The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Curtis Rheingold (Page 1 of 10)

The issue of mental health

A number of recent events have brought the seriously neglected epidemic of mental health issues on college campuses to my attention. These cases have led me to examine the ways in which Bates has emerged ahead of the pack on this front, and also the ways in which it still falls short. The reader will have to excuse the vague nature of this article, as it is a necessary precaution used to protect the privacy of any students whose cases have brought these details to light.

In many ways, Bates succeeds in providing excellent mental health resources to its students. Many who seek counseling services report positive experiences provided by compassionate individuals who truly care about the students with whom they work. These counselors prove to be very helpful in directing students to other resources they might require. All health center professionals – clinical social workers, physicians, nurses, directors, and secretaries – work in a collaborative way in order to determine the best course of action for each student and ensure his or her continued care. The friendly environment of the health center contributes a welcoming feeling for many, something that is absolutely essential for encouraging students to seek the help they need.

However, a number of improvements to the system could be made. Currently, Bates employs one psychiatrist who is available one day a week. She is consistently booked full between the hours of 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM every Friday, and scheduling an appointment often requires two or more weeks of notice. While psychiatric consultations are not necessarily required as often as counseling appointments, this lack of availability is a clear indication that the current system is saturated to the point of overload. Increasing the availability of psychiatrists, even by adding one additional day of appointments every week, could greatly alleviate this strain on the system.

In addition, when issues of mental health begin to affect other aspects of life at Bates, the reaction of the college has displayed a concerning order of priorities. When academic performance becomes a concern, the involvement of the deans is, of course, necessary. However, the process used to address this concern could use an overhaul. Students have reported feeling interrogated, incriminated, and punished as a result of academic shortcomings, as well as made to discuss personal information in an uncomfortable and hostile environment. The goal, it seems, is to maintain the college’s shining academic reputation by making an effort to forcibly remove a struggling student from the school for a considerable period of time, despite any counterarguments citing strong support systems and the availability of resources that may not be as accessible elsewhere.

This should not be the deans’ primary objective. Instead, they should strive to serve the mental, physical, and emotional well being of every student. The college should display genuine concern for the happiness of its students above all, not merely because happy individuals make for successful students, but because it is the right thing to do. Therefore, it is essential that the process evolve to better pursue the achievement of this goal. A more complete collaboration between health center professionals, the deans, and professors could potentially provide a much more comfortable environment for the student involved and will ensure that decisions are made with his or her best interests in mind.

Changes such as these have the potential to drastically improve the lives of a number of Bates students, as well as to create a more compassionate environment for all. It is essential that the college and all associated with it make an effort to continue improving our understanding and treatment of mental illness, as this is an issue that must not be ignored.

Supreme Court upholds Michigan’s ban of affirmative action policies

This past Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided to uphold an amendment to Michigan’s state constitution that banned race-conscious admissions policies in higher education in the case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

Affirmative action has been a deeply debated issue since its implementation in the 1960s. It is seen by some as a way to level the playing field for minority students, a tool to give minority students the opportunity they might otherwise not have to pursue higher education. Others see affirmative action as unfair preferential treatment for minority students, who are accepted not for their merit, but for their skin color.

In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld a race-conscious admission policy at the University of Michigan Law School. In Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, the Court ruled that affirmative action is constitutional only if it treats race as one factor among many, and if it does not automatically increase on applicant’s chances of acceptance simply because of his or her race.

Displeased with the 2003 decision, opponents of affirmative action moved to amend the state constitution. By 2006, Michigan voters banned the consideration of race or sex in public education and employment.

The debate rages on. Brooke Kimbrough, a black high school student with impressive extra curricular credentials, applied to University of Michigan in the fall. After being wait-listed and then denied acceptance, she decided to fight the state’s ban on race-conscious admission policies in higher education.

Affirmative action was implemented to fix the historic wrongs against African Americans and Native Americans and to fight discrimination in higher education and employment. Affirmative action addresses the reality that most minorities attend inner city public schools that are not as good as the private schools or suburban public schools most white students attend.

Despite affirmative action’s goals to ensure more equal access to higher education, the Supreme Court, with its 6-2 decision, ruled to uphold Michigan’s ban of affirmative action policies. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a three-member plurality, claimed that the ruling was a modest one. He sided with the voters who undertook “a basic exercise of their democratic power,” and who he claimed have a right to act through their state’s political process to decide on this issue.

“This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it,” Kennedy added.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that it is not about who decides but how this issue is decided. She read aloud from her 58-page dissent, an act that often suggests how strongly a justice feels about a case.

Sotomayor stated that while the Constitution “does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process… it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process. It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently.”

The effects of the 2006 Michigan amendment can already be seen. In 2008, black students comprised for 6.8 percent of the freshman class at University of Michigan; in 2012, that number dropped to 4.6 percent. The Michigan amendment has already resulted in a 25 percent drop in minority representation in Michigan’s public universities and colleges.

Justice Sotomayor also addressed the conservative members of the court, who often suggest the best way to reach racial equality is to ignore race. As Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote in a 2007 case, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Sotomayor responded that this view is “out of touch with reality” and that “race does matter.” Affirmative action was put in place to address racial inequality, inequalities that continue to exist today and that have become institutionalized. As Sotomayor stated, “we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.”

If we believe that higher education is the way to improve one’s economic standing and to escape poverty, then shouldn’t we make higher education more accessible to those minorities that often live in poverty?

I would argue that we still have not come far enough in the fifty years since affirmative action was first implemented to dismantle now. Pubic universities still don’t proportionally represent the black or Latino population.

Fourteen percent of the state in Michigan is black; however, only 5 percent of the student body at University of Michigan is black.

Most suburban white students have the advantage of good public schools, SAT and ACT tutoring, and college counseling, while many black students that live in the inner cities don’t. Affirmative action was supposed to address this disadvantage. Without it, diversity is drastically declining at our schools of higher education.

I’m done with huge music venues (sort of)

So, if you haven’t caught on, I’m a big music guy. I think it’s fair to say I’ve seen a lot of shows – good ones, bad ones, but a lot of them have been life changers, or even favorite changers. No band is a band if they can’t seal the deal live – if they can’t make you go home and tell all your friends how awesome it was and why you all should now worship the front-man or the bassist or the triangle player of that band.

The problem becomes – how do you go to a concert, sip a beer, dance your backside down to the ground, and sing along, without getting demolished by the guy next to you who looks like one of the bad guys out of Breaking Bad? I know, I’m basically talking about rock concerts, but this applies to all kinds of gigs – the preppy white kids in tanks at Kendrick Lamar shows, the other worldly-lanky hipster at Local Natives shows, and the tatted up guy who’s way too old to be at a Foo Fighters show, singing along with his oddly perfect replica of Dave Grohl’s goatee and way too old to be obnoxiously shoving people around to tracks off the first album (which is always a bummer since they’re my favorite band).

My first concert ever was The Who in MSG when I was fourteen – and that was fine, since I was lucky enough to be in seats up from the General Admission area. Along the way I went to the Izod center, MSG again, TD Garden, Cumberland County Civic Center, etc etc. The big gigs are great. But anyone with even a touch of discomfort at being pushed around may feel very claustrophobic.

Since the huge gigs, I’ve been more into the smaller club gigs. And it’s great! No big monster guy barreling into you and screaming out the demons that have entered his brain, no more waiting to go to the restroom for…6 hours (I think that’s my concert record), and you don’t get your feet trampled (if you don’t want that to happen that is – I think a good old boogy sesh is really the only way to go, and there’s bound to be some collateral damage). You can grab a beverage, stand wherever you want in the club – front, back, middle, in the balcony, in the exit – and it’s usually not a big deal to get back to your spot.

Now, there are some downsides to smaller gigs – no, you’re not going to see ‘Ye or T Swift or the Rolling Stones at a random club gig (unless you’re a frequenter of the Roxy in LA), but you will find some awesome musicians who are making some very non-mainstream, sometimes incredible, sometimes crappy, sometimes in-between music. And there’s something exciting about not knowing necessarily what to expect from a show – because regardless of who you see, if you like music I guarantee you’ll have a good time. That’s not to say that I will never go to MSG to see Foo Fighters or the Stones, because I definitely would seeing as they’re some of my favorite bands. I’m just sick of going broke every time I want to see a band that only plays these huge arenas.

I’ve certainly found some of my favorite current bands by showing up to small gigs at local music venues – Gary Clark Jr., White Denim, Lettuce and Thievery Corporation, to name a few. I’ve admittedly also seen some pretty terrible musical acts in my day – it’s all part of the fun. But the best thing about these smaller gigs is the low-stress vibe. When you’re going to see Kanye or some wild rock band, there’s a certain “concert” environment that is one of the more genuinely annoying things in the world – everyone finds it necessary to get zonked out of their minds, and a lot of pushing, moshing, aggressive arguments about your spot in the crowd, and spilling of beverages ensues. In small venues, it’s just a bunch of random people looking to have a good time hanging and jamming out. There’s room to stand without someone’s back sweat wiping off on your face or having someone’s overpriced Bud Light toppled onto your head as they try to push through the crowd. And finally, you’re not paying upwards of fifty dollars for a ticket (and that’s cheap for an arena show)!

So, go to your local music venue – The Sinclair is a great spot in Cambridge, The Mercury Lounge or any of the Bowery Presents in New York, or any dump that sounds of a stampede of overly amplified instruments – support local businesses and emerging artists, and have a better time spending fifteen dollars on a guaranteed better environment and experience. And when the Jay-Z or whoever the hell it is that thinks they’re God nowadays comes to town, save up those extra clams and enjoy the mayhem at the Garden if you must see them, because you know they’re not going to any small club anywhere.
That’s all for now – another rant about the plight of the contemporary music lover. Go small or stay home.

A teammate’s perspective on the Mac Jackson incident

If you’re an average Batesie, you probably now know the name Mac Jackson for all of the wrong reasons. You heard about his actions on the news, from President Spencer’s e-mail, or through a friend. But if by some obscure chance you missed the gossip, here it is: Mac got too inebriated one night and made a regrettable decision, which resulted in his arrest and the serious injury of a member of the Lewiston community.

However, despite my teammate’s reprehensible and reckless action, I strongly believe that Mac Jackson should not be expelled.

When I heard the news, I was utterly shocked. I think most of my teammates were, actually, because the Mac we all knew would never intentionally harm anyone. I can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t smiling. The Mac we all knew was the hardest worker on our team at practice, in the weight room and in games. He was the guy you would go to battle with, not against, and if he ever asked for anything, I would help him without hesitation. The Mac we all knew never asked for help though. He gave his all in everything he did, whether he was helping out a teammate or friend in need or spending many dedicated hours in the third floor of the library.

Allow me to be clear: I fully understand the rationale behind why Mac should be expelled. As President Spencer said in her e-mail to the College on April 18th, “At Bates, we take pride in our values as a healthy, intellectually serious, and caring community, which we intentionally define to include our neighbors in Lewiston and Auburn.” Mac very clearly violated these standards with his excessive drinking, resulting in an injury. His actions are inexcusable and immature, and have resulted in Bates being portrayed in a rather negative light. But perhaps more importantly, they have also negatively impacted the College’s standing in the community at a time when we as a school are making an even more concerted effort to reach out to our neighbors.

As a lacrosse player, our team constantly preaches family. It’s on the back of our shirts and the bottom of our socks. And it’s true: our team is a big, albeit occasionally dysfunctional, family. When watching Lilo and Stitch over break, a line found new significance for me: “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” Whether the Student Conduct Committee, the administration and President Spencer want to admit it or not, Mac is a part of the broader Bates family, and despite their likely inclination to expel him, I strongly believe they should make the more courageous decision of suspending him and allowing him to return to Bates, regardless of how unpopular and difficult that decision may be.

This kind of benevolence and confidence that the College can exhibit should not come without a higher set of expectations. Mac should be required to do an excessive amount of community service, perhaps even working directly with the member of the community he injured in rehabilitation. He should be required to attend therapy, and required to passionately participate in an alcohol treatment program—all while continuing to be barred from athletic teams.

While it may seem that this would not properly hold Mac accountable for his actions, and could understandably be negatively viewed by some, I think allowing him to return to Bates allows him to deal with the consequences of his actions more directly. Every day he would be faced with these consequences as he works in the community, and interacts with fellow students, staff and faculty members at Bates.

As President Spencer said, “At Bates, we take pride in our values as a healthy, intellectually serious, and caring community, which we intentionally define to include our neighbors in Lewiston and Auburn.”

This means that allowing Mac to come back to Bates is well within our core values. Bates can allow him to continue his serious academic pursuits and helping him find a healthier way in which he can conduct the rest of his life. This College shouldn’t turn its back on a student in a time of need due to a bad mistake. Mac is a member of the Bates family, and that means he shouldn’t get left behind or forgotten. He should be helped.

Goodbye: A senior’s ode to Bates College

My best friend hates this place. She doesn’t like the weather. She doesn’t like the “city.” She doesn’t like the social scene. She is pretty generally unimpressed. In spite of that, and ironically in large part because of her, I love it here. In fact, I am terrified to leave.

Deciding to attend Bates College was one of the best choices I ever made. As soon as I set foot on campus, during the summer of 2009, I was struck by the feeling that I was home. I wanted to go to Bates because everyone here seemed like they were really nice, and so far, and not necessarily including me, that has proven to be true—we are a campus of smiles. I genuinely hope that this has been, despite all the other flaws this school may have (like GECs and terrible weather, for example), everyone’s experience: that they have been touched by kindness during their time here.

College is a weird thing. It’s a huge adjustment and freshman year can be really hard. I hated it here at first, dreaded having to come back at the end of every break, and didn’t understand what all the hype was about (“college friends are the best friends you’ll ever make”—as if!). But as soon as I started to catch my breath and stop panicking, I realized that my friends were, in fact, pretty incredible, and that I had basically been afforded the opportunity to go to summer camp all year round. Sure, schoolwork can be a burden and Lewiston is not all that scenic, but at what other time in my life am I going to be able to live with all of my friends in one place…for a series of years? I would do anything to be able to stay here just a little bit longer (thank goodness for Short Term, am I right?).

I am so thankful to have gone to school here. I am thankful that as I sit here in the library (which is actually my favorite place on campus—I have a feeling I just lost all credibility in deciding to say that) writing this I can look up and see the faces of so many people that I have grown to love. I’m thankful that I have laughed throughout the vast majority of my time here, and that I never felt any shame in crying, knowing that there would always be a shoulder at my disposal. I am thankful that I have learned that there are always new and exciting people out there to get to know, and that it’s never too late to make new friends (even if they are incredibly cynical). I’m relentlessly thankful that Portland (civilization) is only a short drive away. I’m thankful for events like Gala where I get to see all of my favorite people in the same place at once (its almost as good as being in the library) and have the opportunity to be surprised by the fact that most of them actually look pretty good when they put effort into it. I’m thankful for 80s dance and 90s dance and Halloween and all of the embarrassment and shame that comes along with it. I’m thankful for puddle jump (I’m actually not thankful at all). I’m thankful that I go to a school where everyone is so nice that I was able to decide not to drink alcohol until I turned 21 and never once feel pressured. I’m thankful for the caring professors that I have had the opportunity to work with, and who have challenged me and made me feel worthy. I’m thankful that I am really proud of the person that I have become and that I feel like I have finally developed the sense of confidence that will be necessary of me in order to be successful when I walk away from (am dragged off of) this campus.

Bathroom anxiety: The problems with gender segregation

Constructing social barriers to separate people from each other appears to be a reoccurring theme in human history. We have come a long way though by understanding that no person is to be considered “property,” acknowledging that women deserve just as much of a right to vote as men, and finally beginning to realize that every consenting adult has the right to marry whoever they love, regardless of sexual orientation. It would be preposterous to claim that we live in a society that does not have remnants of social tension. It is time to reconsider something universally applicable in arguably the most vulnerable place known to humankind: the bathroom.

bathroomWhether you are brushing your teeth to glistening perfection, showering away intoxicated regrets, or simply alleviating yourself of a demoniacal meal, taking a few trips to the bathroom on a daily basis is inherent to the well-being of every member of society. Without even thinking about it, people will separate themselves by gender and enter into the bathroom that society has deemed to be acceptable for a particular individual based on the binary notion of gender that has been ingrained within society. The only time this notion of such a rigid barrier is questioned is oftentimes in transsexual/transgender school cases, in which students have to go through a rather cumbersome process to convince their academic institutions that they might have a better sense of their gender than the school does.

Segregated bathrooms inherently imply that gender is binary and that every member of society must fall neatly within one of these pre-established domains. The very fact that there exist so many “cases” in which a student must insist to use the bathroom of their preference implies that society is still not even ready for a person to use a bathroom that they believe corresponds better with their gender. If the country cannot grasp the notion of identifying with a gender that differs from their biological sex then we certainly have a long way to go before we can forgo segregated bathrooms.

The bathroom may be the most vulnerable place every person visits on a daily basis. One of the most popular arguments against having desegregated bathrooms is that many people feel “uncomfortable” with the idea of having members of the opposite sex in the bathroom with them. One of the beauties of restrooms is that they oftentimes feature an exquisite cubicle in which one can privately attend to one’s business without being bothered, regardless of those around them, oftentimes referred to affectionately as the stall. It becomes very difficult to consider the argument of feeling uncomfortable as a legitimate one, given that such logic could also be applied to racial discrimination just as easily by arguing that one feels “uncomfortable” by those around them. The feeling of discomfort is not a license for discrimination.

Once one begins considering the idea of segregation in terms of bathrooms, it begs the question where else people are segregated so uncompromisingly based on gender. It becomes rather difficult to justify this unnecessary separation that the world has so promptly adopted. Much of this stems from the notion that gender is not a vast spectrum. From bathrooms to pronouns to clothing, it seems that society has already determined the gender of each of its constituents.

The issue of segregated bathrooms certainly has not been receiving the attention it deserves. As an aficionado from its roots, Bates College has made dedicated efforts to promote egalitarianism and create a campus of inclusiveness by creating clubs open to all students, promoting coeducation from the very beginning, and by never having any sororities or fraternities. As a college on the forefront of nearly every social issue ranging from abolition of slavery to gay rights, it is unusual for such a progressive campus to not make a more prominent effort to have more desegregated bathrooms. It would be unlike the nature of Bates to fall shy on a matter that so overtly divides people and forces them to pick one of two genders that society has decided are the only ones to exist. This concept strikes at the very principle of inclusiveness and coming together that has truly distinguished Bates for over a hundred years. I think it is very possible for Bates to win this bathroom battle. We just have to push a little harder.

Activism at Bates needs an overhaul

As addressed by the “Is Activism a Dirty Word?” panel during the MLK day events, many people who enjoy doing good for their community, or encouraging social justice, or getting involved in the political system don’t explicitly identify as ‘activists.’ This is especially prevalent on Bates campus where activists have a stigma of being ‘slactivists,’ being too busy with their studies to make change, or holding meeting after meeting thereby creating a feedback loop of planning in which nothing gets done. These things make it difficult to define ‘activists,’ and far more difficult to gather these individuals in one place. That being said, the Stringfellow Committee and Multifaith Chaplaincy managed to get quite a capable and accomplished collection of students together for their “Bring back the Act in Activism” meeting and got the closest to getting something meaningful done that I’ve seen in a meeting during my time at Bates.

The namsake of the Stringfellow committee, William Stringfellow, was a radical gay activist who organized sit-ins and protests and moved to a slum in Harlem to use his Harvard Law degree to work with poor Hispanics and African Americans. Leanna, the program coordinator for the Multifaith Chaplaincy, opened the meeting by explaining that the college felt a Stringfellow committee of social justice advocates would fit in better with Stringfellow’s legacy than an annual award. I find this especially true given that the former Stringfellow award recipients listed on the Bates website were the tamest of the tame as far as activists go. Ben Chin, who now works for the Maine Peoples’ Alliance, is a notable exception.

Why is this? Bates fears radical activism, or any sort of activism that challenges the institution instead of making it look good. One of the questions asked around the circle of activists was: “What challenges have you faced in your activism?” A few of the many answers were a lack of respect due to age, a lack of institutional memory that would prevent having the same conversations every four years, and a lack of institutional support. Not only does activism at Bates need an overhaul, the way Bates treats activism needs an overhaul.

Someone asked, “How many of you knew there was a sit-in at the admissions office to protest the lack of diversity at Bates?” One person raised their hand. Someone complained that Bates has no sexual assault hotline specific to the school. While half of the listeners were shocked, the other half were just surprised that Bates has any line at all now, considering that previously calling the sexual assault hotline on the Bates website used to lead to a dead line. Bates health insurance doesn’t cover hormone treatment for transgender individuals, when nearly every comparable school does. The health center has no formal resources for individuals who have experienced sexual assault or suffer from an eating disorder. The institution can safely ignore these problems because they feel, correctly, that only a few people know or care about most of these problems.

Why do these issues still occur? Why is nothing getting done, and how do we get things done? This is the crucial question, and the one we spent the most time on. The answer is easy: The institution of Bates and its branches are preventing the change.

The nuances were more difficult. When Bates stuffs every minority community space into a single building, and then shoves that building into the furthest corner of campus, it is useful in symbol only. It ignores the differences in identity and experiences that different demographics face, in addition to providing very few actual resources or faculty members, excellent as they are. I add personally that the college offers minimal queer resources besides a practically meaningless rainbow sticker and leaves queer education to the hands of students through the Queer Peers and OUTFront. This creates a cycle of first-years who have a lot to learn as they grow into student mentors. Eventually, these mentors graduate, taking their collective wisdom and leaving behind leadership positions to the next generation still in the process of learning what is and is not ok.
During my first day at OUTFront, they felt an appropriate icebreaker would be “Name, year, and what is the gayest thing you did this summer?” “Having sex with someone of comparable gender” is the only answer to not make that conversation even worse. At the Queer Peer dinners, I am continuously bombarded with rhetoric and assertions about the non-fluidity of sexuality and discourse on queer issues that stays strictly within the gender binary. Racial minorities are told by faculty and staff that they shouldn’t be science majors because the major is too difficult, they are nearly arrested for ordering pizza on Bates campus, and they are being denied meaningful institutional academic assistance. These things happen because the institution has been shown to not care about hiring permanent social justice related positions. But of course, they say they do.

Why? For the shroud of acceptance and diversity that attracts applicants and charms donors, Bates squashes activism. The list of suggestions (demands) that arose from a similar activist meeting two years ago was shut down by faculty because “they didn’t want anyone messing with Clayton’s coronation,” making the school look like, god forbid, there was room for improvement. Anyone who has talked to Bates faculty about positive change has gotten the same answer, “Not enough cash.”

Creating a social justice class requirement instead of a second GEC nearly happened (and it would not require cash), but the school used the excuse of faculty members not being able to decide what constitutes a social justice class in order to not implement it. Just because you don’t know if a Japanese literature class should count as encouraging a better society and less discrimination to a meaningful degree, doesn’t mean the whole plan is worth scrapping. We could have the L/A Sun Journal in Commons or elsewhere, but instead we choose far more stacks of the Boston Globe than are needed. Condoms and personal lubricants are dirt cheap for schools to buy in bulk, yet the access to contraceptives on campus is absurdly difficult and widely unknown, as well as inconvenient and embarrassing because getting condoms requires a trip to the health center. No one is going to get up in the heat of the moment, put their pants on, and walk over to the health center while their partner waits patiently and reads the motley-colored Bates admissions pamphlet.

What about when things do require money? Health centers staff for eating disorders, a single staff member for dealing with any queer/race/gender/other issues, or a building for minority communities all cost money. I and the other activists that were present reject the idea that Bates doesn’t have this money, especially given our recent Catalyst Fund donation. This money exists, and is not getting spent. Bates has known the institutional problems for decades, and could make it rain and get things done right now if they so desire. Even if there is no money, that is no excuse to ignore these issues. Taking away some funding from athletics to fund a sexual assault hotline would be of low impact to the athletes, and far better for the well-being of the community. Putting money into minority resources would stop the brain drain of competent individuals, and their tuition, leaving Bates for more cosmopolitan institutions.

These grievances went to good use, and at the end of the meeting, a new list was drawn up of changes to make on campus to make it more comfortable for some, bearable for others. Individuals were assigned to each project, an efficient method of divvying responsibilities to maximize progress. Maybe the Bates bubble will stretch a little, maybe it will pop, but the more likely scenario is of course this same article being published four years from now.
For those who want to be the change: email me at jvillarr@bates.edu. Put some anger in the subject line. Let’s have some fun and be the change.

Bates’ Resources for Sexual Assault Victims

After writing about existing legislation meant to combat sexual assault in the military, it came to my attention that there is another discussion about sexual assault that we should be having on Bates campus: are the resources we offer victims of sexual assault at Bates sufficient?

Among NESCAC colleges, Bates scores poorly as far as it comes to providing resources for sexual assault victims. Bowdoin has its own Counseling Center, and after a sexual assault case in 2011 at Colby in which 15 students had withdrawn or been suspended, Colby revamped its sexual assault resources and information available to students. Both Bowdoin and Colby have more resources available, and the information listed on the colleges’ respective websites is accurate.

Bates has no resource center specifically directed towards aiding sexual assault victims. Online, information is listed incorrectly: the number for the 24-hour Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services hotline is missing a digit. It’s an easy fix, but as is, it’s embarrassing. Bates has no peer counseling members for victims to speak to, and instead encourages victims to go to the Health Center.

Even the phone numbers for sexual assault counseling listed on the sexual assault hotline stickers on the bathroom doors of a number of academic buildings are out of date. If you try to call, the line is dead.

While freshman went through orientation this fall and received a plethora of information on sexual consent and sexual respect, upper classmen are still in need of the same information.

Bates obviously cares about the safety and health of their students. However, it cannot realistically expect the Health Center to take on and sufficiently address all cases of sexual assault at Bates. At least one in four college women will be the victims of sexual assault during her academic career, and if that number is at all representative of sexual assault victims at Bates, it is not realistic to send all sexual assault victims to the Health Center.

A number of groups on campus were created to fight the possibility of sexual assault at Bates. WAG, Women’s Advocacy Group, is a student-run organization that promotes awareness, discussion, and activism concerning women’s issues as well as issues of gender and sexuality.

MASV, Men Against Sexual Violence, created last year, encourages men to participate in the discussion on sexual assault and to contribute to the solution. MASV has recently talked with the athletic director about programs and workshops to educate student athletes on sexual assault and sexual respect.

Activism Part II, a student led-initiative to bring the “act” back into activism, is determined to fix the need for more sexual assault resources. They have stated how the outdated stickers on the bathroom doors are simply unacceptable, and how we need to have some sort of resource that is specific for sexual assault victims. They are hoping to work together with a number of student run organizations and clubs to address this need.

I spoke with Kaitlin McDonald, a Bates senior who is doing her capstone research project on the importance of peer educators for sexual respect and in instances of sexual assault. She has been researching how peer educators, who increase education and act as outreach for sexual assault, function on other campuses. As she looks at other universities, she examines what the program entails, what the mission is, and how they have created interest or incentive in becoming a peer educator.

McDonald is looking at what programs might be possible to emplace here at Bates. As part of her capstone, she is creating a curriculum for what an ideal educational program to become a peer educator of sexual assault would look like and how it would function here at Bates.

She spoke to the need to have peer educators: “We live it, we understand it as students—there is that whole relatability factor.”

McDonald has been working with Heather Lindkvist, the Title IX officer, to bring a peer educator program to Bates. In preparation for the implementation of this kind of program, Lindkvist is offering the short term course, INDS S29, Gender Sexuality & Violence, in which “students design and propose community action projects to catalyze change about sexual culture and gender-based violence on their campus or in their community.”

McDonald hopes for the success of this short term course. As she explained her capstone project, she told me why she took it on: “I wanted to do something before I left and make some kind of change.”

We can fix the need for sexual assault resources on campus. It truly is an embarrassment that such a progressive school such as Bates does not have the specific resources for sexual assault, especially when other NESCAC schools are fulfilling this need to a much better extent.

Change needs to also come from the student body. We need to demand the resources we need from our administration, as well as demand change in our own college culture. If you believe we need a specific resource for sexual assault, then take Heather Lindkvist’s short term course, Gender Sexuality & Violence, or attend Kaitlin McDonald’s presentation on her capstone project at Mount David Summit this Friday or at the educational symposium April 1st. You can also join WAG, MASV, or the new group of activists who are coordinating student activism efforts across clubs and organizations and bring resources specific to sexual assault victims to Bates College.

The mainstream media’s shameful coverage of missing flight MH370

Editor’s note: This article was written before Monday’s announcement that new data had shown that the plane had crashed in the sourthern Indian Ocean.

In the realm of journalistic ethics, evidence-based reporting – especially of high profile news events – would seem to be one of the most important aspects for maintaining a television network’s integrity as a reliable source of accurate information. Disastrous results can occur when the news shifts from fact-based reporting to baseless speculation.

A recent example of the consequences of inaccurate reporting occurred during the search for the two suspects after the Boston marathon bombings last April. In the days after the initial attacks, major news outlets rushed to provide the quickest updates to the breaking story and unfortunately sacrificed accuracy for speed. CNN erroneously reported that arrests had been made and that the suspects were “dark-skinned.” The New York Post took it even further, posting the faces of two innocent men on the cover of its daily newspaper and suggesting that they were suspects. These two men’s lives are now forever changed. Google search results of their names will now always associate them with the bombings.

Other high-profile cases of dangerous speculation include the Duke lacrosse case in 2006 and the bombing at the 1996 summer Olympics. In both instances, the court of public opinion deemed these suspects guilty, and major media sources seemed to forget the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Even though these suspects turned out to be innocent, the days of associating their names with guilt forever tarnished their reputations.

Similar consequences have resulted from the media’s coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370; but instead of the victims facing the backlash of inaccurate news reporting, it’s the victims’ families who have had to deal with the baseless speculations.

It has been over two weeks since contact with MH370 was lost 40 minutes into its flight from Malaysia to China. Most evidence suggests that the plane crashed somewhere in the Indian Ocean, although what happened before the crash is still unknown. The Malaysian government believes that the plane may have been hijacked during the flight, but as of now all evidence points to an eventual crash.

Since the initial disappearance, there have not been many updates to the planes whereabouts besides daily searches of potential crash sites in the ocean. Since the mainstream media has done its best to keep this story in the news (who doesn’t love a mystery?), news broadcasts have been forced to fill the time with increasingly ridiculous speculations about where the airplane is.

For example, CNN’s Don Lemon recently posed a question to a panel of guests on his show asking whether it would be “preposterous” to think that the airplane was sucked into a black hole or vanished in the Indian Ocean’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. Here’s a quick hint: yes, it is preposterous. Just because the plane’s whereabouts are currently unknown doesn’t make it preposterous.

Even Rupert Murdoch, founder of the Fox television network, has contributed to the baseless speculation. He recently tweeted: “World seems transfixed by [MH370] disappearance. Maybe no crash but stolen, effectively hidden, perhaps in Northern Pakistan, like Bin Laden.”

Perhaps most ridiculous of all is that the televsion cable channel HLN hired a psychic to assist with locating the mising plane. Self-proclaimed psychic Lisa Williams went on TV, claimed that the plane had crashed on an island with trees and finished by even stating that some of the passengers were still alive.

All of this speculation seems disrespectful to the families of the victims on MH370 to continue speculating about the plane’s whereabouts without any concrete proof. Day after day the families have to put up with fruitless media coverage and speculation that does not bring the search anywhere closer to an ending.

If the current evidence is accurate – that the plane did crash in the ocean – then claiming that some of the passengers are still alive is completely disrespectful to the grieving family members.

It’s not as if there is not anything else of note going on in the world. Russia is still attempting its annexation of Crimea, the United States recently ordered more troops sent to Uganda to pursue rebel leader Joseph Kony, and on Sunday the Turkish military shot down a Syrian aircraft that had entered its airspace. All of these topics have potential worldwide ramifications and relevance to the United States’ international relations.

Perhaps MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said best in two sentences what I have been attempting to relay in this article:
“Do not use mystery and its presence to further whatever boogeyman you choose to make your audience scared of. That is the grown-up version of monsters underneath your bed.”

A book is a (wo)man’s best friend

I worked in Ladd Library full-time this summer, and spent quality time with some books. However, our relationship was purely on the physical level. I never got to know their content, personality, or personal history. I knew them merely by their title and cover. It was a superficial relationship, but I enjoyed it nonetheless because I personally find there is nothing better than holding a physical book in your hand.

I, myself, am an owner of an e-book reader and find it most beneficial in travel and in times when I do not feel like holding a ten-pound book in my hands. If I want to weight train, then I would simply decide to leave my e-book at home and accept the mental and physical strain associated with reading a dense book. I love to see each read page build on itself until I have two pages left, sweating in anticipation (or if it is a particularly dull book, laughing in relief.) I love to smell each page’s archaic and crisp smell and then sneeze thereafter. I love the tangible feeling of accomplishment upon finishing a book. You cannot feel an analogous satisfaction by simply seeing a percentage at the corner of an e-reader.

But I’m not completely admonishing the e-reader for I, as I said before, am a proud owner. I do not use it to replace books, but rather use it in times when books are seen more as a nuisance rather than a beauty (or in times when I have a small bag or strained back.) Why found a relationship on hostility and doubt?

Aside from the e-reader, new emerging technologies are challenging the way in which we interpret and process text. I read an article recently that particularly shocked me concerning the concept of speed reading through a program called Spritz, a new speed-reading app that allows you to blaze through books in half the time. The eye looks at a certain spot of each word called the “optimal recognition point,” and then your brain then registers the meaning of the text. Punctuation then behaves as a signal for your brain to organize the words into a single coherent thought. The program flashes words at you, seemingly mimicking a strobe light. It’s a rave of knowledge. This entire jumble of words forms some sort of meshy understanding.

But what’s wrong with the hours of time spent reading? Well in turns of reading for studies, people would generally prefer spending less time reading a book and would rather have an almost instantaneous bout of knowledge. However, I believe there is something important in slowing down and taking the time to turn the page, to avoid paper cuts, to reflect on what you’re reading. We are not computers; we are subjective beings.

As an extreme of the e-reader, Spritz makes books seem a symbol of time waste and inconvenience. However, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “the things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” Reading a book is not just a consumption of knowledge, it is an experience. Besides, what happens when the battery runs out in your kindle or your brain tires from rapid fire?

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