The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Day: January 17, 2018 (Page 1 of 3)

What Are the Golden Globes?

 

No one knows the point of the Golden Globes. Being a Golden Globe winner just does not have the same ring as being an Oscar winner or Emmy winner. In the grand scheme of award shows, the Golden Globes are the “kickoff event,” where the movie winners become “Oscar frontrunners” and TV winners (sometimes) get a slight boost in their prestige and ratings. Besides being the first awards show of the year, the Globes really do not exist beyond NBC giving one of their network’s stars (e.g. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and, annoyingly, Ricky Gervais) a chance to promote their shows through a biting monologue. There are not even any musical performances or skits! Since the Globes award both movies and TV shows, the three-hour telecast is a sequence of two actors making an awkward joke or two before presenting the award, then the recipient makes the classic award show acceptance speech before getting cut off by the house band.

Despite the lack of need for the Golden Globes, they end up being a weird but entertaining awards show. Instead of taking place in a theater, the nominees sit at tables with their cast members and crew and the presence of alcohol leads to a more lighthearted environment. It also leads to moments like Jack Nicholson admitting to being on Valium during his acceptance speech one year or Renée Zellweger missing her name being called because she was in the bathroom.

Yet, since the Globes are the first awards show of the year, the host and attendees get the first chance to comment on everything currently happening. Last year, the Globes were the first major awards show since Trump’s election, and this year, the Globes were the first major awards show to be able to comment on Hollywood post-Weinstein. Almost everyone spoke out against sexual harassment in one way or another. Everyone wore all black with “Times Up” pins on their clothes. Eight actresses brought activists as their guests to the show. Seth Meyers opened the show by welcoming the “ladies and remaining gentlemen.” He proceeded to skewer Harvey Weinstein (“He’ll be back in 20 years when he’s the first person ever booed in the In Memoriam”), Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey. Natalie Portman presented the nominees for Best Director but not before calling them the “all-male nominees.” Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Elisabeth Moss and Reese Witherspoon all spoke about ending sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood while empowering women to speak up. Oprah Winfrey gave an inspiring speech while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award and, either accidently or slyly on purpose, launched her 2020 presidential campaign.

Nonetheless, the Golden Globes are an awards show, so the winners are worth mentioning. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri was the night’s big winner, taking home four awards. One of the weirdest parts of the Golden Globes is the splitting of movies into two categories, drama and comedy/musicals. While, in theory, this is a great way to shine the light on more movies, the movies that end up in the comedy/musical category sometimes are a stretch. The nominees for Best Comedy/Musical this year were The Disaster Artist, Get Out, Lady Bird (the winner), The Greatest Showman and I, Tonya. Baby Driver was also considered a comedy. While those movies had funny moments in them, Lady Bird was rarely described as a ‘comedy.’ Last year, Moonlight won best drama and La La Land won best comedy/musical and we all know how that played out at the Oscars, so look out for Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri v. Lady Bird to be the story going into the Oscars. Unfortunately, Call Me by Your Name was shut out, but there is still time for the Oscars to fix that.

On the TV side, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Marvelous Ms. Maisel and Big Little Lies were the big winners, with each of them winning awards for best show in their respective drama while also picking up wins for their actresses and actors.

While there was no epic Best Picture mix-up to end the show, the Golden Globes still kept its reputation as being the weird and early awards show no one needed, but people still watched.

 

 

The Crown: Love, Lust, and Tainted Happiness

No spoilers here, I promise, but The Crown has brilliantly transformed the history of the most powerful monarchy in the world into entertainment. The Netflix original released its second season in December with promises of heightened drama surrounding the Royal Family from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign in 1953 until now. In addition to the elegant costumes and stunning filmography, the show accurately depicts historical figures and events within the walls of the Buckingham Palace; education through entertainment, if you will.

When watching the show, I often forgot that the characters and scandals were not fictional. The real Queen Elizabeth II actually faced the political and marital obstacles dramatized in the series, which makes The Crown that much more compelling. It makes me wonder if Her Majesty approves of this exploitation of her early personal life or finds it to be an inaccurate representation.

One of the most salient themes throughout the show is the unhappiness associated with being a member of the Royal Family. It is revealed that Queen Elizabeth II, portrayed by Claire Foy, dreaded being forced into her coronation after the sudden death of her father, King George VI. Foy is a master of subtle emoting. She expresses constant sadness in her eyes at just the right intensity in the scenes where The Queen’s royal status is emphasized, drawing a tight connection between royalty and sorrow. It is evident from the beginning of season one that the Royal Family resents being gifted with the divine rights of the monarchy.

Unsurprisingly, the most dramatized aspect of the Royal Family’s history is the lust and love between the characters. Season two starts off with the prospect of Prince Philip’s infidelity. The marriage between The Queen and Prince Philip has been illustrated as tainted since season 1 when Philip throws a tantrum about bowing down to his wife at her coronation. He is constantly brushing her off and upset about walking behind her wherever they go. In season two, he is sent off on a six-month tour and rumors of a love affair bubble to the surface, thrusting a wedge in his marriage to The Queen. Their relationship remains tense throughout the show, with glimpses of true affection for each other. Again, the sadness and inauthenticity that lie on the throne are unexpected, yet enthralling. Not all that glitters is gold, I guess.

Princess Margaret, The Queen’s sister, has quite the rebellious and atypical personality for a member of the Royal Family. To me, she is the most fascinating character because she has been screwed over by the rules of the monarchy more than anyone, especially when it comes to her love life. She knows she will never be the sovereign, so she is always bitter about abiding to the societal expectations of a princess. She gets drunk until the late morning hours, sleeps until noon every day, and is unapologetic about expressing her sexuality – quite the opposite from her sister.

In season one, Margaret falls in love with a man she knows she cannot marry, yet requests permission to do so from The Queen anyway, only to be swiftly disregarded. Her heart breaks man after man and she spirals into her own inescapable hell, all because of the rules of her role. However, she clearly enjoys her title, privileges, and rank far more than her sister. She is defiant, yet a prisoner of the throne who indulges in the palace parties. Her romantic status is jolted in season two when she meets a photographer and eventually marries him but is blind to his secret, active sex life outside of their relationship. Princess Margaret demands our sympathy and is the perfect tool for entertainment.

Season three is sure to deliver just as much drama as the first two seasons. It will take place two decades after the end of season two, so the cast will be completely different in order to accurately represent the aging of the characters. Rumor has it that Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange, anyone?) will be playing Princess Margaret. If that’s not enough to draw you in, I don’t know what is.

 

BSA Strikes Against PROSPER Act

The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform, or PROSPER Act, was introduced into the House of Representatives on December 1, 2017. It effectively revises and reauthorizes the Higher Education Act of 1965, most recently reauthorized in 2008. Introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC 5th District), the bill makes a variety of changes to the way the federal government will support students of higher education. The Higher Education Act has been amended and reauthorized several times in the past, most famously in 1972 when Title IX was passed into law.

The bill states in its description that it was written to “support students in completing an affordable postsecondary education that will prepare them to enter the workforce with the skills they need for lifelong success.” However, media outlets and Bates students have expressed their doubts about several of the bill’s provisions. For example, it consolidates Stafford and PLUS loans into a new Federal ONE loan. Furthermore, all Federal ONE loans are unsubsidized by the government. The bill also eliminates all federal grant programs, except for the Pell Grant. It also allows the privatization of management of this debt, something that has some students worried.

Furthermore, the bill would eliminate a program called Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), where student loans can be forgiven through working full time for a qualifying public service employer. Loans taken out until 2019 would be eligible to participate in this program, but PSLF will be eliminated alongside the Stafford and PLUS loans in that same year. Where this bill would not affect the status of loans for any student currently in college, class years soon will no longer be eligible for subsidized loans or for PSLF. These proposals represent a significant change to the way the federal government provides financial assistance to college students. Where spokespeople for the bill say it will streamline the process to receive financial aid and simplify a currently complex system, critics express concerns that the bill could make it easier for private entities to capitalize on student debt.

I spoke with Maddy Smith ’20 and Will Hibbitts ’21, who were organizing a campaign to lobby Susan Collins to vote against the bill if it passes in the House and moves to the Senate.

Smith described how they’re passionate about the bill “because it affects so many students at Bates.” “This will affect working people and their children the most,” Smith said “the student debt crisis is already a major issue for our generation, and it’s about to get a whole lot worse.” Hibbitts expressed his concern that “if we get rid of subsidized student loans, then working young people won’t have the ability to attend institutions such as Bates College.”

The bill was ordered to be amended on December 13, 2017, and has yet to reappear in the house. Contact Maddy Smith at msmith3@bates.edu for more information on how you can get involved, or call Susan Collins at 207-784-6969.

Speakers, Performers, and Protests Policy Sparks Controversy

On Monday, December 11, 2017 Nick Dressler, Assistant Director of Campus Life, sent out an email to Bates students informing them of a new policy regarding practices relating to speakers, performers, and protests.  This document outlines suggested measures that student clubs and organizations could take when bringing in outside sources to Bates or staging a protest.

The policy was constructed by a Faculty learning community group and had members such as: Carl Steidel, Senior Associate Dean of Students, Gwen Lexow, Title IX Officer, John Baughman, Associate Professor of Politics, Amy Douglass, Psychology Department Chair, and others.

Associate Dean of Faculty, Margaret Imber, explains, “One of the things that Bates didn’t have (and which many of our peer institutions do) is a statement of principles on free speech that introduces the policy statement. The participants in the learning community have been reading recent scholarship on free speech (Free Speech on Campus, Safe Spaces, Brave Places). We’ve also held open meetings (salons) where we have workshopped scenarios about campus-free controversies to get the perspectives of a wider range of members of the community. We’re holding such a workshop on MLK day as well.”

Some lines of the policy can come across harshly. For example, the policy states, “The college reserves the right to deny permission to invite speakers or performers whose history or purposes have demonstrated that they would likely constitute a material threat to campus safety or security.”

When asked to explain this in laymen’s terms, Kim Trauceniek, Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life, elaborated that the statement is “not meant to be restrictive, but it’s meant to be in there to say if something rose to the level of where there’s been harm, we want to have a conversation about that and make sure it’s a good fit for the college, and we actually have the resources to support a speaker that could potentially be divisive or cause harm.”

Regarding protests, according to Trauceniek and Dressler, the policy is meant to be suggestive, rather than compulsory. Dressler clarifies that “The language was drafted in the way it was in order to enable gray areas. So ‘ordinarily acceptable,’ for example, means that there are places that are ordinarily host to these things. Are there places that aren’t ordinarily host to these things, that people can have these things? Yeah, absolutely.  It’s meant to be suggestive in terms of resources and support rather than restrictive.”

For clarification, Trauceniek and Dressler wanted to stress that students are not required to give notice prior to a protest happening.

The extra degrees of clarifications from the administration help shed light on the nature of the policy. However, there was a lack of input from students on the initial draft of the new statement that left some feeling cast aside.

The sophomore assembly in Bates College Student Government (BCSG) says “We feel blindsided by the new policy addressing speakers, performers, and protests on Bates College campus specifically for the absence of student participation in drafting the policy. We also recognize concerns of censorship and hope that the college takes action to address these concerns immediately, as they affect how we feel as students in a supposed collaborative residential community.”

To some, it felt as though the Office of Student Life introduced the policy to the BCSG in a top-down fashion rather than by using an integrated approach. But not everyone feels the same way as the sophomore class representatives.

Andrea Russo ’19 is a member of the junior class assembly of BCSG and notes that “a handful of students are disgruntled by the new policy, but the purpose of its implementation is to further embrace Bates’ culture of respect for others with varying opinions. Bates is offering a platform for individuals who are invited to speak and believes that they have the right to voice their full opinion. Other clauses that some students are disgruntled about are ‘recommended’ and not required…”

There are a plethora of understandings and feelings surrounding the new policy. Maybe it is due to the nature in which the policy was initially released, or maybe it is due to the heightened emotions in a time where the First Amendment continuously comes under fire.

Imber states, “I… hope that we can come up with an understanding of ourselves of a community engaged in the exchange and debate of ideas. Participation in that community requires both that individual members can speak freely, and that our speech acknowledges the dignity of our peers.”

Women’s Track and Field Gives 100 Percent for Opening Meet

The first meet for the women’s indoor track and field season was a thrilling mixture of excitement, grit, determination, effort, tough losses and triumphant victories. The meet was held at Bates on Saturday, January 13, and was a three-way competition between MIT, Colby, and our own Bobcats. Although the day saw tremendous performances from all three teams, MIT emerged the winner with 106 points. Bates earned second place with 53.5 points, leaving Colby in third with 28.5. The final scores are not indicative of the effort put forth by each team, and Bates competitors from all different events saw some seriously impressive feats by the time this meet was over.

Notable among these is junior Ayden Eickhoff ‘19 setting a new school record for the 1000 meters with a time of 2:57.24, taking first place in the event as well. This fantastic performance broke a record that has been standing for fifteen years now, by Kelley Puglisi in 2003.

Other track standouts ranged across a variety of distances and hurdles. In the 600 meters, sophomore Casey Snow ‘20 placed second with a time of 1:45.75, closely followed by senior captain Caroline Gettens ‘18 in third at 1:47.52. In the mile, senior Katherine Cook ‘18 ran 5:10.22 for second place. The 800 meters was also successful, with juniors Sarah Rothmann ‘19 and Wendy Memishian ‘19 placing second and third respectively, with 2:27.69 and 2:38.35.

Perhaps the most impressive event for Bates was the 60 meter hurdles, in which four athletes made it onto the Top 10 Performances list for Bates in that event, with first-years Amanda Kaufman ‘21 (9.31 seconds, prelim.), Jenny Martin ‘21 (9.49, prelim.), and Molly McCoole ‘21 (9.90, prelim.) and junior Sarah Shoulta ‘19 (9.56, finals) taking the second, fourth, fifth, and eighth on the list, respectively.

About this great achievement, Kaufman says, “Going into the event I was very nervous. I told myself that I’ve been training harder than I ever did in high school. I guess everything just came together in that race. It was an incredible feeling crossing the finish line of my first collegiate race. I am very excited for the rest of the season and more opportunities to improve.”

The field events had tremendous accomplishments as well. For jumpers, outstanding performances include Molly McCoole winning the high jump with a height of 1.64 meters (5-0.45) and taking the fifth spot on the all-time best list. Also in the high jump, junior Shelby Burns ‘19 achieved 1.49m (4-10.5), placing third, and senior Srishti Sunil ‘18’s long jump of 4.95 meter (16-3) placed fourth. Additionally, the throwers had standout efforts, such as junior captain Katie Hughes ‘19 placing third in both shot put and weight throw, throwing 35-7.25 and 43-9.75, respectively.

There was also impressive depth displayed by the team as a whole, at all levels of performance. Unfortunately, the meet was scored only four places deep, so many of the accomplishments from Bobcats who did not quite make the top spots were not acknowledged in the final score. The tremendous efforts of newcomers and personal bests from veterans look promising for upcoming meets in the season to come. The next meet will be an invitational Saturday, January 20, also at Bates.

 

First-year Tiffany Cervantes ’21 Speaks About the 2017-18 Squash Season

Many first-years have already finished their first collegiate athletic season at Bates College. For others, like Tiffany Cervantes ‘21, they have only just begun. Tiffany Cervantes is a member of the women’s squash team and like any other athlete, the transition from high school athletics to collegiate athletics was not easy.

“There was a huge difference between high school squash and college squash for me. One aspect was preseason and in-season training: it was intense, but the team pushes through together,” says Cervantes.

Compared to high school, the training for her has been much more difficult, and that has been something she has had to mentally and physically overcome. Each week, she dedicates herself to 1-2 hours of practice every day (except Mondays) to improve her game and perfect her skills. Additionally, collegiate sports offer a competitive environment that is significantly different to high school athletics. This takes some time to comfortably and emotionally adjust.

Cervantes started playing squash at the age of 13 years old, which she stated was quite late. Playing at the college level with other athletes intimidated and even frightened her, because some of her teammates have played for almost their entire lives. Fortunately, with the help of her teammates, she quickly felt at ease.

“They gave me a lot of good pointers and feedback during practices, and the captains, Vicky Arjoon ‘19 and Eliza Dunham ‘20, even offered to hit with me outside of practice,” says Cervantes.

Cervantes used the word “roller coaster” to describe her season so far. It is no surprise that there were many ups, but also plenty of obstacles. As an elite athlete, every game is important and Tiffany explains the devastation she felt when she lost her first college match.

“I felt devastated losing my first match. Unfortunately, it came down to my match being the deciding one, so the pressure was on, and I felt like I let the entire team down when I lost it,” says Cervantes.

What’s great about being a part of the athletic culture at Bates is having the support of your teammates and coaches. And by having that support, players like Tiffany grow and develop into not only better athletes but also stronger individuals.

“A highlight for me so far, which really shouldn’t be one, but it is now in hindsight, was when I lost my first match. Even though we face other schools as a team, when I’m in the court I’m on my own against my opponent. I was pushing my limit, played my best, and my coaches and teammates were there to give me a pat on the back in the end.”

On top of the immense demands and pressure of her sport, Cervantes also needs to balance her academic responsibilities. She explains her thoughts about what it means to be a student athlete at Bates, and similar to what other student athletes would say, it is definitely not a walk in the park.

“Being a student athlete at Bates is certainly a privilege to uphold but it’s also a bit of an obstacle,” she says. “You have to have your goals in mind and stay focused to succeed in both academics and your sport.”

Cervantes still has three more years of college squash to play, and she has big goals for her sophomore season.

“I want to continue working hard on the courts and do a lot better next season. I now know what to expect, and that’s definitely going to give me some leverage going into my sophomore season at Bates,” she concludes.

The women’s squash team played nationally ranked No. 24 Middlebury, No. 14 Williams, and George Washington January 13-14. It was unfortunately a tough weekend for the Bobcats, as they lost 5-4 to Middlebury, 8-1 to Williams, and 7-2 to George Washington. This Wednesday, January 17, the team will be playing Wesleyan in Connecticut, where they hope to come back with a win.

 

Olympic Games Provide Potential for Gold Metal Diplomatic Talks

The Olympic Games are more than mere sporting events. Sure, countries from around the world send their best athletes to compete and, hopefully, bring home the gold. But the Olympics also offer a space for diplomacy outside of the conventional realm of political talk.

This year, the twenty-third Winter Games are being held in PyeongCheng, South Korea, just fifty miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Unsurprisingly, media outlets have been bursting at the proverbial seams with talk of North Korea’s involvement in the Games.

Having this reclusive country compete in the Olympics is not as unusual as people might think. According to The Washington Post, North Korea has sent a delegation to every Summer Games (save for two it boycotted) since 1972, with a surprisingly successful record. However, North Korea has been less active in the Winter Games. But, this year, two figure skaters named Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik qualified to compete.

Bring up North Korea in a room of five people, and I’m sure you will get at least ten opinions on the matter. But it seems to me that people are constantly reacting, with few diplomatic talks including the reclusive country in question. That is not to say the United States or South Korea are completely at fault for not engaging in these talks; they have tried many times and have been met with an unresponsive North Korea.

I think these Olympic Games can change that, or at least be a step in the right direction. There is positive news of openness that may have gotten lost in the news cycle.  Some examples of this include: North Korea reopened their border hotline with the South and officials from both Koreas engaged in a face-to-face meeting. I’m not trying to say that North Korea is not dangerous or should not be taken seriously as a threat. But in order to get everyone to a safer and more stable place, I think having dialogue that includes all concerned parties actually sitting at the same table is a huge step in the right direction.

In addition to having countries and representatives in the same place, the Olympics offer a reprieve from reality. Anxieties that govern our daily lives do not have to be as tense during those few short weeks of the Games.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, two gymnasts, Lee Eun-jun and Hong Un Jong, of South and North Korea respectively, stopped to take a selfie. These two girls would have never met outside the walls of the gymnastic stadium and have probably heard damning propaganda about each other’s home. But, inside the walls of a gym where all that mattered were numbers on a scoreboard, they were allowed just to be girls who happened to share a love for the same sport.

Now, there is talk of North and South Koreans sharing a four-man bobsled that would be one of the forerunning sleds sent down the chute to test conditions before the races. On the major scale of geopolitics and nuclear weapons, a bobsled seems insignificant. But the symbol of two differing nations peacefully sharing the same space sends a powerful message of cooperation to the world.

Can we expect to see more similar encounters in the future? Will there be formalized talks that take place on the sidelines of events? At a time when everyone is concerned with the size of a button attached to a nuclear warhead, the world needs a chance to take a breath. I don’t think it can be stressed enough: talking and diplomacy pave the way for a better world. Without understanding the other side of the equation, no real or lasting solutions can be reached.

In ancient times, the Olympics were so important that historians used to measure time in Olympiads, the four-year cycle of the games. Moreover, the Games were seen as Pan-Hellenic, belonging to all of Greece. The modern Olympic Games are modeled on such a tradition; we all belong to the same world and should share the same desire for a good life. American, South Korean, North Korean, in the end it makes very little difference. Having our athletes compete along side each other is a reminder that the world is capable of coming together.

The Dharma Society Retreats to Shortridge

In my nearly four years here at Bates, I have found that spending time off-campus is crucial to making the most out of the college experience. It’s always healthy to burst out of the “Bates Bubble” from time to time, as some students will volunteer in the Lewiston/Auburn area, some ski the slopes of Maine and New Hampshire, some go to the movies in Auburn, and others attend concerts in Portland. I had the pleasure this past weekend of getting off-campus by joining a retreat to Shortridge with the Bates Dharma Society. For those who do not know, the Coastal Center at Shortridge (referred to as Shortridge) is a Bates-owned property in Phippsburg, Maine utilized for field research, meetings, conferences, and retreats.

This retreat focused on practicing meditation and mindfulness, and was strategically timed at the beginning of the semester to set a calmer tone as we head into the heart of second semester and the Maine winter. As we arrived Friday night, we each claimed a bed for sleeping before engaging in our first 20 minute meditation sit of the retreat. After a delicious dinner (a special thanks to the Commons dining staff), we meditated once more for twenty minutes and talked into the night about a range of topics including philosophy, religion, the upcoming semester, and about a time we felt grateful.

On Saturday, we ate a tasty breakfast of bagels, peanut butter, apples, and tea, followed by a particular type of sit called a body scan – in which one student led an exercise where we focused on being mindful of our whole being from the feet to the face. This made me especially present and helped me drive away lingering dwellings on homework and other concerns at Bates. After this sit, we suited up and headed to Popham Beach, which is only a quick drive from Shortridge.

We walked along the sand, chatted, and felt the water and wind. While walking along the beach on the way back to our cars, we practiced a walking meditation, trying to pay particular attention to our sensual experiences at the winter beach. For Abe Brownell ’20, co-president of the Bates Dharma Society, this was one of his favorite moments from the retreat.

“I enjoyed going to the beach, because the sand was so beautiful that it made you think really hard,” said Brownell. We did indeed notice on the way back, through paying attention to the present moment, that our feet were sinking into the sand in ways we had not noticed before the walking meditation.

After the time at the beach, we returned to Shortridge for an afternoon of various activities. These included eating lunch, reading, journaling, listening to music, walking up the hill behind the house, and looking out over Meetinghouse Pond, and more meditation sits. One of the final meditation sits was particularly memorable, as one student, who had not slept well the night before, began to snore, prompting everyone to break their meditation and burst out laughing. As it started to get dark, we finished meditating, packed up our things, cleaned up the house, and headed back to Bates.

When asked about her experience attending her second Bates Dharma Society retreat at Shortridge, Christina Perrone ’20 remarked, “The retreat was wonderful with all the different personalities and ways of meditating. It’s always fun to just be at Shortridge. There’s like a calmness to it that’s really    special.”

Similarly, co-president Caleb Perlman ’19 left the retreat feeling it had been a positive and meaningful experience. “This retreat was special,” said Perlman, “because it offered me an opportunity to be part of a community of individuals exploring the depths of their minds and the depths of their sensory experience. It was relaxing in that it unlinked my mind from several irrational and uncomforting thought patterns that can’t be dealt with in a single meditation in the Gomes Chapel.”

To hear about more experiences from this past weekend at Shortridge and take part in a future retreat, /come join a daily Dharma Society meditation sit at 5:45 p.m. in the Peter J. Gomes Chapel. No prior meditation experience is necessary, and all are welcome.

Free Speech Panel Discusses New Policy Implimentation

As a part of Bates College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming, students, staff and members of the community gathered in Pettengill Hall to discuss some of the issues surrounding free speech on college campuses. Ultimately, the intended goal of the meeting was to provide feedback on a “Free Speech Statement of Principles” for the school that will be released in the near future.

The event opened with comments from a panel of faculty members from a variety of departments, lead by Associate Dean of Faculty Margaret Imber. From there, students broke up into small groups to discuss four different free speech-related scenarios and to decide how the planned statement of principles might apply to each one.

According to the panel members, the idea to craft a Statement of Principles came after watching several colleges that have had free speech-related issues, often with planned speakers and student responses to those speakers, draft statements of their own.

While the faculty noted that Bates has not had a similar controversy in recent years, the administration felt that it should create a statement that could be applied to any similar situations, rather than being “reactionary.” According to Nathan Faries, an Asian Studies and Chinese professor who was a member of the panel, releasing a statement was a way for Bates to stake its claim on a national issue.   

“We want to be a part of this discussion,” said Faries.

Most members of the audience who commented agreed in the importance of drafting a Statement of Principles. According to Morgan Baxter ’20, an attendant of the event, the idea of a Statement sent a clear message on how Bates wanted its community to engage.

“Bates wants to build pen discourse built on mutual respect. That was my takeaway,” said Baxter.

While many students appreciated the idea of a written position, some didn’t feel that the sentiments expressed in the words matched the administration’s actions.

One student, Maddy Smith ’20, felt that the school’s policy on protests, which states that protesters who disrupt class time can be punished and that protesters should coordinate their demonstrations with the school and limit them to certain locations, limited free speech. Smith ended her statement to the panel by connecting the importance of protest to the work of Martin Luther King Jr.

“All these events for MLK Day are the result of activism,” concluded Smith.

While Imber agreed with Smith’s general sentiment, she noted that that it would be difficult for the school to endorse activities that broke up the educational process, as that was something the school valued as much as protest.

Imber also noted that protest could be very effective when breaking the rules because it created “spectacle.”

Following the discussion of protests, the audience was broken into small groups to discuss four hypothetical scenarios involving free speech on a college campus. The scenarios ranged in content from a controversy surrounding a professor’s Twitter account to students who refused to do certain class assignments due to religious beliefs. After about twenty minutes the audience reconvened as one group to discuss their takeaways.

The Free Speech Panel was a part of a larger set of programming sponsored by the school for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Programming began with a morning keynote address by Dr. Na’ilah Suad Nasir and continued throughout the day.

Black Mirror Underwhelms with New Season

I have been a fan of Black Mirror since it was released in 2011. I was attracted to the prospect of having a sci-fi TV show that is not in the distance, but a viable, potential future. In previous seasons, Black Mirror did an impressive job in scripting believable and emotionally-charged scenarios that lie in the margins of our techno-culture. I was always particularly fascinated with Black Mirror’s capacity to imagine a “what if” question and take it to its limits. Dealing with larger issues of memory, identity, consciousness, and virtuality, Black Mirror is a source of refined terror, entertainment, and contemporary fiction. While the show is still remarkable and worth watching, the new season was disappointing to me. The acting and production are still spot on, but the writing was a step down; new episodes reenact ideas from past episodes and extensively play with bleak cinematic clichés.

If we look at digital technologies today, it becomes clear why Black Mirror is critically suspenseful. Research in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and bio-nanotechnology are on track to change how many of us understand our lives. However, as the tracks of progress seem everyday more elusive, the word ‘change’ cannot be seen as a synonym for improvement. Mimicking the unpredictability of contemporary technology and politics, Black Mirror shows a world that has the potential to be disembodied, dominated by robots, judgmental, fluid, and disconnected. That is a crucial element of Black Mirror, running throughout all of its seasons. But there was something more that made it special and engaging: the characters were believable enough to have me imagining my own life in a few years or decades. The show is particularly good at demonstrating how technology may soon impact how we date, investigate crimes, or engage in leisure activities.

Season 4 still has the signatures of Black Mirror: technological distress, excellent production, and good acting. However, only a couple of episodes really stand out. The characters have appeared to me less and less believable. In a few of the episodes from the new season, such as “Crocodile” and “Metalhead,” the characters struggle with underwhelming emotional clichés that made me question the technological anxiety that makes Black Mirror so conceptually interesting. The fake characters have me craving previous seasons’ episodes (“San Junipero” and “Be Right Back” come to mind). Even though Charlie Brooker wrote all the episodes, the excessive drama of Season 4 radically changes how the show looks, and a few critics have started wondering if this may be the beginning of the end for the show.

Luckily, “USS Callister” and “Hang the DJ” still portray the refined moral dilemmas that emerge along with technology. Maddy Smith ’20 mentioned “Hang the DJ” as one of the episodes from this season that marked them. “I really liked the plot in this one. It’s hard to tell if the characters are going along or rebelling against the system,” Smith told me. Sydney Anderson ’20 said that there was a good balance between uplifting and catastrophic episodes for the new season. “It was also cool how the new episodes referenced past seasons,” Anderson pointed out.

Black Mirror is a show worth watching. The new season is overly dramatic, but still entertaining and engaging, especially for people who are thrilled but frightened by the future of technology.

 

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