The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Amar Ojha (Page 1 of 8)

The Student interview young author Scott Laudati

 

Scott Laudati, grandson of Nancy Norton-Taylor ‘50, is a poet and fiction writer whose first novel, Play the Devil, was recently published by Kuboa Press. The Bates Student asked Laudati about his career as a young writer and his thoughts on art and the creative process.

 

What were you doing in Canada?

I was attending a wedding for a girl I knew who ran some of my poems in her magazine. I’d been arrested a few weeks earlier #Occupying Wall St. and my arrest showed up in the “supercomputer.” They eventually let me go but I had to sign a document saying I wouldn’t attempt to overthrow the Canadian government while I was there.

 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Maybe after an uncle gave me On The Road. Or when I first heard the band Bright Eyes and was blown away by the lyrics. 14 or 15 was when I started putting words onto paper.

 

Any tips for aspiring writers?

I still don’t know “the formula.” I’ll spend hours writing something I think is great and it will get rejected everywhere. Usually the things you get down in five minutes are the ones that do the best. Just don’t quit. Early on, your writing will be terrible. And later, most of what you write will still be bad. But there are moments when something else takes over, and the words don’t even feel like they’re yours because they are perfect.

 

How do you define poetry?

The first time I experience anything, it’s poetic. And the important feelings, like Love and Hate, they’re always poetry because they are so rare in their extremes. Every girl has something completely unique to fall in love with. And the world gives you a new thing to hate every day. Poetry is easy to find. Just drink a strong cup of coffee and go outside. I guess trying to define poetry is like trying to define God.

 

How does your mindset shift when you are writing poetry compared to when you are writing prose?

It doesn’t really change. If I’m drunk or it’s 3 am, I’ll write poems. If I have eight hours, I’ll try and work on something longer.

 

How much of your creative non-fiction actually happened?

Most of it. My twenties have been pretty nuts.

 

What is your writing process?

I stay up later than everyone else. And I don’t watch TV. Usually 11 pm-4 am is my writing time. I also smoke a tobacco pipe while writing. I’ve found this more helpful than booze.

 

What’s your best quality as a writer?

I don’t need to be forced to write. So I don’t need to “get away” for a weekend or get an MFA so I’m on a deadline. I just need a song or a painting or something that makes me say, “I want to create something that important.”

 

What’s your worst quality as a writer?

I overwrite like I’m being paid by the word. Most of my writing time is editing down excess words.

 

What role does humor play in your writing?

A huge role. I’m lucky because most situations I get myself in are very funny at my own expense. I just try and turn my bad luck into a story.

 

What is the purpose of art?

I used to think it was to educate. Or leave a time capsule behind of what happened in our era. But now I’m not so sure. Our government and society seem so bent on making it impossible for artists to survive, I don’t know if there is a purpose. What used to be a tool for consciousness expansion has been watered down to entertainment, to make the day a little bit easier to get through. Entertainment is stupid. It’s “The Hunger Games.” It’s Katy Perry. Those things are like mental painkillers And after an hour or two, you never think about them again. Art shouldn’t have to make you feel good. It should be a mirror that makes you confront this dystopia we’re all racing towards.

 

 

President Spencer’s Response to Open Letter Regarding Undocumented Students

In early December, The Bates Student printed an open letter asking the Bates administration to announce the measures we will take to protect the rights and status of undocumented students and seek “official status as a sanctuary campus for undocumented immigrants living at Bates and in Lewiston.” Although the letter referenced a petition to be delivered, I have not yet received it. Because the open letter was published in the Student, however, I want to take advantage of the first issue of the new term to respond.

I appreciate the initiative taken by students in surfacing issues relating to undocumented students, and I fully support the call for a vigorous defense of our fundamental values of inclusion and equality and for specific actions to protect the safety and security of all members of the Bates community. I also applaud the solidarity expressed throughout the letter with the refugee communities in Lewiston and Auburn.

I am pleased to clarify once again how our policies and practices with respect to DACA and undocumented students unequivocally support the goals set forth in the open letter. And, as I stated in my November 30 message to the community, I will continue to speak out against any present or potential encroachment on the rights of any individuals—including, but not limited to, undocumented students—in our community.

With respect to undocumented students, some of whom currently enjoy the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, we do offer, and will continue to offer, the follow actions and protections:

  • We will continue to welcome applications from all students without regard to their immigration status, and applications for admission from DACA and undocumented students will be treated the same as those from domestic students.
  • We will continue to offer DACA and undocumented students institutional, need-based financial aid, and, as with all students, we will meet the full demonstrated financial need of any admitted student.
  • We will not release any information about students’ citizenship or immigration status to any third party or government agency unless legally compelled to do so.
  • We will not take any voluntary action that would put any student at risk solely because of their immigration status.
  • We will continue to work with colleges and universities across the nation in collective action aimed at upholding, continuing, and expanding DACA and its associated protections.
  • We will continue to work with our state and local communities to support, and counter discrimination against, local residents who are immigrants to our community.
  • We will continue to operate by the following protocol with respect to our Department of Security and Campus Safety: our officers do not and will not inquire about any student’s citizenship or immigration status. This is a long-standing policy that will continue in force.

With respect to the request that we declare Bates a “sanctuary campus,” I feel strongly that the college should take a nuanced approach. As noted above, I fully endorse the concerns that lie behind the sanctuary campus request, and we will continue to address these concerns in our actions and policies. I do not, however, think that it is wise of prudent to declare Bates a “sanctuary campus” in explicit terms.

Having carefully studied this issue and consulted with legal counsel, I am mindful that the term “sanctuary campus” has no legal definition or standing and may in fact provide false assurances to members of the campus community. On one hand, the term may suggest that we are willing to act without regard for our legal obligations, which we are not empowered as an institution to do. On the other hand, it may suggest to individuals on our campus or in our local communities that the Bates campus, as a physical space, has a special protective status apart from the law. This is not true, and to suggest otherwise could potentially cause adverse attention and harm to the very individuals we wish to protect.

Accordingly, in my considered judgment, our community is better served at this time by a clear exposition—as outlined above—of specific policies and commitments than by the adoption of a symbolic designation that could be misleading to those who count on the college for meaningful action. That said, we will continue to monitor this set of issue closely, and adapt our stance, as appropriate, if there are relevant changes in law or policy that warrant further action.

Again, I want to thank the students, faculty, and staff who raised these very important concerns and make clear that I and other leaders in the college are always open to conversation. As the next weeks and months unfold, and the new Congress and administration begin to take action on a variety of fronts, we will pay close attention to developments that affect the work of colleges and universities, and we will continue vigorously to defend the rights of all members of our community.

Meanwhile, I encourage all of us on campus to be mindful of the values that define Bates and inform our discourse and to work every day to ensure that each and every one of us is able to find a respected and respectful place in both.

 

Sincerely,

Clayton Spencer

Religious motivations and the war to come

So here we are again. On the 22nd of March, just months after the carnage in Paris, the world was witness to another round of savagery, as innocent men, women and children were massacred at an airport in Brussels. The body count at the time of writing is 31. ISIS has taken credit for the attack.

At this point, I hope I do not need to tell you what the reaction of the world has been. If you are curious, just take the time to look up what your favorite public figure had to say about Paris in November, and it should fit quite nicely for Brussels. It’s quite possible the world has run out of original things to say about terrorism. One narrative you often hear is that the perpetrators of such attacks are not “true” Muslims or that they have twisted the faith to fit political goals. I want to convince you that this narrative is a lie.

Islamists are Muslims who seek to impose Islam on all aspects of public life, often through acts of violence. Not all Muslims are Islamists. What I will be critiquing in this article are either Islamists or Islamic ideology, by which I mean the scriptures of Islam (the Quran and Hadith) and the example of the Prophet Muhammad.

There is a misunderstanding about what motivates Islamists. And how this is possible I cannot fathom, as Islamists are telling the world, ad nauseam, what motivates them. This point will be made clear with a couple of examples. Here is ISIS on its use of sex slaves:

“Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided…amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam”

ISIS argues that not only did the Prophet endorse sex slavery, but that to reject his actions and words is to reject Islam. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated group, also makes this argument in defense of sex slavery. And when one reads the Surahs, there is very little there to split hairs about theologically. In no uncertain terms, God permits the Prophet to “lawfully” possess wives who are prisoners of war (33:50-51, 4:24).

The act of sex slavery is not the only crime defended by Islamic ideology and, consequently, Islamists. In defense of suicide attacks, the Taliban also borrows from the Quran (2:207):

“And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah: And Allah is full of kindness to (His) devotees.”

This line, they claim, is God’s sanction of martyrdom, which becomes all the more necessary in defense of the faith. The edict seems to have had an effect. According to the University of Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, since 2002, Muslims have committed 87% of the suicide attacks in the world when the religion of the perpetrator is definitively known.

Speaking of jihad, scripture is once again the justification of holy war within Islamist circles. Read the letter which was attached to secular filmmaker Theo van Gogh’s mutilated body. To justify both van Gogh’s murder and the threats against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Islamists make explicit reference to the Quran (80:34-42) and cite a “war against Islam.” This letter states that the “blood of martyrs” will bring Islam to victory.

What all these examples have in common is the confession of an explicitly religious motivation. This is key to understanding what drives Islamists and what kinds of attacks to expect in the future. That is not to say that all or even most Muslims adhere literally to their religious texts. Clearly, the majority of nominal or moderate Muslims interpret their religious documents peacefully. And this is a good thing.

Yet far too many still live in the shadow of Islamic dogma. And this is a problem. If you are still dubious, I encourage you to look up the Pew polls which show, among other things, that 74 percent of Muslims in the Middle East believe that Sharia should be official law, and, of those, 56 percent believe the death penalty is the proper punishment for leaving Islam.

Some will say that Islamists do not really believe their doctrine, and are motivated by geopolitical disputes or economic disparity. This has a kernel of truth. Islamists will often claim certain terrestrial motivations. But behind these claims, there is always the backdrop of theological conflict.

For instance, one of ISIS’ principle gripes is the infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement, dividing much of the Middle East between the French and British Mandates without consideration of religion. But why was the arbitrary division of the Levant such a problem in the first place? Many, myself included, would say that the Europeans did not realize the pre-existing theological disputes in the area, and thus did not foresee the years of sectarian violence which would arise as a consequence. One hardly needs to explain the extent to which religion underpins this “political” conflict.

But the explanation I just gave is not exactly the concern raised by ISIS. According to ISIS, the agreement was a problem because it put borders on Islam. The Christian crusaders had no right to split up “Muslim Land,” never mind that this territory was home to millions of non-Muslims. And once again, the same language and reasoning is used by other Islamist groups, such as Al-Qaeda. Here is what Osama Bin Laden had to say in defense of 9/11:

“For over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places…turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.”

This is the language of someone who sees the world as a collection of religious domains in conflict. Thus we see how Islamists view even ostensibly political grievances (European Imperialism, the U.S. presence in Arabia) in terms of religious affiliation.

Why do we doubt the religious motivations of Islamists? When Christians speak against gay rights, who among us doubts that they are doing so primarily for religious reasons? Who claims that they’re “not true Christians” when they quote Leviticus? Oftentimes, these people (e.g. members of the Westboro Baptist Church) are desperate to quote verses from their texts, and oftentimes they’re supported by a literal reading of their texts. Yes, the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination (Leviticus 20:13). Yes, the penalty for apostasy is death in Islam, according to Sahih al-Bukhari 4:52:260. Yes, the Quran condones slavery (Quran 24:32).

It is grating when people use #prayforparis or #prayforbrussels. Religious piety is precisely what is killing our brothers and sisters. We can argue all we want about interpretations, but the bottom line is Islamists are driven by their faith and the scriptures do not explicitly contradict them.

None of the terrorist acts committed by Islamists makes sense without religious motivation. Political oppression does not explain the murder of aid workers, or the attack on Charlie Hebdo, or the killing of Theo van Gogh, or the destruction of world heritage sites and national treasures at the hands of ISIS. Disabuse yourself of the notion that the principles of Islam (the Quran, the Hadith, and the example of the Prophet) are unequivocally peaceful. And disabuse yourself of the notion that people do not actually believe in these principles.

We find ourselves in an ideological war with the religious doctrine driving these fanatics to action. Not just the interpretation offered by religious fundamentalists. We are at war with the principle that any book is sacred. We are at war with the idea that any man is more than a man. We are at war with the notions of martyrdom, jihad and the ummah, which serve to divide our world into sectarian communities divided along religious lines. And we are at war with the example of the Prophet and his empire, who spread the faith with the sword and committed atrocities on their path to world domination. This is a war we can ill afford to lose, and the sooner we acknowledge its existence, the sooner the fighting can begin in earnest.

Vaccines, Censorship, and Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival has recently decided to cancel the screening of one of its most controversial films. In doing so, De Niro has taken a powerful stance against a threat to society that largely goes unnoticed—scientific illiteracy.

Politicians have demonstrated the extent of the damage that can be done when they fail to grasp, consider or even value objective reality. An incomplete understanding of women’s reproductive health, or a politicized notion of climate change as a liberal hoax, can and does result in people losing rights, individuals being harmed, our ecosystems being threatened—and often, destroyed.

The film in question, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” is a documentary asserting an association between vaccinations and autism. The premise of the film, as well as the concerns of many “anti-vaxxers” stem from a fraudulent article published in 1998, which raised concerns surrounding MMR vaccines. The study has been described as “the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years.” The author behind the study, Andrew Wakefield, was stripped of his license to practice medicine, and would later go on to release the film in question.

De Niro, the son of an autistic father, initially had plans to screen the film at the prestigious film festival to allow “opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family.” The famed actor’s decision to screen the film was met with intense opposition, but De Niro, who also has a child with autism spectrum disorder, maintained that “it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined.”

And in a sense, Robert De Niro is right. It is crucial to consider all of the relevant factors in an issue, particularly in cases where one side, such as the “anti-vax” movement, is heavily unpopular. Film, as do all forms of art, presents a platform for individuals to express ideas, regardless of their popularity, and as such, remains an important medium for controversial topics.

De Niro finally made the decision to pull the film from the festival after discussing the matter with members of the scientific community, a including a Vanderbilt medical professor who later recalled, “the entire board as well as Mr. De Niro have learned a lot in the last several days.” Following the meeting, De Niro said “we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”

And this is the significance of that decision. De Niro, someone who can personally relate to a provocative topic—one that affects him and his family deeply—can sit down with those who may know more about the issue and have an open conversation about it. And moreover, he is willing to change his mind on an issue if and when there is a sufficient reason to do so.

By pulling the film from the festival, De Niro sent a loud and clear message—that this film does not promote the sort of discourse we need, and that factual engagement on provocative matters is better than empty assertions. Furthermore, we, as a society, ought to be able to acknowledge and respect objective reality by remaining willing to change our minds if there is a compelling reason to do so, despite how uncomfortable or inconvenient the truth may be.

As such, De Niro didn’t shy away from the idea of changing his mind out of embarrassment for being wrong; instead, he accepted his misunderstanding and changed his mind. He acted in accordance with what he now knows to be true: that a faux study of 12 children, with altered data, has cost the world far too many lives, while scientific illiteracy that has safeguarded horrific conditions that should have been eradicated years ago. And that subsequent follow-up studies featuring over a million children has found no relationship between vaccinations and autism spectrum disorder.

 

What to do when you’re feeling blue

With finals just around the corner, most students are feeling the pressure of performing well on exams. However, this stress affects everyone in different ways. Some people seem to power through it with no problem, but for other people, the stress becomes an unbearable burden. This doesn’t make those students who have trouble battling stress weaker or less capable than their seemingly unflappable classmates—everyone reacts to high-stress situations differently and everyone has different needs when it comes to self-care. Unfortunately, while it is fairly easy to acquire a dean’s notice when suffering from a physical illness, the same can’t exactly be said when one requires a mental health day.

Bates’ Health Center has wonderful resources for those struggling with symptoms of depression or other emotional distress, including counseling and a sun lamp for those dealing with seasonal affective disorder. If you were going through a crisis or even a great deal of stress, the Health Center would be more than happy to give you the tools to discuss these issues with your professor. But let’s say you wake up one morning and the reality of how much work you have to do dawns on you, or you are struggling with problems with friends or family, and the idea of going to class, let alone getting out of bed, feels like an impossible feat—what should you do then? We all feel like this sometimes. No one is immune to this situation. You could go to the health center, but appointments to meet with counselors sometimes have waiting periods of over a week, and you need rest right now. In my opinion, being ‘brave’ and going to class can be detrimental to your emotional health at this point. ‘Powering through’ isn’t giving your body and mind the rest they need. Maybe you just need a day off—maybe even just half a day. Would you feel comfortable emailing your professor and telling them you need a mental health day?

Many professors list in their syllabus that students are allowed one or two unexcused absences before it impacts their grade. Some professors allow none. I think that Bates should have a policy that easily gives students a pathway to communicate with professors if they need to take a pause in order to rejuvenate their mental health. Our school’s mentality is so often centered on being ‘strong,’ taking on huge loads of work, and pulling all-nighters, but this can easily take a toll on our student body, especially when there is so much pressure to ‘keep up’ with everyone else. A policy that encourages students to understand their emotional needs would make our campus safer by emboldening students to take control of their own mental health.

Most professors would probably be very understanding if you spoke with them about any struggles you are having in your personal life or dealing with regarding your course workload, but initiating this conversation when you are already overwhelmed and not sure how they will react can be terrifying. Having an official school statement about how these situations should be addressed would make students much more willing to speak up when they feel they cannot safely or healthily attend class without overexerting themselves emotionally.

 

Community engagement at Bates

Since September I have regularly gone into the Lewiston District Court to work with Maine’s Volunteer Lawyers Project. A couple of other Bates students and I help to provide family law advice for low-income residents by dealing with in-take and determining eligibility. Honestly, it is a great feeling to make a difference in a community that has become your adopted home.

At the end of a particularly busy day there was one person left. We had warned him that he would probably not be seen, but he decided to stick around just in case. This man struck up a conversation with me, something that does not usually happen. He told me that he was an immigrant from Djibouti and that he had lived in Tennessee prior to coming to Lewiston. I asked him if he ever missed his home abroad, and his response was, “Yes, but I am an American now.” He went on to tell me that he had just gained his citizenship. This led to a larger discussion, which involved religion and American politics—both at the national level and with regards to Lewiston’s recent mayoral race. During our talk, he told me he was Muslim and I told him I was Jewish. Our conversation ended when the attorney called him in. As we both stood up he extended his arm. As I shook his hand he looked at me and said, “See, a Muslim and a Jew, just two Americans.” He then followed the attorney. He really caught me off guard, especially considering the racial, religious, and political tensions within not just Lewiston, but the entire nation.

As I comprehended this simple, yet profound statement, I realized that this experience, and others like it, are why community engagement is so important—you experience personal growth while helping to make a difference.

Batesies need to begin to utilize the community engagement resources that surround us. The Lewiston/Auburn area is a community that is often in need of our services, but more importantly, it is a community that openly welcomes us into their lives and homes. Bates students are an untapped source of potential for growth in L/A. On the other hand, as my experience shows, Bates students have a lot to gain from volunteering. Finally, it is important to get away from campus and the sheltered and privileged environment it affords us. As Ellis Obrien, a freshman who volunteers by tutoring at Lewiston High School said, “I’ve become a better person and gained perspective on what it means to contribute to society. I feel like an essential part of the Bates experience is spending time in Lewiston, and I believe the best way to get to know your community is to volunteer and serve with the locals.” Perhaps Bates should have a community engagement requirement.

For anyone looking to get involved with community engagement, the Harward Center for Community Partnership is a great place to start. The Harward Center offers great community engagement opportunities for all class years. The Bonner Leadership Program is a way for incoming freshman to get involved and stay involved with community service during their time at Bates. The Bates Community Liaison and the Community Outreach Fellows programs offer opportunities for upperclassmen to get involved in community engagement in ways that are related to their existing interests. Perhaps most importantly, the Harward Center offers many different forms of community-engaged learning and miscellaneous volunteer opportunities for students who want to get involved but already have a packed schedule. The Harward Center even offers grants for faculty, staff, and students during the academic year and the summer. If someone is interested in community engagement the Harward Center makes it easy for him or her to get involved.

Turkish Lives Matter

After the bombings and shootings in Paris in November of 2015, people everywhere took action to support France in their time of distress. The #PrayforParis movement, as well as Facebook and Snapchat filters, were embraced by the masses. The terrorist attacks were highly publicized and the world expressed love and encouragement for the historic city.

This past week, there were similar attacks on Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey. At least 23 were confirmed dead and over 400 were injured in the attacks. The police have identified the bomber as a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and confirmed it was an act of terrorism.

Hannah Tardie, class of 2017, is studying abroad in Istanbul this semester, along with Zaynab Tawil ’17. Tardie offered a firsthand account of the situation. She explained that there are two conflicts in Turkey right now, one domestic and one international. The bombing in Ankara was part of the domestic dispute, whereas the ISIL attack on Istanbul was part of the international conflict.

Tardie stated, “a place I considered to be home is no longer safe, and it’s sad to see pictures/videos on the Internet of the crowded streets I love now empty and barren, or full of police officers.” She went on to explain that her classes have been cancelled, her parents are encouraging her to transfer programs, and many of her classmates have been personally affected by the conflict, as students and teachers have died in these attacks. “It is just really heartbreaking and really sad, but I feel really valued by the community here.” Tardie plans on staying in Istanbul and seeing out the rest of her semester.

But why aren’t we seeing the same reaction that we did to the Paris bombings? Why is there no “#SaveTurkey” or notifications on Facebook for your friends who are safe in Turkey?

It can be argued that the situation in Paris was on a larger scale, or in a larger city with greater name recognition. However, what does this say about how we value certain lives over others?

The value of life encompasses questions including abortion, the death penalty, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s issues, creating overarching themes in our political discourse.  On the Bates campus in particular, we have seen support for #BlackLivesMatter and many other movements that are prominent in today’s society. Some conflicting dialogue has been thrown around claiming “all lives matter,” but how can we claim to place equal value on each life without invalidating the struggles of many?

Since this country’s inception, there have been numerous discrepancies between the values of races and genders. The women’s rights movement has called on this problem to gain the right to vote, the right to choose, and most recently to close the wage gap. In terms of race, there is the mass incarceration of blacks for crimes for which whites would not suffer as harsh a punishment.

The stark contrast of the support for Paris compared to that for Turkey is a simple and clear example of the way America reacts to certain horrors over others. The answer to these problems has not become clear, and in fact becomes more complicated with every situation that arises. Maybe creating an open and peaceful dialogue on the topics could alleviate many of the tensions, especially on campus. And to Batesies in Turkey, come home safely. We love you.

Arts House: an obituary

The housing lottery has sent everyone into a tizzy and friendships have recently been put to the ultimate test, but room selection is finally drawing to a close. Next year will bring many changes to residential life, including the opening of the new dorms. However, it will also mark the end of some traditions. Arts House, the theme house that has consistently occupied Pierce House and where I’ve lived the past two years, will no longer exist—not just in Pierce, but anywhere. Pierce House will become “The Health and Fitness House,” and Bates students interested in art of all varieties will lose a place of community.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I fully support the Health and Fitness House; I think that it will be important to the Frye Street community and I do not want to sound at all like I don’t believe that this house should exist. What I’m trying to say is that the arts community is extremely disjointed on campus, and while we have a multitude of clubs dedicated to the arts (Bates Arts Society, Bates Authors Guild, AMANDLA, BMU, Circus Arts, A Cappella groups, Sangai Asia, and more) the great thing about Arts House was that it brought together enthusiasts of every medium.  Arts House wasn’t “Painting House” or “Guitar Players’ House,” it was a home to everyone who loved to create, and even to those that didn’t create but enjoyed being in a community that valued creativity. On top of that, the house was inclusive in so many ways. We were always a safe space that did not tolerate discriminatory behavior and made an effort to make our house feel like a home.

When I was a freshman, like so many others, I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, I didn’t make close friends immediately, and I wasn’t sure how to navigate the social scene of our very small campus. By November, I was already looking at transfer applications. However, I was lucky enough to run into some sophomores (now seniors) that lived in Pierce at the time who took me under their wing and invited me to come hang out at Arts House. And just like that, I found my niche at Bates. Unfortunately, that niche was one of the only of its kind—where any student, regardless of background or major, could retreat to share a conversation with a diverse group of people, like a saxophone player, a ceramicist, a poet, or a videographer, all under the same roof. With Arts House gone, we have lost that.

The official reason for the dissolution of Arts House was our lack of programming for the Bates community. However, an extremely limited budget makes achieving the required frequency of programming difficult. I fully agree that theme houses should host events on a regular basis, but having residents finance this is a huge burden and we shouldn’t expect every resident to be able to give money. So yes, ideally Arts House would have had more programming, but its death is still a solemn occasion.

Next year, my final year at Bates, will feel a little emptier without Arts House, but this loss of home is an opportunity for us—as artists, as people—to make the arts a more visible priority on this campus and to continue to strengthen the creative community. Whether it’s through clubs, collaborations, gatherings, or friendships we need to carry on the spirit of Pierce.

The Party of Obstruction

The sudden passing of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s longest serving and most conservative justice, electrified an already unpredictable year in politics. Luckily, the drafters of the Constitution had recognized death as an unfortunate yet inevitable reality, and took measures to devise a protocol for appointments of new justices to the Court, by stating quite explicitly, “[The president] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court.” Admittedly, no one was expecting the sudden death of Justice Scalia. Furthermore, most people viewed Obama’s successor as likely having the opportunity to appoint one or more justices to the Supreme Court. Yet the untimely death of a Justice during an election year isn’t unprecedented. In fact, since 1900, the Senate has voted on eight Supreme Court nominees during election years. So, what exactly is the problem? A Senate that refuses to recognize President Obama’s legitimacy, exemplified by years of unwavering obstruction.

Surely, President Obama recognized that his nominee, whoever it would be, would be met with staunch opposition. It comes as no surprise then, that whatever the President proposes, Congress will stubbornly obstruct it. This was only reaffirmed when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would not even consider voting on the President’s nominee, whoever the choice was. It is one thing for the Senate to consider the nominee and decide that this individual may not be the best selection. Senators are allowed to disagree with the President. They are, in fact, entirely allowed to consent or withhold their consent on the nominee. They have every right to advise the President on their selection. In fact, it is their Constitutional duty to do so. It is, quite literally, spelled out in their job description.

Yet, unsurprisingly, the Senate remains unflinching. There have been certain Republican members of the Senate, such as Maine’s Susan Collins, who have agreed to meet with Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee, and to consider his qualifications and what he wishes to bring to the Court. While possibly disappointing liberal progressives, Obama’s selection of a fairly moderate, yet strongly qualified judge only highlights Senate Republicans’ unreasonableness. Instead, McConnell is calling for the next president to nominate Scalia’s successor, a rather optimistic stance that suggests that Senate Republicans would rather wait for a Republican president to appoint a more conservative justice. Trusting GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s judgment over President Obama’s is, in and of itself, baffling. But of course, Garland may actually be the safer choice for Republicans, especially given that a Clinton or Sanders appointee would most likely be far more liberal than Senate Republicans would like.

What this stance also reveals is an inability for the party to remain consistent with their own principles. The claimed champions of the Constitution are neglecting their Constitutional duties, blatantly ignoring a document many of them once seemed to revere as sacred. Why this change of heart? Because it is President Obama who is making the calls. And that’s an uncomfortable reality that many Republicans still haven’t fully swallowed.

Of course, President Obama’s entire presidential career was met with incredible obstruction. In fact, historians have said that this level of obstruction is almost unprecedented; a number of monumental bills have failed to receive more than a few votes from GOP senators. Such bills include the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stimulus”), the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Extended Unemployment Benefits Act, the Small Business Jobs Act, as well as a campaign finance reform bill, dubbed the DISCLOSE Act, among others.

No former President of the United States seems to have faced this sort of obstruction on, quite literally, everything he tries to accomplish. In fact, the very legitimacy of his presidency has been called into question. The failed “birther” movement has produced absurd accusations and conspiracy theories as to Obama’s supposed ineligibility to serve as President due to his citizenship, with a recent Gallup poll finding that nearly one fourth of Republicans still doubt that President Obama was born in the U.S. This is something that no former president has had to deal with so extensively. This is possibly because President Obama is our first non-white president, given that others with immigrant parents haven’t had to deal with the intense scrutiny that he has faced.

So, Senate Republicans, when you claim that you want to give the American people a say in appointing Scalia’s successor, remember that the American people have already had a say. We had a say and voted for President Obama, not once, but twice, and as such, we expect him to carry out his duties as President and for this Congress to abide by its own duties. And no, Mitch McConnell, you can’t be a Constitutional crusader sometimes and simply ignore the parts you don’t like at other times. It is high time for Congress to abide by its Constitutional duties and truly start listening to and representing the American people. And if it fails to do that, the American people might just do something about the fact that 88 percent of Congress is up for reelection, and they might want a government that is in favor of bipartisan compromise on important issues, instead of obstructing any piece of legislation written by a member an opposing party.

When Providence becomes poisonous

Last week, Providence College, a private Roman Catholic school in Providence, Rhode Island, released a flyer announcing that its fitness center would be “strictly” enforcing a dress code. This dress code, which is apparently not new, just not previously widely known about, prohibits the wearing of strappy tank tops, crop tops, any shirt that reveals the back, “revealing” shorts, and many other items of clothing. Color coded with a green column for clothes that are “encouraged” and a red one for “prohibited” items, the flyer has caused uproar on the college’s campus for featuring mainly items of clothing worn by women. Students argue that the dress code is inherently sexist because it polices what women can and can’t wear. The flyer, which is difficult to read because of the poor quality of the only image available online, never mentions modesty as a factor of the dress code, only “safety, comfort, and equipment maintenance.”

A few weeks ago, I saw an article describing a similar incident in which a female student at the University of Santa Clara, a Jesuit school, was asked to leave the gym because she was wearing a crop top. When the student, Grace DiChristina, asked for a reason, the staff member cited the risk of MRSA, which is a potentially deadly infection that can be transmitted through gym equipment, and that the fitness center was owned by a Jesuit institution. Unlike Santa Clara, Providence never mentions their religious affiliation as a justification for the dress code. However, it seems rather apparent that this plays at least a small role in the implementation of these rules.

Several women who are students at Providence College wrote an open letter published on The Odyssey, that argues that the dress code is targeting women, and I agree with the majority of their points. Women’s athletic clothes are frequently designed to be revealing. It’s hard to find athletic tank tops for women that do not expose the back. One could argue that a simple fix would be to buy men’s athletic tank tops, but that’s a poor solution because they most likely would not fit properly and would impair movement and comfort. Yet, Providence’s dress code lists comfort as a main factor in deciding what is and is not allowed to be worn. The women of Providence write, “Asking women to avoid wearing tank tops is over sexualizing nonsexual body parts and setting a standard of what comfort should look like rather than feel like.” Racerback tank tops, one of the prohibited items, expose only shoulder and collarbone, which apparently Providence’s administration considered to be dangerous and seductive body parts with the potential to spread disease.

On one point, I disagree with the letter published in The Odyssey. The women write, “We are not unreasonable in these beliefs because we understand and even concede that certain clothing is too revealing for the gym, such as backless tops that reveal much of the back and sports bra.” People go to the gym to exercise (maybe some people go for other reasons, but I think it’s fair to assume that the majority of gym-goers are there to work out.) I feel strongly that revealing one’s back or sports bra is not necessarily inappropriate, especially in the context of the gym. Like I said before, people go there to work out– not do business or attend a religious service. Therefore, I don’t really see the point in having codes dictating what attire is appropriate. If you feel most comfortable running in a sports bra, you should be able to do that! I find their concession that some clothes are too revealing to be akin to victim blaming. What you wear should not affect how people treat you or interact with you.

I also don’t see how someone can subjectively decide what is and isn’t ‘appropriate.’ The flyer features two pairs of shorts that look very similar, but one is in the ‘encouraged’ column and one is in the ‘prohibited’ column. The same items of clothing, even if they are considered to be appropriate, might look very different on different body types. Will a curvier woman be more likely to be reprimanded for wearing the same outfit as a skinnier woman? Will a tall woman be kicked out of the gym because her shorts look shorter on her than they do on a more petite woman? I just don’t see how this dress code can be equitably enforced. It is controlling women’s bodies under the misleading paternal guise of being in the interest of “safety.” While this whole event may seem like an inconsequential dispute, it’s another episode in a long string of sexist policies that police the way women dress.

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