworks as a group. I have heard excitement about what sort of conversations and discussions an art show under this theme may inspire.

According to the organizers, the theme came from conversations with the Bates Photo Club, which has supported the event in getting more submissions. The Bates Art Society, Outing Club, and various art professors have also helped in the publicizing of the event. The theme has called the attention of students for being open to interpretation: “Your Environment” can be represented however artists interpret it. In an interview with Gaillard, she mentioned that sustainability has a different meaning for each of us and talking about it may be a new way to connect with people.

Maddy Smith ’20 is one of the artists that submitted artwork for the show. In interview, they told me their reasons to submit photos came from a trip to Norway and Svalbard. “It was a trip that fundamentally changed my view of the environment. In the cruise ship I was on, we traveled up to the boundary of the sea ice, which was miles further north than normal because of the unseasonably warm temperatures there. While in Norway and Svalbard, I saw both unprecedented beauty and fragility. Seeing the effects of global warming firsthand made me fear for the well-being of the places I care about,” mentioned Smith. According to them, photography is a way to realize how beautiful the world is and why it is so important to preserve it.

Colleen Hoyt ’20 also submitted photographs to the show. Emphasizing the importance to have different perspectives on sustainability and on the environment, Hoyt seemed excited that each perspective on the environment will be unique in the show. “Shows like this are important to me and really everyone because they allow others to see the world from a fresh, unique perspective, which helps them learn more about the various people and cultures of the world,” mentioned Hoyt. Like many other Batesies, Hoyt is passionate about nature. In her words “there is just so much beauty and simplicity waiting to be found in the natural world.”

This coming Friday, March 17, one can expect to see a variety of ways to interpret the environment. The organizers mentioned that the show is aiming to promote an interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability. Hopefully, this art show will bring a new lens through which Bates students can understand their relationship to their environment and their responsibility as inhabitants of this planet.

 

The politics of “The Bachelor”

I really enjoy “the Bachelor.”  I do not watch it religiously—I would consider myself a casual viewer– but every few seasons I get sucked in and watch every Monday night.  As a feminist, this has created a lot of internal conflict in me.  For those blissfully unaware, “the Bachelor” is a reality dating show in which two dozen or so women vie for the attention of one man in the hopes of getting engaged.  Episodes feature “group dates” and “one-on-ones” where contestants compete to spend more time with the bachelor. There is a female equivalent of “the Bachelor” called (surprise) “the Bachelorette,” in which men fight for the chance to propose to her at the end of the show

The show is hugely problematic in many regards.  Contestants are slim, very made-up, and, overwhelmingly, white.  The show is heteronormative, pits women against one another, shames women for their sexual histories, and has been accused by former contestants of providing more alcohol than food and very little time to sleep. What always surprises me is how, despite these circumstances, the women seem to generally get along and form close friendships.  It does not make any sense. This observation is probably the result of much of the show being orchestrated by producers, like every other reality TV show.  This is confirmed by both producers and contestants.  Episodes are heavily edited to emphasize particular storylines and create drama where there likely is none.  When I feel guilty about watching “the Bachelor,” I tell myself, it is all fake– the contestants know what they are getting themselves into.

Even if the contestants do know what they are signing up for (though this may not be the case as one contestant last week cried that it was not fair that the bachelor was also dating other women; like, Vanessa, that is the whole premise of the show) is that enough to absolve it of its faults?  Many fellow students I know at Bates watch the show and, universally, we see it as parody.  We watch it because it seems so ridiculous that it almost makes fun of itself.  However, even if the show is ridiculous, it still perpetuates negative narratives of women as sexual objects, playing into tired tropes like ‘the virgin,’ ‘the whore,’ and ‘wife-material.’  It also fails to represent a diverse range of women.  The show has never had a gay bachelor or bachelorette and has never featured a trans* contestant.  The first bachelorette of color will appear next season.   

The truth is, watching “The Bachelor” is escapism; it probably is no more sexist, or less diverse than the mass majority of television shows on air.  Still, that does not excuse it of its sins.  The President of ABC has acknowledged these concerns and promises viewers that there will be “tweaks” to the show’s content in the future.  While I am not holding out much hope for these “tweaks,” watching the show has led me to have many conversations with other Batesies about sexism in media and how we need to think critically about how women of all identities are represented.  Maybe the lesson to be learned here is that we need to be conscious of the media we consume and its issues.  The more people point out flaws, biases, and misrepresentation in media, the more pressure there is for producers and directors to change it.

Planet Earth: A look inside the natural world

Sometimes the natural world appears to be an inaccessible realm. It can be hard to express just how beautiful the world is around us. Planet Earth brings the best of the natural world to the little screen in an 11-part television series, which first premiered in 2006. The series used the most modern and advanced film techniques to capture some of Earth’s most spectacular places. The franchise has recently released Planet Earth II, and with this newest installment, it is important to look back at the original in order to understand why Planet Earth is one of the world’s most well-renowned nature documentary series.

Planet Earth takes audiences to some of the most far-reaching corners of the globe and pulls back the veil to reveal some of the most spectacular ecosystems and species. The filmography is dazzling, with beautiful panoramic images of the great plains of Africa and one-of-a-kind close-up shots of mother and cub snow leopards in northern Siberia. With David Attenborough acting as narrator, audiences are not only swept away into new landscapes, but are also educated about some of the world’s most important ecosystems. The series’ ability to pull viewers into the workings of each landscape is what makes Planet Earth one-of-a-kind.

The natural world is beautifully captured, but the producers have also manipulated what is seen in order to keep viewers intrigued for all 11 of its hour-long episodes. We all know that death is a part of wild ecosystems, but Planet Earth never explicitly shows death to its viewers.

In the fifth episode, “Deserts,” viewers see an elephant calf wandering through the Kalahari Desert in search of its mother, but the calf is traveling in the wrong direction. In “Ice Worlds,” the audience is shown a wounded polar bear. Viewers know that the elephant calf and the polar bear are going to die, but it is never clearly shown. The series is able to bring its audience to the edge of torment, and then pull us back in by transitioning immediately to newer and happier scenes, and some of most spectacular events that occur in the natural world.

Planet Earth presents some of the world’s most fabulous and exciting landscapes. Viewers are given close-up shots of a snow leopard, one of the world’s rarest wild cats. Birds of paradise are shown acting out their courtship displays in Papua New Guinea. One of the most spectacular shots in history of the predator-prey interaction between great white sharks and sea lions is shown in “The Shallow Seas.” The series presents a wow-factor that was not present in nature documentaries that came before it. The five-year filming process enabled countless filming crews to spend extraordinary amounts of time in some of the world’s wildest places in order to get the perfect shot.

However, what Planet Earth does best is not simply presenting beautiful shots of spectacular events and places. The documentary series is able to present the pressing issue of climate change in a way that not many other mediums can. The combination of the images, script, and perfect narration allows Planet Earth to present educational information about climate change as it pulls its viewers into landscapes in an emotionally charged fashion. In many ways, the series silently teaches audiences to emotionally connect with far away ecosystems and captures the effects of climate change firsthand with heart-wrenching shots of polar bears swimming 60 miles to find dinner due to the lack of sea ice.

Planet Earth and Planet Earth II become more important series as climate change becomes increasingly politicized. In a time when the planet is as vulnerable as the wandering elephant calf, these series have the ability to demonstrate just how beautiful and important the natural world really is.

 

Commons cups get eco-friendly makeover

Commons is switching from 7.5 ounce cups to reusable 12 ounce mugs. JOHN NEUFELD/THE BATES STUDENT

Commons is switching from 7.5 ounce cups to reusable 12 ounce mugs.
JOHN NEUFELD/THE BATES STUDENT

 

Bates Dining Services has announced that starting this Short Term, there will be no more paper cups in Commons. The 7.5 ounce plastic cold beverage cups will be replaced with 12 ounce cups, reusable 12 ounce hot-beverage mugs will be made available for in-Commons use, and each student will be given a mug for taking beverages out of Commons.

During the last week of February, a link to a survey was emailed to all members of the Student body, was promoted on the Bates Today and was made available in-person in Commons. Students were invited to choose which mug they preferred out of two stainless steel hot/cold reusable containers, one of which will eventually be distributed. About 1200 students responded.

Following the results, which will be published during 2017 final exam week, every student will be given the mug for which the majority voted. If students prefer a different mug, they can elect to receive a voucher for any mug in the school store valued at the same price. If the item the student wants to purchase costs more than the Commons-issued mug, the student will have to pay the difference.

In response to the reasons leading to the Commons cup changes, Christine Schwartz, Assistant Vice President for Dining, Conferences, and Campus Events, pinpoints two concurring events that took place last fall. Firstly, Dining Services found out that Commons paper cups could no longer be recycled and that it would be more cost-effective to create new cups than to recycle old ones. At the same time, the Committee on Environmental Responsibility was reviewing the Campus Green Initiative Grants and found that four of the proposed initiatives concerned elimination of paper cups in Commons.

To devise solutions to these environmental and monetary concerns about Commons paper cups, a Mug Committee was created, comprised of five students, along with Cheryl Lacey, Director of Dining, Schwartz, and Tom Twist, the Environmental Coordinator.

These new initiatives will have drastically positive environmental impacts. About 750,000 paper cups, which since last fall have been sent to the landfill instead of being recycled, will be eliminated from the Common’s waste stream. This will significantly decrease Bates’ carbon footprint. While this is a great first step in making Bates a greener campus, there are always further improvements that can be made to further reduce our carbon footprint.

Madeline McGonagle ‘18, a member of the EcoReps, a group of students working on similar campus-wide sustainability projects under the direction of Twist, reminds students to “be conscious of energy usage” and to also keep in mind “food/other waste production.”

McGonagle advises students, and the general public, to always turn off lights when they are not needed, close windows when heat or air conditioning is on, and to pay attention to not only what one consumes but also to what one wastes.

To find out more about or to get involved with other sustainability initiatives on campus, read the monthly EcoReps newsletter either posted around campus or delivered through email by contacting ttwist@bates.edu. Anyone can also attend events hosted by EcoReps such as those in the current Sustainable Ethics Week, held March 14-18, 2017.

News and notes from Bates Athletics

Indoor Track

The indoor track and field team sent a cadre of athletes to the NCAA championships in Naperville, IL last weekend. The women’s team returned with an impressive collection of accolades. A top eight finish at nationals garners your All-American status, of which the women’s team had four over the course of the meet. Sally Ceesay ‘18 finished seventh in the triple-jump, Allison Hill ‘17 finished fifth in the 200-meter dash, and Jessica Wilson ‘17 anchored the distance medley relay on their way to a fourth place finished, and completed a successful quick turnaround by finishing fifth in the 3,000-meter race, rounding out Bates All-American finishes. These impressive performances propelled the team to an 11th place overall finish, the best indoor finish at the national meet since 2006, per the Bates office of sports information. The men’s team’s distance medley relay runners placed 10th in the meet, just outside the All-American window. Adedire Fakorede ‘18, the fifth and final member of the men’s team to compete in Naperville, finished in fourth place in the weight-throw. Fakorede earned All-American status for the second year in a row.

Alpine and Nordic Skiing

Kelsey Chenoweth ‘17 finished 20th in both the slalom and giant slalom races at the NCAA championships last weekend in Jackson, NH. Michael Cooper ‘19 placed 29th and 26th in the slalom and giant slalom races respectively. In the Nordic competitions, Sadie James ‘17, Bates’ lone Nordic skier at nationals, finished 32nd in the women’s 5K classic race, and 36th in the 15K freestyle event.

Men’s Lacrosse

The men’s lacrosse team moved to 4-0 on the season, and 2-0 in the NESCAC, with a 23-17 victory over Amherst on Sunday afternoon. In their second game delayed by cold weather, Peter Lasagna’s men put on an offensive clinic, recording the most goals in a NESCAC competition in program history, per the Bates office of sports information. Kyle Weber ‘17 tallied a hat trick of hat tricks, netting nine goals. Mitchell Drake ‘18 recorded 20 saves in goal.

Softball

The softball team matched their 2016 season win total in their first weekend of competition this year. Maddie Inlow ‘17 led the Bobcats to an impressive 5-3 mark on their trip to Florida. Inlow went eight for 21 during the trip, tallying eight RBI’s and three home runs. The softball team plays Southern Maine Wednesday in their home opener.

 

Class of ‘17: A case study in athlete roster retention at Bates

Part 1 – The tribulations and triumphs of collegiate athletics

Fall semester at Bates College is just getting into full swing. Olivia glances around at the foliage as she walks to the Davis fitness center. A forward on the basketball team, Olivia has a mandatory weight lifting session twice a week. She is hoping her hard work will correspond to more playing time this season. Olivia hits the weights and then grabs lunch in Commons with some of her teammates.

After her 2:40 class, Olivia finishes her calculus problem set and then gets ready for pickup at 7:00 with the rest of the team. Olivia has been playing basketball ever since she could walk, and genuinely loves the game. She can’t imagine what she would do without the sport in her life, but occasionally she feels all the time she puts in is a waste. It’s still the offseason, and she’s already beginning to feel a little burnt out. During the season, this schedule will get even more rigorous. Upwards of three hours a day will be spent on the court, not to mention travel and additional commitments. This will be especially hard to get through if she doesn’t get a lot of playing time again this year.

Olivia now lays in her dorm room at midnight. She flips through her snapchat stories. A five second video pans a room full of her friends playing poker. The next story is a shows a packed Olin hall as a talk is given. Olivia laments the fact that she doesn’t have a lot of time to improve her computer coding skills, something she is passionate about. She runs her hands acros her basketball, just before she falls asleep.

This hypothetical scenario depicts a dilemma that many Bates athletes face. Although they love and are committed to their sports, it’s easy for athletes to start thinking about all of the other activities they are missing out on while spending time in the gym or on the field. This crisis often informs athletes making the tough decision to stop playing the sports they love.

“After going abroad a lot of my priorities changed and being abroad and away from Bates made me rethink what makes me happy, what is important to me, and want I wanted to accomplish my last year at Bates.” wrote Gabby O’leary ‘17 in an email to The Student. O’leary competed on the volleyball team for three years, before deciding to stop playing this past fall. “When I came back, I made the very tough decision to stop playing volleyball and focus on writing my two theses, community work, and trying new things at Bates.”

An anonymous athlete who also stopped playing their sport expressed similar feelings, “When the season picked up, I couldn’t go to VCS, couldn’t go to Pause, couldn’t hang with other friends as much on weeknights and weekends. I was sleep deprived because most of my time was filled with an activity I didn’t find particularly fulfilling. This led to my consistently feeling down,” they said in an interview.

College is about balance. Sleep, academic pursuits, exercise, extracurricular activities, social events; they are all jam-packed into the supposedly greatest four years of one’s life. There are only 24 hours in a day, which means that students must pick and choose between activities. Having to make priorities sometimes can make an athlete realize they do not value their sport as much as spending time with friends, learning new skills, or engaging more with their academics and extracurriculars. This is especially true with the plethora of opportunities at a residential liberal arts college like Bates.

Lacrosse coach Peter Lasagna, echoed this statement in an email to The Student: “I have never and will never talk any student out of quitting. Life is too short. College is too short to spend one minute working hard on something that you’ve lost love for,” He wrote. “If there are pursuits out there that motivate you more, are more meaningful to your present and future than going to practice, lifting, watching film, sacrificing all that one has to sacrifice to play, be honest with yourself and make a hard decision.”

Lasagna’s supportive sentiment aside, coaches are still looking for players in the recruiting process who are willing to commit four years to their team. But this can be challenging because of a unique aspect of DIII and NESCAC athletics; there are no scholarships awarded to student-athletes. These atheletes play only for the love of the game, and not because of a binding financial agreement. This makes it hard for coaches to guarantee that players will play all four years, but offers athletes flexibility and agency to do what they want during their college experience.

“You are supposed to be in this because of the experience, because of the enjoyment. it’s supposed to be able to complement what you are doing academically, and reinforce that.” Athletic director Kevin McHugh, who is retiring at the end of this academic year, said in an interview. “And at some point if you are just not getting that, at least you are not throwing away a scholarship.”

The NESCAC has unique rules governing athletics to try to compensate for the fact that the member institutions feature rigorous academics. The NESCAC mission statement is rife with references to the primacy of academic rigor and excellence at member institutions. The resultant stipulations for NESCAC schools include shorter seasons, limited time coaches can spend with athletes, and emphasis on in-season competition.

This theoretically makes it easier for Bates athletes to balance athletics and the rest of their priorities. Regardless, there is no question that it is hard work being an athlete at Bates. It takes discipline, time management skills, hunger, as well as unwavering support from friends and family. Darrius Campbell ‘17, a squash player who has played all four years wrote in an email, “I think the biggest reason why I completed (four) years of squash (at) Bates was simply because my friends and family back home told me to never give up.”

Part 2 – Student-athlete retention in the class of 2017: a case study

McHugh shared with The Student in an interview that Bates’ athletic department does not keep hard data on athlete retention. He indicated that retention is considered holistically by the athletic department in their evaluation process for head coaches, a subject The Student reported on last year.

“We haven’t had that discussion,” McHugh said. “For me it would be a red flag, if we were losing upperclassmen in large numbers relative to how many they carry on the team, and there was unhappiness reflected in the evaluations and also reflected in how well we were able to compete.” McHugh’s comment highlights a tension for liberal arts schools like Bates; trying to establish competitive athletic teams while also ultimately being interested in the well-being of a student-athlete’s experience, regardless of whether they complete four years of varsity athletics. Low retention is then often identified in the criteria for evaluating coaches as a symptom of other problems a student or team might be facing, not a problem in itself.

“There is not a hard and fast (criteria), but I think it is written into the expectation that the experience that is being provided is a positive experience that kids will want to be a part of,” McHugh said.

The Student collected data from Bates’ athletics website for student-athletes in the class of ‘17, over the course of their four years at Bates. The website includes roster information for each team during that period. Here are some important nuggets from the case study:

– Of Bates’ 709 student-athletes on 2016-17 rosters, 145 are from the class of ‘17, or 20 percent of all current Bates student-athletes.

– On 2013-14 rosters, the class of ‘17’s first year at Bates, there were 215 student-athletes, compared to 145 this year, a 67 percent retention rate from first year rosters to senior year rosters.

– Of Bates’ 29 varsity teams, eight demonstrated perfect retention rates for the class of ‘17: Women’s Alpine Skiing, Women’s Basketball, Women’s Cross-Country, Women’s Golf, Baseball, Women’s Lacrosse, Men’s Lacrosse, and Women’s Squash.

– Of those eight teams, only one, Men’s Lacrosse, had double-digit athletes (13) in the class of ‘17.

– Only two teams demonstrated a retention rate of zero percent for athletes in the class of ‘17: Men’s Alpine Skiing and Field Hockey.

Part 3 – Implications

When it comes to individual circumstances, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages that come from quitting a sport. Not playing a varsity sport gives athletes more time to branch out socially, intellectually, and emotionally. The anonymous athlete who quit their sport reported improved mental health after their decision, more time to focus on academic work, and has become more politically oriented. On the other hand, they have found it tough to watch games from the sideline, and miss being competitive. With all this extra time, procrastination has been a challenge.

On a team wide scale, there are also consequences. Low retention can compound the work a coach must do for their team to be successful. Without a strong cohort of upper-class leaders, a coach might struggle with team chemistry and leadership. A steady stream of athletes failing to compete for a full four years will require a coach to bump up the amount of recruiting they need to do to field a team. “When you are recruiting someone who is in 12th grade coming in as a first year, your expectation is that they are going to be with you for four years because you don’t want to put in all the time and energy into somebody that is only going to be around for a year,” noted McHugh.

There are a few further investigations and questions that we have. First, it would be interesting to test how certain factors determine retention rates on teams. Win percentage, size of team, and season would be interesting variables to control for. Secondly, it is unclear if the 67 percent rate we found for the class of 2017 is high or low for DIII or NESCAC athletics. It would be interesting to do a comparison of Bates’s retention rate from class year to class year, and to other NESCAC schools. This would help contextualize the 2017 class case study that we have collected. At this point it is unclear whether there is a happy medium for a desirable retention rate; the important thing appears to simply be that Bates students are fulfilled by their collegiate endeavors.

 

Teach for America

Teach for America is a non-profit organization dedicated to recruiting undergraduate students to devote two years after college to teaching impoverished children. The reality of the American education system is that “children in extreme poverty are half as likely to graduate from high school and one-tenth as likely to graduate from college as students from the most affluent communities,” according to the Teach for America website. “There are numerous forces behind this injustice—racism, outdated policies, lack of resources, and much more;” however, this can be fixed through educators, students, and politicians coming together to create solutions, which will get rid of inequality.

Their approach is to enlist leaders from various backgrounds who will then leave lifelong impressions on the school and the students. In 2016, 3400 men and women joined the Teach for America team, where 48% were Pell Grant recipients and 34% were the first in the family to attend college. It is vital that Teach for America corps members come from diverse backgrounds and are able to contribute their stories to the classroom, for the final goal is for them to connect with the students. Teach for America has also identified Arkansas and Mississippi as high priority areas in need of good educators and leaders.

Often times, students from low-income backgrounds slip through the cracks and are unable to succeed in the classroom because they lack the foundation. As a way to combat that, Teach for America has partnered with numerous colleges across the country and hired Campus Campaign Coordinators to recruit students across grade levels to apply to the organization.

For those interested in applying, they must do so by April 21st of this year. It is vital that the student is a leader on campus and is involved in community service. Further, the GPA requirement is 2.5 out of 4.0. It is encouraged that all majors apply, for they can bring in their unique perspective and possibly use their skills to combat educational inequality through their job.

There will be numerous presentations across campus and tabling events in Commons for those interested in pursuing Teach for America after college. To learn more contact mhayrape@bates.edu.

 

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