The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: David Weinman (Page 1 of 6)

Re-masking MASV

The group known as Men Against Sexual Violence has changed its name to ReMasc, and we’d like to tell you a story about why and how.

At the beginning of the year, MASV found itself in a bit of a predicament. While we had made a name for ourselves and built a strong presence on campus, we couldn’t help but shake the feeling that we had built our presence a bit too strongly. A lot of people saw us as the go-to group for promoting awareness about sexual assault. However, we thought it was unsuitable that as a group exclusively comprised of men, we were discussing and handling an incredibly sensitive issue that largely concerns women.

We by no means agree with or affirm the notion that all men are assailants, or the idea that men cannot be victims of assault. However, it is undeniable that women are most affected by sexual violence and its residual impacts. It’s unethical for us to lead the discussion because as men we are not part of the majority of sexual assault victims. We think that men should take active roles in tackling sexual assault, but they should be secondary roles.

We decided that an effective means to explore our role in this work as men was to go on a reflective overnight retreat to Short Ridge. On the surface, the retreat was about changing our name, our image, and our approach in addressing unhealthy masculinity, but it quickly developed into ongoing, deeply personal, and thoughtful dialogue.

In this vulnerable retreat space, we began a conversation about love in all its forms. This discussion served as a pivot to reconcile our role (personally and collectively) on campus with our desire to do the work we felt the need to do ethically.

We recognize that as men who have grown up in a culture built around patriarchal and sexist oppression we have to unlearn our own thoughts and actions that contribute to this culture before we can learn (and advocate) to be better and more loving human beings. It’s not really about our role, or even our name, that makes what we do important; it’s about taking down the many violent and restrictive norms imposed on men through self-examination and reflection.

Furthermore, with the rise of the Feminist Collective, another non-gendered group combatting sexual assault, we want to embrace our role as a member of a budding cohort.

Our new name is ReMasc because we plan on recognizing and removing the mask of violent and restrictive expressions of masculinity that contribute to the culture of sexual assault and oppression. As a group, we have grown past seeing sexual assault as something that we should, or even could, tackle independently of larger issues. We understand that we can best fight it through reconfiguring our thoughts and actions as men and as a group.

We invite everyone to a forum in upstairs Commons on Wednesday, April 8th at 7:30 P.M., where we will be discussing these changes in full. Comments, questions and reactions of all kinds are welcomed.

A Note From Dean Tannenbaum

Dear Students,

As I assume you are all aware at this point, this will be my last semester at Bates. Before leaving I wanted to take a moment to let you all know how much I appreciate all that you have done for me, and for Bates, throughout my nearly 18 years at this great place.

I started working at Bates in 1997 as the Housing Coordinator. I moved to Maine with my wife and two-year-old son after spending several years at Wheaton College, in Massachusetts. During my first year at Bates, we welcomed our second child. In 1999, I moved into my current role as an Assistant Dean of Students, with direct responsibility for Student Activities. It was when this happened that I knew I was in the right position for my passions—working with students to provide a rich social environment on our campus. I won’t say that I have loved every moment, but I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience, and I consider myself very lucky to have had this opportunity.

Throughout my time in Student Activities, I have had the privilege of working with the most thoughtful, committed, and hard-working students that anyone in my role could ask for. Bates students are adventurous, fun-loving, and dedicated to their peers. Whether working with CHC, VCS, the Filmboard, WRBC, the Discordians, the Mirror, or any of the other student groups at Bates, I have always been fortunate to have willing partners in making Bates fun. I have tried to say thank you to as many of you as possible throughout the years, and if I have forgotten to do that—I apologize for the oversight. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all that you have done to make this job so rewarding.

Since the announcement of my departure was made in February, I have been overwhelmed by the kind words that so many of you have shared with me—past and present students included—and it is somewhat difficult for me to believe that I am worthy of this praise. I am humbled, truly, and appreciative beyond measure. I will shed many tears between now and the end of this year, and I hope to continue to serve you as you deserve until I leave. I hope that those of you who will still be here in the fall will continue to do the great work that you have always shared with this community, and I certainly hope that you will advocate for what you want.

Study hard, work hard, and have fun.

Thank you,

Keith

NCAA must find middle ground

It’s March Madness, which means that millions Americans will once again be avoiding work to catch the “madness” of the NCAA basketball tournament.

This playoff structure, while providing unique excitement, also generates over one billion dollars in revenue each year for the NCAA. As a result, the arrival of March Madness marks not just the beginning of another year of must-see basketball, but also the inevitable debate surrounding the virtues or evils of the NCAA system.

As usual, both sides will make compelling points. These athletes place their bodies at risk and contribute countless hours of work to make the tournament the amazing spectacle it is; yet they do not see a dime in earnings from the event. Most of these players will never become professionals and enjoy the financial success of this stage.

Considering that many of these athletes come from disadvantaged backgrounds, this lack of compensation places these players in difficult situations. When these college students do try to cash in on their fame by taking gifts from boosters or selling autographs, they are severely sanctioned by the NCAA, potentially placing the future of their programs at risk. The irony of basketball stars, who cannot afford to meet their basic needs while coaches and administration officials make millions, is hard to defend.

However, proponents of the NCAA are right to suggest that paying athletes like professionals would destroy the integrity of the current system. All top-tier talent would almost certainly only commit to schools with the resources to pay them the most. In addition, this change would greatly undermine any remaining commitment to actually providing these athletes with an education which will be far more critical in their lives than just four years of paychecks.

In order to balance these concerns, the NCAA should make three reforms to ensure fairness and restore the credibility of its organization. These changes would provide limited financial support to their players without actually making them employees.

First, just as each school has access to a finite number of scholarships for their athletes, these programs should be able to pay a certain number of players a fixed salary to cover basic living expenses. This assistance would be given from an NCAA fund that all Division One schools would have equal access to. This approach would prevent small programs from being unable to compete with schools that have the capability to spend much more on their players.

Second, players should have the ability to make money through advertising and memorabilia. It is indefensible that athletes are punished from profiting off their own likeness when the NCAA subtly does the exact same thing through video games and jerseys.

Lastly, the NCAA should provide lifetime support to all players who sustain injuries during from games or training. Athletes should never be left to cover costly medical bills after graduation.

These reforms, although somewhat costly, could actually be advantageous for the NCAA in the long run. Not only would these changes improve the organization’s reputation, but they would also serve as an incentive for players to stay longer college, improving the overall quality of play. It time for the NCAA to accept that the status quo is not sustainable and do what is right for their players and for the game.

Her Campus Bates: A few concerns

Her Campus Bates is a blog dedicating to guide “collegiette” women, an intentional misspelling of the word “collegiate” in order to feminize it. The website defines the “collegiette” woman as “a college woman who is on top of her game—strategically career-minded, distinctly fashionable, socially connected, academically driven, and smartly health-conscious, who endeavors to get the most out of her college experience on every level.”

There are two main components to the blog: the first part is an advice column for college students around the country. Its advice sections are sorted into the following categories: Style, Beauty, Health, Love, Life, Career, LGBTQ+, Real World, and High School. The second component is a version for individual colleges. These advice columns are specifically tailored to the women at the college in question. For this reason, I am going to explore Her Campus Bates.

I would like to start off by saying that I think that Her Campus, although riddled with some conventionally sexist norms of femininity (the hot pink splattered on the main page, the crown on the logo, and style and beauty being the first two sections mentioned to read about), I think that, for the most part, this is a really good idea. It seems like it is aiming to be a positive outlet where women can read and relate to other women through a community based on respect, support, and guidance. I also think there is an important goal of female empowerment. And I think that Her Campus Bates achieves these things in some ways. I think, though, there are some concerning aspects of Her Campus Bates that need to be addressed.

Based on the content of the articles, the Her Campus Bates guidance caters to upper-middle class, privileged, heterosexual women that like to party. While a large part of the female population at Bates (like me) falls into these categories, not every woman does. I think that the demographic that Her Campus Bates is writing about needs to be extended.

In addition, I would like to point out some striking moments of sexism that this blog is promoting. I will first look at a couple of “Feature” and “Blog” articles and then move on the “Campus Cutie” section. I think it is also important to note that two important sections that the general scope of Her Campus has are missing in the Bates-specific version. There is no section on health and there is no section on LGBTQ+. Both of these sections talked about mental health and sexual health. By not including these sections, the Bates blog writers are inherently silencing any potential conversation of these topics on its blog.

The first article I would like to talk about is “10 Important Literary Quotes for College Women.” I love the title of this article, and think it has a lot of potential. I am a deep admirer of the books chosen to quote, and think that this article could have spoken to some genuine issues collegiate women go through.

Some obvious points of sexism sprinkled throughout this article are the quotation choices and the authors they come from. Out of ten literary quotations selected “For College Women,” only three of them came from a female author. Furthermore, every author selected was white. With this selection choice, 70% of the advice given comes from a white man, furthering their dominance and power in a context of advising young women how to live.

The content of the quotes is equally concerning. The #1 quotation mentioned is: “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.” This quotation is introduced by an explanatory paragraph ending with: “Here are some quotes from famous literary writers that speak directly to us as college women.” So, the first quotation that speaks directly to college women is one that essentially tells women that they can’t read, no matter how much they have read.

I understand that this quotation was taken from a male author, but there is something inherently oppressive about throwing it into an article about relatable words for women, a group of people who have historically been silenced and labeled as having thoughts that hold no merit.

The second quotation is about partying, supplemented by a GIF of a group party scene in which three blonde white women are at the front, raising their drinks. The “relatable advice” given through the remaining eight quotes addresses a few problems that collegiate women might face. The problems addressed here include dissatisfaction with hookup culture (“So, ladies, remember that sex is not as important as communication and respect. Don’t rob yourself of a romance based on truth, because you deserve as much”), feeling homesick, procrastinating, how not to be bored and the importance of mischief, and lastly, how to “discover you” by “doing your own thing.”

By addressing these problems as the most significant and relatable ones a female Bates student could face, and by selecting authors all white and primarily male, Her Campus Bates is catering to upper-middle class, heterosexual, white women who like to party.

In another article, “The Top Five Reasons Why Every Girl Feels Good Wearing Glitter,” the title left me much less hopeful, as it is already making a sweeping generalization that all women like to decorate themselves in flashy ways as if they are ornaments or props for attracting attention. The first reason noted is that Ke$ha does it, followed by a slippery slope fallacious sequence that concludes that wearing glitter “leads to backstage pass, selfies with Adam Levine, and an Insta shout-out from The Bachelorette fan page.”

We are confronted with another generalization, this time that every woman at Bates must deeply desire a selfie with Adam Levine and an Insta shout-out from the Bachelorette fan page. The second argument that glitter is the “adult version of Lisa Frank” is furthered by the statement, “If you didn’t own a Lisa Frank pencil case, Lisa Frank notebook, Lisa Frank lunch box, Lisa Frank fuzzy poster in first grade—you just weren’t cool.”

This generalization is a bit more sophisticated in its oppressive nature than the last two: If you do not appreciate the hyper-feminization of horses that Lisa Frank promotes, if you don’t like a bright rainbow array of colors, not only are you not cool, you are also not a woman, because all women want to wear glitter because all women love Lisa Frank.

The third reason supporting the female fetishization of glitter is the last I will point out: “Real World becomes Fairy Tale World.” This supports every hetero-normative, misogynist fairy tale including the image of Prince Charming rescuing his damsel and fulfilling her every need. This is exactly the kind of systematized oppression that feminism is trying to derail.

Moving on, I am going to focus on only one more section, titled “Campus Cuties.” While this blog is aiming to empower women, it is dedicating its time to gush over cute boys instead of focusing on important issues that women face. Of the current 10 “Campus Cuties” listed, only two of them are women. This supports the hetero-normativity consistent with the whole site. In an interview with one of the female “Cuties,” two questions were asked about boys (consistent with hetero-normativity), and in both of the women’s interviews, their relationship status is mentioned, furthering the notion that men make up a part of a woman’s identity.

In addition, both of these women are sexualized by the words of the interviewer. One of the “Cuties” is asked questions about her hair and her workout plan, suggesting that her sex appeal correlates with her success.

There are obviously quite a number of oppressive attitudes supported throughout the blog, but the one that is most concerning is how this blog is portraying women, specifically the women of Bates. Women are portrayed in every aspect of this blog as I pointed out earlier with the articles. The female authors interviewed just two women by picking questions highly inclusive of the men in one, and of their beauty regiments in the other. The female authors wrote about women of Bates that they admire by sexualizing them and describing them with words such as “bombshell.” These choices supports the oppressive notion that a woman’s appearance contributes to her worth, which is extremely concerning.

Lastly, I would like to note that I only looked four articles in total, however, there were more than that which I could have explored only to find the same injustices. I see a lot of value and a lot of good intention in the Her Campus Bates blog, but I think that without being a little more mindful of the way things written on the blog, it will continue to misrepresent the women of Bates as well as support deep systems of sexism and dominance.

Taking responsibility

There has been a lot of backlash from the student body against the administration regarding all of the “restructuring” that has been occurring in the last year. Students are worried about where the school is going, what Bates will look like in 10 years, the loss of student autonomy, the role of security, lack of transparency between the student body and administration, some changes amongst staff and faculty, and last but certainly not least, how a lot of these changes are being conveyed (the widespread but seldom read good old announce emails).

At the beginning of the year I spoke on behalf of many students at the forum between President Spencer, Dean McIntosh, and the student body. There was a lot of negative energy being directed at the administration and people were demanding answers. However, over the last few months, particularly during my time working with faculty, staff, and other students on the Campus Culture Working Group, I have thought about the transition that is occurring at Bates, what it really means, and why it is happening in this particular way.

Students (myself included) have been quick to point fingers at the administration for making decisions that the students perceive as antithetical to what Bates is. The elimination of “traditions”, stricter enforcement on the weekends, and the fear of the loss of our autonomy as students is what rests on the minds of many students. However, many students are not introspectively criticizing our behavior, which has caused these changes to come about. We destroy Bates property in our dorms and academic buildings every weekend. We get transported to the hospital from intoxication to the point where our lives become endangered. We disrupt the Lewiston community so much that our neighbors feel as though they must call the police to be able to have peace and quiet in their own homes and on their streets. We make sure that every weekend our beautiful quad is littered with trash. We leave our common rooms in disarray, expecting our staff to clean up after us. We make our peers uncomfortable through bias incidents on campus. We are so loud that we cause our own friends to call security on us because they can’t sleep for their 8 am exam tomorrow. We sexually assault our schoolmates, the very people who comprise this community that everyone calls so special, caring, and close knit. People complain of how the image the administration puts forth to prospective students is not in line with what Bates is becoming. Likewise, are we acting in a manner that is in accordance with how we talk about Bates to prospective students, family, and friends? It is not as if all of us engage in every one of these examples of misconduct, but the fact that it happens here shows that we can do better. Whether that pertains to personal behavior, intervening where these situations are likely to unfold, initiating conversations to spark awareness, or just having your friend’s back to be the voice of reason that avoids these situations, we can all contribute.

What troubles me is how we can be so quick to point fingers at the administration, claiming that they are ruining what Bates is and not involving us in the conversation. However, the majority of students aren’t thinking of how if we didn’t engage in this behavior, or allow the circumstances to arise in which this behavior does take place, perhaps the administration would not feel the need to be the ones to enact these changes. If we as students change our culture for the better, and improve on this incredible and unique community that we have, then the administration will not have to step in and do what they think is necessary to create a safer and healthier space here.

None of us is perfect. I’m not perfect. I am not a model of what it means to be the best Bates student who embodies our community values every second of every day. That is why we have each other so that when I am not acting how a perfect Bates student should be acting, I rely on my friends to remind me, or to lend me a hand. Likewise, I do the same for them.

With regard to dorm damage, alcohol abuse, sexual assault, misconduct in the community, and a general lack of respect for our peers, I would say Bates fares better than a lot of other schools, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for mediocrity. It is up to the students to take this community, this social fabric that everyone speaks of, and build upon it to make it even stronger. We can be the model for other schools of how college should be, rather than just accepting that these negative occurrences are simply a part of college, and always will be. We should not be content with where we are just because it is the norm nation-wide, but rather we must take the initiative to become an even stronger community where we not only say that we care deeply about one another, but act as such. If we as students make this our goal, and lead the way toward a better campus, there is no policy, no programming, no change of faculty or administration, and no elimination of events that can stop us from achieving this goal. It is up to us.

Instead of channeling our energy into what the administration is doing wrong or why we are not content, we the students must focus on what we can do, collectively and individually, to make this campus healthier, safer, and more enjoyable for everyone who chooses to make Bates their home for four years. Will we sit back idly, let the administration try to make these changes, and be like other student bodies who simply accept that these negative events and experiences will happen to people, because it is what always happens in college? Or… will we take responsibility and take the initiative to make this campus one where everyone is included, everyone is safe, and everyone graduates thinking that Bates really was the right choice? It is up to us.

Bates as a billboard

As Batesies, we often see ourselves as existing within a bubble. This reference is of course not limited to jokes about how Bates should have more to do. I think it finds itself so ingrained that it is often forgotten that such a reference could help us to contextualize the college within wider society in such ways that could tell us, as students in an elite academic institution, quite a bit about ourselves.

I think that, all too often, we view the goings-on at Bates as being separate from those in the rest of the nation, or that our two histories are somehow not inextricably intertwined. The “Bates Bubble” seems to comprise Bates as a community, with functions, people, and financial and social problems separate those in the wider community of Lewiston-Auburn, all our own, and without any relevance to the rest of the United States.

What integrity can this bubble have, when we have so often felt its bursting by national tragedies and political struggles? Take, for example, the recent hopes of the LePage Administration to tax non-profits. Does this not imply drastic consequences throughout the Bates community, including students and faculty? Tuition, employment capabilities, and services of both Bates and the local hospitals could all be financially, and therefore institutionally, harmed in service to the Lewiston-Auburn community. There could be some very serious consequences for students that are outside the power of Bates itself; we are not an autonomous institution, we are influenced in a very real way by forces outside the easily perceived.

Consider the recent events at the University of California at Irvine, where a student council, believing that the UCI student government should operate as a sovereign entity, voted to ban all national flags (including the U.S. flag) from the lobby of its offices. Their vote was overturned, and the American flag continued to fly. Immediately thereafter angry patriots, alumni, and God-fearing, red-blooded, American flag-wearing Americans descended upon the campus, calling for blood. Kill-lists for the seven students have made their way across the internet, causing these students to hide on their own campus from some crazy nationalists.

Is this not a sign that the fate of the American college/university is at the hands of national society? How free-thinking (or even democratic) can an institution be if the very right to dissenting thought through democratic venues is conditional?

Perhaps the most pervasive institution in America is that of global capitalism. The two above examples, in my logic, can both be traced to the economic underpinnings which both concretize and transcend U.S. borders. Capitalism is as rooted in the historical trajectory of Bates as it is in the history of each of our individual families, and indeed in the very function of our role, as students, within society.

Is not American higher education, at its most elemental, an economic institution? The barrier to entry is usually economic: either s(he) cannot afford college, or his/her parents could not have afforded to raise their child in a society which would prepare them academically for the rigor of academia. The expected outcomes are most often thought of in economic terms. Consider the institution of the internship, or the platitudinous “what are you going to do with your life” question we are constantly asked by society. Even better, consider the ways in which the “emancipating potential of the liberal arts” are now being packaged up at Bates as “Practitioner-Taught Courses,” and “Purposeful Work” (as if some work is not purposeful in the liberal arts context).

I am arguing that our conceptualization of the Bates Bubble as insular from the rest of society makes an adequate critique of higher education as an institution impossible. Evidence like the historical disenfranchisement of African Americans shows that Bates has been complacent in the system of structural inequality. These connections can be best understood in the conceptualization of Bates as an historically economic entity.

In 2006 Brown University set up a panel to explore its historical relationship to the slave trade. It is forgotten that, while founded by “abolitionists” and funded with money made from Civil War textile production, Bates had a quota on racial minorities (including African Americans and Jews), and had a set proportion of two-fifths women to men. Milt Lindholm, the Dean of Admissions at Bates from 1944-1976, toyed with implementing racist and sexist admissions policies. He is now commemorated with the name of our admissions office and a portrait gazing into the remains of Milt’s, juxtaposing a broken printer. The abolitionists that founded this college must be rolling over in their graves in a way that current Bates students, forgetting historical fact, are not. The historical arc of higher education surely follows that of society in general: we forget things.

To understand Bates on its most fundamental, economic level provides several fascinating insights into the relationship of institutions like Bates to structural inequality on a wider scale.

We need only look at Bates’ marketing strategy to see that the continuation of Bates as an institution is dependent on the perpetual flow of Batesies. Bates is far more dependent on parents, donors, and alumni than they are on current students. This is why our rooms can leak while prospective students and their parents are marched through the dorms at 280 College St. This is why Bates can shove three first-years in a cubby in Page. This is why the college allows for a broken advising system where students fall through the cracks, all while potential paying customers carefully avoid Frye Street as they weave their way from Lindholm House to the Chapel. As a marketing strategy, the image of Bates is paramount; the rhetorical iteration (the “discourse” of Bates) has become the only significant reality: it works (the money keeps coming).

Why is it that most student protest at Bates goes undocumented on the College website, the moneymaker of the College? As an institution reliant on rhetorical iterations of itself, anything that goes against the advertised top-down status quo, should be ignored and forgotten. It is no accident that student protest such as the die-in earlier this fall was used as marketing on the Bates.edu homepage (the first point of contact for most parents of prospective students): it showed how “Bates creates future leaders who stand up for social justice in the world.” On the other hand, student protest against the administration (coal divestment, public art policy) is quickly dispatched, often before the first tour goes by…

Is it possible that, by confining the significance of the certain silences imposed by institutions like the Bates “Bubble,” our generation is being indoctrinated with a spirit of revolt without the possibility of revolution? Students are trained to speak the same broken language of democratic politics which have been nullified by the institutional machinations of global capitalism within Bates. If we are to understand our role as students and activists in society, we need to do away with the “Bubble.” Just as we are single neurons within the societal mind, so too is Bates a society existing as the product of the history in which it came to be.

Why Bibi didn’t change his position on a two-state solution

Last week, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu achieved a resounding victory for himself and the Likud party. Although most polls showed the Prime Minister trailing his Zionist Union rivals in the days leading up to the election, Netanyahu defied popular expectations, winning 29 seats for his party in the Knesset, the Israeli equivalent of Congress.

Most political observers have attributed this late comeback surge partially to Netanyahu’s deliberate pandering to his base in the final days of the campaign, drawing away support from other far-right parties and providing Netanyahu with enough votes to garner a plurality.

The largest and most consequential part of this strategy was the Prime Minister’s comments pledging that a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch, a seeming reversal from his 2009 endorsement of a two-state solution. This statement sparked a large backlash internationally, including a warning from the Obama administration that the United States would “re-assess our options” with regards to its policy towards Israel. This reassessment may include a formal endorsement of a Palestinian state at the United Nations, which the United States has previously blocked because of its preference to achieve this goal through diplomatic negotiations with Israel.

Two days following his election victory, in an interview with MSNBC, Netanyahu further clarified his views on the subject of Palestinian statehood. Arguing that his statements did not alter his position, Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to a peaceful two-state solution while maintaining that the current posture of any potential Palestinian government will make this feat impossible during his term.

While Netanyahu’s dual-statements are clearly a reflection of him playing to different audiences, something that should be familiar to American politicians, he is correct that they are not necessarily inconsistent. The continuing failure to end the conflict peacefully has, at least in recent years, nothing to do with Israel’s reluctance to make necessary sacrifices.

In the last fifteen years, Israel has repeatedly made every plausible concession in each series of negotiations, including offering Jerusalem as a divided capital while the Palestinian leadership has consistently refused to come to the bargaining table in good faith. The only conditions where Israel has rightfully drawn the line, on the refusal of the right of return, the assurance of demilitarized Palestinian state and the acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, are so essential to Israel’s security and continued survival that no responsible Prime Minister would ever concede them.

The only problem impeding a peaceful resolution is that Israel’s negotiating partner, Mohammed Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, has neither the willingness nor the authority to enforce a meaningful and lasting agreement. That’s why, even when Netanyahu called Abbas’s bluff and agreed to his demand of a settlement freeze in 2010, the Palestinian leader still refused to come to the bargaining table. In the latest round of talks lead by Secretary of State John Kerry, it was once again the Palestinians, not Israel, who walked away from negotiations.

If Israel were to remove its security forces from the West Bank, it would likely meet the same fate as the Gaza Strip. Following Israeli unilateral withdrawal from this area in 2006, Hamas, now a partner with Abbas, was elected and took power. Since taking control of Gaza, this openly genocidal terrorist group has murdered and oppressed its Arab political opponents, killed gays, continuously fired rockets at Israeli civilians, used its own people as human shields, and built a series of tunnel networks to wreak havoc on Israeli towns. Hamas’s terrorist acts began the Gaza War last summer, a conflict which was tragic and devastating for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Hamas’s likely ascension to power in the West Bank, given its track record and superior organization, would place Israel’s basic security at great risk and ensure both sides remain on permanent war footing. The terrorist group would have ideal strategic position to pour rockets down upon Israel’s most populous cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel would have no choice but to respond militarily, ensuring great Israeli and Palestinian loss of life. Netanyahu or any Israeli prime minister, for that matter, cannot allow the creation of a Palestinian state at this point of time because doing so would be greatly destructive for both peoples.

As demonstrated by the election results, the Israeli public understands the tragic dilemma it faces. The question now is whether President Obama fails to grasp this clear dynamic or is simply using Netanyahu’s statements as an excuse to further his longstanding goal of creating “daylight” between our two countries. Both troubling arguments explain why Israelis believe that their nation will never be secure as long as Obama occupies his office and why, therefore, they have returned his greatest foreign adversary to his.

Letter to the editor

​To the editors,

Mr. Vincent served Bates in the mailroom for six years before deciding to resign in January. When students raised questions about the circumstances of his departure, the college investigated the situation thoroughly, and found that in its employment of Mr. Vincent, Bates has met its obligations in a caring and conscientious manner and in accordance with college policy and the law.

The piece titled The Truth About Vinny, which was published on the front page of the March ​4th Student, makes a number of serious, inaccurate and potentially defamatory assertions about the actions of staff members in the Package Center and about the college’s handling of this matter. The authors of the op-ed had​ limited access to pertinent information regarding this issue. Publishing their assertions as unverified facts was irresponsible journalism. Even opinion pieces must be carefully vetted and fact-checked, and editors must always use their best editorial judgment when deciding what to publish.

Sincerely,

Kent Fischer

Bates College Director of Media Relations

The power of political correctness

Political correctness, interestingly enough, has quite an evocative connotation.

It can entail feelings of progression, but it can also entail feelings of social fear, discomfort, and trying not to step on people’s toes. I think it has the potential to convey pretension and ostentation at times as well.

The most common argument I have heard in opposition to political correctness focuses on the context. Often, I have heard (and said) things such as “it’s unnecessary,” and “it ruins humor;” or, bluntly, that it’s “too much work” and quite frankly “annoying” to have to remember and abide by it all the time. I have heard people argue that in a certain social context, political correctness is unnecessary as everyone is on the same social page with each other.

This brings a mutual understanding that the comment being made is not seriously reflective of the joke teller’s views. In the right context, one of mutual comfort between people, political correctness is unnecessary as no one will be offended, because it is not actually a serious statement. I think that this argument is in line with certain kinds of comedy, specifically satire.

Although this argument might sound like a good reason to defy political correctness, I do not find it compelling. First of all, this argument reinforces people’s ignorance of issues regarding class, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical disability, mental health, and age, all for the sake of humor. I can understand why jokes at the expense of others can be funny, but I think that there is a difference between joking about your friend tripping in Commons and jokingly throwing out slurs against someone’s sexuality.

A good example of this argument can be borrowed from Suey Park, who made a public Twitter attack labelled #CancelColbert against a racist tweet coming from a supposed Colbert Report Twitter account last April. Supporters of Colbert argued that by satirizing the racist team name, the Washington Redskins, the satirical Twitter joke was both ridiculing and pointing out the flaws of the racist name in a dramatic and obvious way.

Park counters this argument by explaining that making fun of a racial problem (particularly one that Colbert isn’t actually subjected to), does nothing to end or negate racism and further progression. Furthermore, she claims that feelings of anger or sadness as responses to her attack on racist satire are rooted in the entitled mindset of people who “care more about their joke” than anything else.

While I understand that this is a loaded counter-argument, I think it is definitely worth considering. The feelings from someone hearing a sexist, racist, or classist joke who has been hurt in the past by any of those forms of systematized oppression are more justified than the hurt feelings of someone who wants to make a joke about them. Furthermore, these justified hurt feelings stem from a blatant lack of respect for difference, something political correctness seeks to end. By aiming for respect, political correctness creates a system of language that destroys verbal value judgments and power dynamics regarding difference.

Another argument I have heard against political correctness is that it creates tension around difference, and inhibits discussion regarding deep issues because it can be seen as insensitive. To me, this argument is mistaking the entire point of political correctness. The point of using this sensitive language is to address difference in a way that is constructive and inclusive in a conversation in which everyone can be present. Political correctness does not seek to ban the engagement of an intellectual conversation regarding oppressive and other ignorant attitudes; it seeks to ban the engagement of addressing these issues through micro-aggressions that inherently support their systematization.

Inherently, political correctness is trying to avoid the creation of passing micro-aggressions. In aiming for this, it is moving towards diminishing the structures set up against minorities through language. Leaning against political correctness is dangerous, as it means leaning in favor of micro-aggressions that further systematized oppression.

Adopting political correctness means moving towards a more egalitarian society in which respect is given to every individual.

Career development should play a more active role in a Bates education

One of the virtues of a liberal arts and a Bates education is that students often arrive on campus without a clue of what type of career they will eventually pursue.

This lack of narrow focus allows students to concentrate on developing the whole person rather than taking courses with one specific goal in mind. On the other hand, however, this uncertainty can often makes searching for post-graduation employment a stressful and chaotic process. Fortunately, the Bates Career Development Center plays a critical role in helping students navigate some of the difficulties of preparing for life after Bates.

While the BCDC does a fantastic job in offering these services, I have often found Bates students to be unprepared and unsure about how to approach this next challenge. The problem, in my view, stems from the absence of any structured and mandatory program to guide students in this regard. Searching for jobs, building a resume, writing a cover letter, and interviewing are important skills which must be developed. In order to take advantage of the immense resources which Bates and the BCDC offer, students have to take the initiative to make appointments and attend workshops. As in many areas of our academic lives, students often procrastinate and fall behind in the process. In addition, some students may not even be fully aware of the potential benefits which are offered to them.

Any reform of this system should focus on making career development an important priority early in the Bates education. For example, students could be assigned an advisor at the BCDC during their first year. That way, students would have a specific person they could trust and turn to for advice throughout their time at Bates.

Resume, cover letter, and interviewing seminars could be mandatory for graduation at least a couple times a year in a fashion similar to how gym classes function. Different years could maintain different focuses. Another idea could be to offer mandatory Short Term courses that specialize in the development of these skills.

Obviously, implementing many of these ideas might require investments that the school may not be able to afford. Administration officials with the proper expertise are better suited than I to make judgments about what approach is practical given limited resources. I am already glad to see that the Purposeful Work Initiative is taking steps toward this goal, and I am excited to see the specific shape of this program once it is fully implemented.

Career development seems likely to play an increasingly important role in the future of Bates. We should embrace this new direction and work to make Bates a leader in this regard.

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