The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: January 2018 (Page 1 of 7)

Foreign Language Spotlight: Katrin Laschober

This past Thursday, I chatted with Katrin Laschober, the visiting TA in the German Department at Bates. Laschober is teaching German 102: Introduction to German Language and Culture II this semester. She is from Austria and speaks both German and English, and this is her first time teaching in America. When she was about ten years old, Laschober started learning English in school and eventually went on to study abroad in high school for a semester in Kansas. In addition to German and English, Laschober studied French in high school and can speak a little Italian after studying abroad for a semester in Italy.

In her studies, Laschober focuses on language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and speech pathology. Laschober initially started studying linguistics because she had “always wanted to study German language and couldn’t decide between the two subject areas.” She described her studies as exploring how children acquire, or learn new languages. She is amazed at how children can learn so quickly, some in only a few years. “How can they say sentences that they have never ever heard before in their lives? How are they able to produce those kinds of grammatical structures?”

While it seems to be a well-known fact that children seem to absorb new languages much faster than adults, Laschober clarified that this can be attributed in part to one of the  differences between children and adults: a level “consciousness” when learning a new language. Children tend to be relatively unaware of the large amount of information they are learning. Therefore, they are “unconscious of the processes” involved in learning a new language. This can contribute to their ability to take in new grammatical structures and vocabulary words with ease.

In Austria, Laschober taught German in an after-school program for students raised in Vienna who learn German as a second language. Although the students are younger and have an easier time learning German, unfortunately, their motivation to learn the new language can potentially suffer.  In a way, they do not have a choice in learning this new language because they are leaving their home countries due to war or other destabilizing circumstances. Laschober explained that the kids “come to Austria, and then are surrounded by German. Their first language is anything else, like Arabic or Turkish. But now they live in Austria and they have to learn German,” to keep up in school.

Laschober’s students in Austria are usually in a minority and are “surrounded by people who speak German very well,” which can remind them constantly “that they have to improve in certain areas of the language.” Because of this, Laschober tries to combat the “otherness” they might feel. She respects her Austrian students and the effort they are able to make in learning German and tries to convey that learning a new language is a “positive” and “useful” experience.

Laschober is teaching at Bates this year on a Fulbright scholarship and would love to stay here longer. She raved that her students at Bates are “motivated and doing such a great job.” In her classes, she tries to convey the fun of learning a new language, and all that can be discovered in doing so. “I just really hope I can show them the whole new world and opportunities that can come along with learning German.”

 

Reflecting On Tolerance and the “Cool” Marginalization

People react in a variety of ways to microaggressions. Many remain relatively silent when and after they occur. This can be for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, confusion, exhaustion, and anger. Justified responses can be ignored, rebuffed, and generally gaslit. Replying or voicing any type of dissent can be difficult, especially when it requires a large amount of emotional effort and can often have little seeming success. Most people have a shifting mental line where they decide to intervene, often distinct from what actually bothers them. A person’s response usually depends on the relative proximity of an issue to their own life and their current emotional state. All of this said, it is not a hard science of any type.

These types of reactions are not distributed evenly across any given identity group. For example, people understand and deal with being misgendered in a multitude of ways, often contextual to the relationship of the misgenderer. Though the reaction in a moment is highly situational, in general, certain people tend to be more openly lenient with mistakes and microaggressions. This can create a dynamic where one person’s perceived comfort boundaries will serve as validation for those consistently committing microaggressions or just generally remaining ignorant.

For example, the transgender women Youtubers Blaire White and Caitlyn Jenner often belittle the importance of getting pronouns right and say that transgender people should be more understanding. Similarly, Milo Yiannopoulos gains popularity after he does not get offended when Steven Crowder asks if he can call him “faggot” in front of a large crowd of people. These people speak to a broader political movement with predominant interests in anti-progress under the veil of “free speech.”

Discourse around free speech predominantly focuses on institutional interventions that mitigate the speech of certain voices. These discussions often fail to grapple with how certain voices are marginalized within white-cis male centric structures. Now, these issues are often institutionally in-adjudicable, it can be deeply unclear when an overstep might cause more backlash than solve harms, and there are certain ethical obligations that make this challenging (particularly for professors).

That said, given the relatively laissez faire politics of many higher academic institutions, their interventions probably would have been justified far before intervention was decided. “Free speech advocates” often point to any type of institutional action remotely mitigating “free speech” as unjust when they basically have little philosophical system backing their claims. They hardly voice any concern about the free speech lost to the constant microaggressions people of color face in PWI’s that relegate their free speech.

This ideology bleeds into a fairly common interpersonal dynamic, that happens to a plethora of extents. It can be easy to implicitly take the comfort of one specific person with an action and apply it to a general group of people. People rarely realize when they do this; it is often subconscious. Doing so often places the relative comfort with microaggressions of one person into a box of “the cool marginalized person.” Yet, just because someone “gives permission,” which: a lack of verbal dissent does not mean consent, does not make an action universally acceptable for people of a group. People get tired, and learning about something different from one’s own experience too often becomes the responsibility of people marginalized in particular ways to explain.

Even though these actions often go unnoticed there are best practices:

1. Avoid assumptions

2. Be conscious of how you take up space in conversation

3. Do not profusely apologize after making an error

4. Take time out of your day to learn about different ontologies

5. Accept that positive (anti-racist, anti-sexist. . . ) and negative ideologies are not static characteristics but actions

All of these actions are preventing harms. Not hurting others happens simultaneously with constructive action.

 

Bates Takes a Dip in the Puddle

On Jan. 26 Bates College continued its tradition of jumping into the depths of Lake Andrews, affectionately known as “the puddle” to Batesies. The puddle, home to ducks, diseases and miscellaneous projectiles, opens its waters each year to all those brave enough to take a dip. Puddle Jump marks the peak of Winter Carnival, a tradition almost a century old at Bates and one of the oldest of its kind.

But why celebrate what it is to be a Bates student by jumping into a freezing body of water? Aren’t there better/ more comfortable ways to celebrate identity? Perhaps since the puddle is central to the college, perhaps because not everyone chooses to bear the Maine winter like Bates students, and perhaps because it’s just fun and we’re in college. The Bates Student went off to investigate.

To make the puddle jump even more over the top, students exchange their winter clothes for flashy, DIY costumes and sometimes, they wear nothing. “I can’t express how warm I am not being in the water,” commented Morgan Baxter ‘20 as he watched the first students jump into the puddle. When asked what the best mode of clothing to wear for the occasion, Baxter replied, “Birthday suit is the move. Wet clothing is what keeps you cold.”

“We’re individually doing it because it’s our first year at Bates and it’s a tradition” said Amelia Brown ‘21 and Teagan Ladner ‘21. All class years participate, making the Puddle Jump the social event of the year, second only to Fall’s ‘80s dance.

Sophomores, Anne Trapp ‘20 and Christie Fatica ‘20 also took a dip into the puddle. For Trapp, jumping into the puddle is, “More like bragging rights.” For Trapp, the main thing going through jumpers is “A lot of adrenaline,” but she conceded, “It’s not cold as you think it will be.” Her companion, Fatica, admitted, “I want to cry.”

“We’re all dressed as pink, cozy grandmas” said Justin Hoden ‘18, Bridget Nolan ‘18, Sadie Homeier ‘18, Chloe Oslin ‘18 in unison.

“We’re all seniors, I have never done it before,” said Nolan. “Neither have I” added Homeier. “So it’s sort of tradition” finished Bridget. “I did it freshman year, so full circle” added Hoden before the “pink, cozy grandmas” filed into the long, daunting line trailing the puddle.

Emma Martinez ‘21 said she was participating this year because,”It’s a huge part of the Bates experience, not only that, but it’s experiencing something new and I think that’s really exciting.” Her friend Willky Joseph ‘20 responded, “I was forced.”

“I don’t want to jump in. But you know, it’s just going to happen,” joked Sofie Sogaard ‘20. “Last year I jumped in twice. It was a good time. The second time was obviously pretty rough, but the first time was fun.” Sogaard then abruptly blurted out, “Are those people riding their bikes into the puddle?”

After students jumped into the puddle, a blazing pyre of wooden logs awaited them along with hot chocolate and warm showers. Reactions of the first jumpers varied widely from “Cold” (Matt Morris ‘18) to “It was really awesome” (Zeke Smith ‘19). However, Chris Dsida ‘18 put it best when he said, “It’s just as cold as freshman year.”

So why has the Puddle Jump become a rite of passage at Bates? After thinking long and hard about this absurd occasion, only one answer comes to mind. There is no better way to embody the creative, innovative, brilliant student body at Bates College than to take a leap into freezing depths of Lake Andrews along close friends and classmates.

 

Can Vice Media Improve?

When I was in highschool, the platform, Vice, was considered cool, alternative, and explorative. For those who don’t know, Vice is a platform for original reporting and documentaries. They brand themselves as “the counterculture,” as they state on the About page of their website. Most people might know about Vice as a platform that features stories about far-off cultures and places that Vice has construed as interesting and weird. For example, I watched one of their documentaries about Japan’s cuddle cafes. This Vice investigative reporting involved a white guy by the name of Ryan Duffy (who studied journalism at New York University) going to Japan to check out a strange and far-flung part of Japanese culture, and then filming a short documentary depicting him reacting to immersion into it.

Duffy begins the documentary discussing Japan’s role as a rising “world power” and other aspects of its evolving nationhood, including the ‘dilemma’ that the population had become stagnant in growth. He cites the reason for this plateau in population growth to be that Japanese people are no longer engaging in intimacy with one another. The Vice documentary attempts to explore what they call the “Japanese Love Industry” to investigate the ways in which this ‘phenomenon’ materializes.

If you’ll watch the documentary for yourself, you might understand the fuller picture of what I am trying to get at here: the Vice platform brands itself on an edgy, explorative, and alternative approach to journalistic reporting, but underlying its approach is a stark Eurocentrism–or, the bias toward white, western culture as superior–that is clear in the stories it chooses to report and the way that it reports them. As I suggested earlier, this Eurocentrism is also at times apparent in the dynamics between the reporter and the community or culture of the reporter’s story.

It is problematic that Vice brands itself as a “counterculture” because that image prevents them from being associated with the harms of what are considered more ‘traditional’ aspects of dominant white and western culture. This branding as alternative which can operate to deflect accountability is not just a company matter–it occurs with people and smaller communities as well. I am not the only person to note the falsity of image that Vice presents, however, of claiming edginess and simultaneously their tolerance presented as political liberalism.

The Independent also reported on the matter, specifically with regards to issues of sexual misconduct and a patriarchal office culture at Vice. The article, entitled “Vice Media Apologises for ‘Boy’s Club’ Culture that Fostered Sexual Harassment: ‘We Let Far Too Many People Down,’” discusses the way that the company is famed for “its hipster style and digital savvy,” while it has “failed to protect women staff from sexual harassment and misconduct.” This article itself fails to interrogate its own patriarchal framing of the matter, in its insinuation that it’s on the male co-founders to “protect women” rather than to challenge the broader structure of gender norms and rape culture (and, with that, cis-ness). However, it presents the perspectives of a number of people at the company who share their experiences with its problematic culture.

And, this past week, I have realized the products of Vice’s false, dangerous image for myself. I do not necessarily believe that a platform like Vice can grow or improve in the hands of the same people who have filled its positions over the years. I believe that it has the potential to transform, if it starts to uplift and employ more marginalized writers and artists, and relinquish for themselves the power to propagate Eurocentric narratives branding themselves as different than the rest.

 

Alpine Ski Teams Bring Home Impressive Results

This past week saw numerous personal and team bests for the men’s and women’s Alpine ski teams at the St. Michaels and Colby Carnivals respectively.

Senior captain Sierra Ryder ‘18 led the way, posting a personal best 13th place finish in Giant Slalom (GS) at the Colby Carnival at the beginning of this week.

“The Colby Carnival was interesting this year because the Slalom (SL) got canceled and pushed to today (Jan. 28) at Sugarbush after the St. Michaels Carnival. But both the GS and SL of the Colby Carnival were great. The women’s team did amazing in both GS and SL. At the St. Michael’s Carnival, at the SL we had three girls in the top 11 which is so good especially competing with so many division 1 schools (Dartmouth, UVM, UNH) that bring in some of the best skiers in the country but we are right there with them and it’s so great to see,” says Ryder. “There is a lot of young talent this year and it’s exciting to see what they are doing already. It’s definitely tough for the younger guys having to compete with skiers who are up to 25 years old but they all have great attitudes and I love seeing their positive energy on the hill.”

She couldn’t be more right, as first-year Hannah West ‘21 brought that exact young talent to the table with some amazing runs. With a combined time of 2:08:01 in GS and 1:39.23 in SL, West cinched ninth and eighth place respectively. West’s skills weren’t limited to the Colby Carnival. At this weekend’s St. Michaels carnival (Stowe, VT), Hannah placed 16th out of the 75 skiers in the GS race, and was the third fastest athlete from a Division III school. Her strength was not missed in Slalom either, where she placed 24th, leading the women’s alpine team to a fourth place finish. “Carnivals have the best student-athletes in the east, and every race is very competitive. The racers in the carnivals are all so determined, athletic, and all have a passion for ski racing,” says West. “Even with the tough competition, carnivals are very fun! Ski racing is a very individual sport, but when I came to college, I’ve learned that it’s more about the team doing well as a whole, and it’s so much fun when you come through the finish line to see your whole team there cheering for you.”

The team also placed sixth in the GS standings from the St. Michaels carnival.

Though there was definitely some female domination, members from the men’s alpine team weren’t lacking in good results by any means. The power was again seated in the first-years, as Calvin Wilson ‘21 made his mark in both the Colby and St. Michaels carnivals. Wilson placed 33rd out of 71 participants in GS (2:06.08) and 18th out of 74 participants in Slalom (1:29.12) in the Colby Carnival. He also had solid finishes at 34th in GS, and 40th in SL in Vermont for St. Michael’s. Sophomores Ryan Clermont ‘20 and Tagert Mueller ‘20 both played significant roles in the men’s results, with Mueller nipping at Wilson’s heels at both of the Carnivals, finishing 36th and 35th in GS at the two meets.

“I can say from experience that it can take a little bit to find your groove in the Carnivals and deal with the pressure of competing with top skiers in the USA, Canada and a few internationals. But overall I think everyone is trying their best and the results are showing, ” remarks Ryder. “The rest of the season I am hoping will be good, with ski racing anything can happen on any given day, there will be setbacks, there will be good results and bad results, but as long as we keep the positive vibes going I think we will see success down the road.”

The men’s and women’s teams head off to Stowe, VT again this weekend for the UVM (University of Vermont) Carnival.

 

Men’s Squash Team Faces Intensive Week of Matches

The men’s squash team had an exciting week with matches on January 24, 26, and 27. The Bobcats played No. 24 Colby, No. 27 Tufts, No. 18 Franklin and Marshall, and No. 13 Brown respectively.

Wednesday, January 24 proved to be a tough night and a tight game against Colby at the Bates College Squash Center as the Bobcats rallied from a 4-2 deficient to a thrilling 5-4 win. Senior captain Anirudh Nambiar ‘18 won his five-game match that ultimately determined the winning team. This win marks the 17th consecutive year Bates has defeated Colby. The streak has lasted since 2000.

“In past matches, I have lost to Colby even though the team has always won,” says Nambiar. “This time was slightly different as the team was dropping matches and we were actually heading towards a 5-4 defeat. However, this seemed to wake up the remaining players and we fought back to win a closely contested match. The team was slightly complacent as we headed towards the game but we showed great resilience when it mattered to get the result that we wanted.”

At the No. 4 position, Nambiar, from Pune, India, beat Alexander Kurtin 3-2 (9-11, 11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7), and his win set up the deficient from 4-2 to 4-3. His win inspired the other Bobcats as Benni McComish ‘20 and Mahmoud Yousry ‘20 won their matches with ease, securing the 5-4 win against Colby.

On Friday, January 26, men’s squash dominated Tufts as they easily rolled over with a score of 8-1 at the Bates College Squash Center. Yousry and Graham Bonnell ‘20 both picked up 3-0 wins at the No.1 and No. 2 positions.

“It was a good match against a good team. We won 8-1 and I believe we earned that score as a team. Personally, my opponent was quite skilled and I enjoyed playing him. I was able to find my rhythm and add another win to the team,”says Yousry.

Both captains, McLeod Abbott ‘19 and Anirudh Nambiar, earned victories 3-0 and 3-1 respectively. The Bobcats continued to be in control as there were wins at the No.6-No.9 positions. This demonstrates the healthy dynamic of the team Yousry describes.

“I’m proud to be part of this team. We all care about each other and always supporting one another, whether it’s on or off the court,” says Yousry. “I believe it’s a healthy dynamic and we embrace each other and each other grow as a person first then as a squash player second.”

On their last and final day of matches, the men’s squash team hosted both Franklin and Marshall and Brown University. The Bobcats defeated Franklin and Marshall 7-2 Saturday morning but unfortunately fell to Brown to a count of 8-1 Saturday afternoon.

Playing at the No. 7 position, Garon Rothenberg ‘20 led the way for the Bobcats as he won both his matches. He defeated Franklin and Marshall’s Ricardo Machado 3-0 (12-10, 11-6, 11-9) and a hard fought match against Brown’s Thomas Walker 3-2 (9-11, 11-9, 11-3, 10-12, 11-4).

Nambiar played the most on that day as both of his matches went to five full games. He defeated Franklin and Marshall’s Boden Polikoff 3-2 (11-5, 5-11, 11-4, 13-15, 11-7) but fell short against Brown’s Nicholas Pitario 3-2 (2-11, 11-6, 10-12, 11-6, 11-6).

In the game against Franklin and Marshall, Coley Cannon ‘19 and Benni McComish ‘20 picked up wins at the No. 6 and No. 8 positions. Although Abbott and Dylan Muldoon ‘21 lost their first games, they immediately bounced back to win their matches 3-1 at the No. 4 and No. 9 positions. Graham Bonnell ‘20 gained an impressive victory at the No.2 position with a score of 3-1 (11-6, 11-2, 11-13, 11-8).

The Bobcats lost to the Bears 8-1, and although it was a tough loss, the Bobcats fought back hard. They were able to force five of the matches to five full games and Rothenberg won the only match for the Bobcats at the No. 7 position. First-year Omar Attia ‘21 gave Brown’s Andrew Wei a tough battle in a 3-2 loss (11-8, 8-11, 11-2, 6-11, 11-9) at the No. 3 position. Cannon and McComish battled for five full games before falling 3-2 at the No. 6 and No. 8 positions.

The Bobcats are now preparing for the NESCAC championships which will be taking place on February 2, 3 and 4 at Hamilton College. They are hoping to gain the title of champions as Bates has finished second two years in a row, falling behind Trinity in both years.

 

Reaching for Visibility with Inherent Politicism

Tyler Ford is a writer, activist and social media personality with 86,100 followers on Instagram. Known on the platform as @tywrent, Ford’s biography also states that they use the pronouns they and them. Tyler Ford is an agender person of color (POC), who openly advocates for trans and gender non-conforming people. But, how? How has a person of color, whose identity is constructed as fictive in the mainstream, garnered this much fame and power?

I did some research to find out. Apparently, Ford is best friends with Ariana Grande. Upon seeing this, I thought: Okay, well, now their fame makes more sense. Generally, though, it’s not POC who have those sort of high-up connections, unless their family is deep within an industry already. After some more digging, I found that Ford and Grande both grew up in Boca Raton, Florida. Though this fact is not accessible online, I speculate that they also grew close as kids in Boca Raton, before Grande moved to Los Angeles at around age thirteen.

Ariana Grande introduced Ford to Miley Cyrus in 2015. Cyrus brought Ford as her date to the amFAR Inspiration Gala and posted photos on her Instagram of them on her arm and of her kissing them on the cheek at the event. Cyrus’ public display of their relationship is complicated. On one hand, Ford speaks about Cyrus as a truly supportive friend who “really wants to share our stories” with “such a huge audience.” She posted on Instagram about Ford being “a queer, biracial, agender person, whose pronouns are they/them/theirs,” and even includes a quote by Ford discussing their experience with feeling restricted by the gender binary (of male and female).

At the same time, though, Cyrus has been critiqued by large swaths of people for appropriating Black culture on numerous occasions and for using Black people as accessories for her own public image. Ford knew what they were doing by accepting Cyrus’ invitation for a date and Instagram feature, by explicitly acknowledging the exposure that they would gain from Cyrus sharing her platform. Their decision was their own, and entirely valid without me or anybody else having anything to say about it.

So, more than that, I am interested in the matter of how people with what I call “inherent politicism”–meaning, having identities that are inextricable from politics, confrontation, and disruption–achieve different degrees of mobility. My main question is: do we have to compromise? In order for us to exist, we are often expected to deny ourselves by what a friend of mine, who is also trans, calls “going rogue.” In her context, this means hiding our most comfortable, truest expression and self in order to ensure personal safety. If we want to wear dresses, we wear pants. If we like looking gender non-conforming, we take hormones or cover parts of ourselves to appear cis-passing.

In a world where we are always expected to hide some part of ourselves, for physical or emotional security, should we expect ourselves to do this in in-person interactions that permit us mobility as well? When do we allow ourselves to exist without the immediacy of our own expectations for ourselves to survive? How much should we expect this of ourselves, when we are already expected to grow desensitized to the discomfort of restrictions placed on our humanity?

These are the reasons why trans community is vital: so that we can assure one another that these choices are tricky, but they’re also our own.

 

Bates Nights: Students Steal the Scene

It was a cold Thursday night at Bates College. After Tall Heights was done playing in the Village Club Series, I strolled around academic buildings looking for something, anything that would keep me busy. I was just too awake to bear with the silence of the campus. It was then that I heard some squeaking, grunts, and screaming coming from Chase Hall, and I knew this could only mean one of two things: either someone urgently needed help, or the karaoke night had started. Cider and singing for all ages and musical tastes were the prospect of the night

I had to mobilize the forces quickly. It was around 10:30 p.m. and, knowing Bates, I knew it wouldn’t take long for people to disperse. My younger friends didn’t seem very excited for sober and well-lit karaoke; I managed to convince a couple of 21-year-old sophomores to keep me company.

At the door of the Little Room, security looked at my earnest, cold sober, solemn, steady friend Abraham Brownell ’20 and said: “I bet you’re outta here within ten minutes after the hard cider is done.”

“Nahhhhh,” I replied respectfully for my pal. I thought to myself that maybe they got it right. Alcohol is not a requirement for fun . . . what really worried me was the lighting and the absence of greasy food (looking at you, mozz sticks). There are places in my heart that a full plate of cookies and hot cider cannot reach.

“Mild inebriation merged with amateur vocalizations to create an atmosphere utterly unique to Thursday night college karaoke” is how Brownell described the scene. “Hopefully that’s not too pretentious,” he added. After the first hard cider or so, Brownell and I agreed that we could not really listen to the full gamut of impressive human noises that were being projected in the Little Room. My friend got up to help the organizers make sure that the technical quality was top notch. “Clipping was the problem, proper gain staging the solution,” Brownell told me later. He did deserve accolades but the music nerds were mostly absent at the moment.

The night saw some impressive performances, starting with “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” the 1998 song from Mulan, and through with country classics and Miley Cyrus. The heartfelt interpretation of Tim McGraw’s song “Live like You’re Dying” was absolutely hilarious – Anna Roy ’18 and Hannah Slattery ’18 rocked it. “The crowd was singing even louder than us at some point,” Slattery told me. The awkward empty space in the mid of the room was slowly being filled with people, and, by 11 p.m., the Little Room was well attended. “Everyone really enjoyed the new additions to the Little Room,” Slattery mentioned, referring to the pool and ping pong tables that were across the door from the karaoke.

The hard cider ended not all that long after our arrival, almost as if the administration was aware that the following day, Friday, would be a busy day for some students. My friends and I did leave shortly after, but for other reasons.

Cider and Singing: Winter Carnival was a Bates-sponsored event, part of a larger commitment by the college to improve the quality of social life on-campus. By providing the space, supervision, food, and, occasionally, alcoholic beverages for students over 21, the college has been providing students an extra chance to gather and have fun.

 

Circus Club Prepares for Gala Dance

Come one come all! Over the last few years, members of the Bates Circus Club have met up to practice their skills, learn new tricks from other club members. Now, the club is looking to demonstrate their skills on stage at the Gala dance later this year.

Club practices typically take place weekly, though attendance at each practice is not mandatory and members come as often as they can. According to club president Mary Szatkowski ’18, a typical practice will have around four participants from a pool of around eight members. The club has had a recent surge in interest after the recent winter activities fair and is expecting to get a few more steady members.

Practices are loose and casual. After warming up with some stretches and “basic climbs,” members take turns practicing tricks and teaching others new skills. Tricks can be performed with a variety of equipment including “aerial equipment” like silks, which hang from the ceiling to the floor and can be climbed and used for a variety of acrobatic feats, as well as “ground equipment” like juggling balls and unicycles. According to Szatkowski, practices usually last about an hour and members will often spend time socializing after. Official meetings are weekly and members will sometimes meet up on their own time to practice.

“Occasionally we’ll meet up unofficially a second time a week if people are free but we only have one planned meeting on Sunday,” said Szatkowski.

While the Circus Club hasn’t had a performance in over three years, this year will be different. The club’s members will be performing as part of the festivities at Gala, an opportunity that the group is extremely excited about. According to Szatkowski, the club is looking to hone its skills over the next few months in hopes of wowing the crowd.

“The last few years we’ve just been doing this for fun. We just found out about [the performance] last week, so we have two months to figure out what we want to do and plan our routine and look graceful,” said Szatkowski.

Szatkowski added that the performance will match Gala’s theme, which she chose not to reveal, as it is still “secret.” Gala will most likely be the club’s only performance this year. In preparation for the Gala performance, club members are hoping to not only to improve some of skills that they already know, but also pick up new ones.

“We hope to have some variety…we have some equipment in storage, so we’re also going to take a look at that and see if people are interested in learning something new in the next two months,” said Szatkowski.

Though small in numbers, the Bates Circus Club has many dedicated members. One member, first year Emma Proietti has been practicing circus arts for six years at a gym in her home town and looked specifically at colleges with circus clubs. Other members, like Szatkowski, have been active in the club starting from their freshman year.

“When I toured Bates, the tour guide was the star of the circus club and told me about it. So when I came to Bates this was the one club I was planning to join,” said Szatkowski.

Whether swinging through the air and climbing towards the sky with silks or balancing on a unicycle, the members of the Bates College Circus Club have a unique set of talents. Their skills will be on full display come Gala.

 

Banning The New Jim Crow in Prisons Stirs Unrest

Freedom of information and the ability to advance oneself socially are two pillars that defined the founding the United States. The idea of The American Dream depends on a citizen’s ability to take advantage of the resources of the nation in order to build a better life for their children. Censorship of the media, literature, and other means of communication can significantly inhibit the functioning of these ideals.

This is particularly true when it comes to the existence of banned books lists in prisons throughout the United States.

Most banned book lists aim to reduce the chances inmates have of learning to build weapons or being encouraged to engage in violence, especially along racial lines. However, in some states, Mein Kampf is available for prisoners to read despite the presence of Aryan/white supremacist prison gangs.

The widespread nature of these banned book lists alludes to a greater theme of oppression and suppression in the prison system of the United States.

Recently, state prisons in North Carolina and New Jersey placed Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow on their lists of prohibited books.

Alexander, a civil rights lawyer, argues in her book that mass incarceration was used as a means of discriminating against and oppressing black people; particularly black men. Both in North Carolina and New Jersey, the official reason given for denying inmates access to this book was the fear that it would lead to fighting in prisons.

Alexander believes the choice to bar her book was deliberate, telling The New York Times, “Perhaps they worry the truth might actually set the captives free.” After hard work by the ACLU chapters of both states, the book will now be available to inmates.

The presence of banned book lists in prisons, specifically the banning of The New Jim Crow, speaks to a larger problem with the United States prison complex. Are prisons not meant to be places of reform? While the committers of heinous crimes may be deemed unsaveable, shouldn’t our justice system be actively trying to help non-violent offenders get themselves sorted out and put them on a better path then the one they were on when they came in?

By denying inmates access to books like The New Jim Crow, the system continuously works to keep offenders on a cyclical path, instead of allowing them to read and learn and grow, thus allowing them to make a change for themselves and their families to truly fulfill The American Dream.

The role racial discrimination plays seems to be entrenched in many layers of the U.S. justice system. It is not just who gets arrested at more frequent rates, but also whose values and interests are fostered within prisons.

The fact that Mein Kampf is available for prisoners’ enjoyment, but The New Jim Crow, a book that directly address many struggles of inmates of color, is banned privileges a white dominant/white-centric position.

Alexander seems to wonder if this limitation is strategic in order to prevent inmates from understanding the social and political consequences that led to their incarceration. This is a wonder I echo, the clear bias present in our legal system serves to continue allowing white men to thrive while ensuring a lack of mobility for others.

How has widespread reform not come from the inside? How long will we stand silently by and watch the prison complex destroy our nation from the ground up?

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