The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Will Murray (Page 1 of 2)

5 Ways We Can (Realistically) Deconstruct the Liberal Arts Echo Chamber

As I sit down to write my final article this semester, I can’t help but consider the echo chamber. If you’ve read an opinion column sometime in the past year, you’re probably familiar with the term– particularly in the context of universities and liberal arts institutions. As a student of the latter, I have spent a great deal of the past year grappling with my position in it all.

 

In honesty, I don’t agree with much of the emergent repertoire which comes along with echo chambers; I disagree that liberal arts students want to be “coddled;” I don’t buy the rhetoric of conservative “oppression” on college campuses. But I do think that the “echo chamber,” in some ways, comes with an important lesson. I think that we, liberals and conservatives alike, could use a more vibrant conversation. So, I’ve devised ten ways by which we can begin to deconstruct the liberal arts echo chamber. (Keyword: begin.)

 

  • Follow people online with whom you disagree.

 

With the ability to monitor what you see on the web with the “follow” or “friend” button, it’s easy to end up in the digital echo chamber. Last year, Nicholas Kristof released a list of ten conservative social media profiles you can follow on Twitter. Here are a few for Bates, which include both conservative and liberal voices; after all, the echo chamber at once impacts liberal and conservative communities. Considering the political stance of Bates, the former might be a bit more important for most Bates students– but it’s up to you to decide which voice you’re missing.

 

Conservative Voices: Frank Bruni, Peggy Noonan, Paul Gigot, Reihan Salam, and David Brooks.

Liberal Voices: Nicholas Kristof, Matthew Yglesias, James Fallows, Gerald Seib, and Ezra Klein.

 

2)         Attend a club which widens your perspective.

 

I struggle with this one; but it’s crucial. At Bates, we have over 90 clubs and organizations for students. The obvious choice here is for me to say, if you’re a member of Bates Republicans, try attending a meeting of Bates Democrats, and vice versa. But the echo chamber manifests itself in issues beyond politics; to deconstruct it, our approach must be equally-wide in scope. Understand the issues of the Bates Feminist Collective. Attend a meeting with Bates Arts Society. Walking into a room with a group of people whose ideas differ from or challenge your own is no easy task. It helps to bring a buddy.

 

3)         Take a class outside of your comfort zone.

 

Lest we forget the reason we are at Bates in the first place. At Bates, we have a total of 44 different types of courses of instruction. Try to take a class which challenges your perspective, in any way possible. The way in which your perspective might require expansion will differ among people and identities. If you’re straight, maybe try taking Queer Studies. If you’re white, consider taking an African American studies course. I understand this one might be challenging for those who have many requirements for their major, and have little space to fit these classes into their schedule; Short Term is a great time to try it out.

 

4)         Understand the city in which you live.

 

We may have taken down the barbed wire fence which separated campus from the Lewiston community; but still, boundaries persist. So, let’s start breaking down these boundaries. Find a community engaged learning program through the Harward center. Go into Lewiston for the day and talk to the people you meet. Get to know the people who own businesses in the L/A area. Listen to them speak. Deconstructing the liberal arts echo chamber is a challenging task; Lewiston is a geographically-convenient place to begin it.

 

5)         Talk to each other. (And listen, too.)

 

Recent events across liberal arts institutions, in my opinion, have corroborated the importance of this comprehensive principle. I still disagree with the narrative of liberal arts students wanting to be “coddled;” but I think our conversations on campus, perhaps more unilateral than intended, can often be misinterpreted as such. At Bates, I think we can redefine intellectual plurality on campus– in theory and in practice. And for liberal arts schools at large, we might just set the standard for a new kind of campus conversation.

The real challenge of requirements

During my college search, academic requirements played an important part in my decision-making. I didn’t want to attend a college, like Georgetown, at which I would be locked into the requirements of a core curriculum. But I felt intimidated by schools with completely open curricula, like Brown, at which I would have absolute freedom in the classes I took. When it came to Bates, it seemed to hover in the space in between; with four basic requirements   W1-3, L, Q, and S, Bates at once allowed students the opportunity of a varied liberal arts education and the agency to tailor that education to their own interests. Bates, with this balance of academic requirements, felt like the remedy for my academic dilemma.

When I arrived at Bates, the requirements played out closely to how I anticipated. As an English major, I knocked off my W1 and W2 in my first two semesters with ease. When it came down to my L my second semester, I was challenged; but this challenge was to be expected. After all, this was the academic spirit which drew me to Bates–a well-rounded education which would sharpen my ability to think across disciplines.

But the more conversations I had with those outside my major–particularly the more scientifically-minded–I found that the experience I faced with requirements stood in contrast to those of many other majors at Bates. The academic requirements as an English major, albeit challenging, seemed in accordance with the liberal arts education which I was promised at Bates. But how did the requirements play out for students of different majors?

Here’s the scoop. Let’s say you’re a Biochemistry major at Bates. Your Q, L, and S requirements are satisfied by the required courses for your major– Calculus, Chemistry, most science electives, respectively. You check off your W1 with your FYS, which all freshman have to take. Your W2 and your W3 are left. Well, that’s actually not so bad, because you get your W2 out of the way when you take Cell Biology– or the colloquial name among students, “Cell Hell.” And finally, all you have left is your W3. Well, that’s just your thesis, so you’re all set.

Now let’s turn the tables a bit. You’re a History major. You bang out your W1, your W2, and your W3 with ease, because well, you’re a humanities major and you’re awesome at writing. But what’s left this time? You’ve still got the Q, the L, and the S hanging over you. Don’t get me wrong, there are ways you can creatively circumvent this requirement too. You can probably cross off your Q with “Working with Data.” But your S and your L, and maybe even your Q if the last class doesn’t work out, will be a tough nut to crack for the less numbers-oriented Batesies.

I understand where Bates is coming from in respect to these requirements; Biochemistry has a high number of requirements, a hefty workload, and with many 3-hour lab blocks required for the major, Biochemistry majors can end up spending more time in the classroom than many other Bates students. But as a liberal arts school, I think that Bates might want to consider how its few requirements–or, at least the classes which fulfill them–manifest themselves across students of all majors.

I also know that as an English major at Bates, I am biased in this discussion. So I talked to a few science majors who could give me the scoop from the other side of things. An anonymous chemistry major ‘20, says, “I’m not sure it’s fair that people in the sciences [get] a freebie when it comes to required classes. I know I’m benefitting from the system, but I think it might make more sense if the requirements were a little bit more balanced across majors.”

Balancing the requirements across students of all majors while still making the work of science majors relatively manageable is by no means a simple task. With that in mind, I still believe it is crucial we consider the ways in which our liberal arts education works in terms of all Bates students. I, along with many students I know, came to Bates for an education which will educate me in all disciplines–humanities, science, and otherwise. I think Bates might need to reconsider its requirements–a fundament of its academic program–to assure us that we are still upholding this promise. If the benefits of our system outweigh the drawbacks, great. If not, a systematic restructuring might be in order.

The truth is more important now than ever

Modern advertisements seldom move me. Even ads that are lauded for their meaning seem to reveal latent capitalistic motives or flowery platitudes when stripped down to their bare elements. But last week, during the Oscars, The New York Times aired an advertisement that made me think.

In this deceptively-minimalist advertisement, their first in over a decade, The Times explores a singular idea: truth.

Beginning with words, “The truth is…”, the three words are completed by a multitude of statements, drawing from all points on the political spectrum. In quick succession, statements range from, “The truth is a woman should dress like a woman,” to “The truth is women’s rights are human rights.” In its thirty second duration, the ad nails down more than a fair share of American controversies – along with women’s rights, the ad encompasses border politics, the refugee crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement, healthcare, gun control, and climate change.

At around the halfway point, the ad takes a turn. The flashing statements, previously shown in comprehensible time intervals, begin to materialize and vanish in rapid succession. Soon, each statement bleeds into next– completely indistinguishable from those that came before and followed. Nearing the tail end of the ad’s 30 second duration, the statements, and the ideas therein, have devolved into indecipherable blurriness. As the ad comes to a close, a final statement appears on the screen: “The truth is more important now than ever.”

The ad invoked a visceral feeling in me; as the statements blur together in the final moments, I was impressed by not only the murkiness of the sentences themselves, but the murkiness of contemporary American media. But as the advertisement concludes, we are left with one certainty: how crucial the truth is. In this way, the ad conveyed a simple message: with the messy political climate of today, our role as journalists is to sort through this murkiness and pursue “truth.”

Despite this nuanced message, the advertisement was met with some backlash – most notably from our president. On his notorious twitter page, Trump writes, “For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!” And this statement, of course, is one of many in which Trump has derided media outlets. A few months back, Trump tweeted that “the FAKE NEWS media,” expressly The New York Times, CNN, and NBC, is “not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! SICK!” Though statements like these might declare otherwise, Trump has painted a grim portrait of some of America’s most trustworthy news outlets.

As our president’s Twitter suggests, the goal of Truth is by no means a simple one to achieve.  But I am not writing this article out of hopelessness; on the contrary, I think that The New York Times ad underscores the pursuit of Truth as a principle that can unite us, regardless of political standpoint or party affiliation. But more important, I think, is how this pursuit of truth works on the small scale, too.

For me and the Times both, we pursue truth through journalism; but lest we forget the multitude of other outlets. We pursue truth in the classes we take. We pursue truth through the books we love, and the books we hate. We pursue truth in laboratories and in studios. We pursue truth in the music we listen to and the music we make. We pursue truth through art. We pursue truth in our conversations.

So, through whichever medium suits you, keep pursuing. It is more important now than ever.

Diversity and inclusion, with ardor and devotion

This winter, The New York Times published a list of 38 colleges in America that have a higher percentage of students from the top one percent than the bottom 60 percent of income distribution. Bates ranked number 17.

Understandably, the Times article conflagrated on social media; the day after the statistics were released, both my parents texted me the link to the article. In adjacent columns, the 12.9 percent of students from the bottom 60 percent paled against the 18.3 percent of students from the top one percent. The statistic was, for my family and many of my peers, a slap in the face.

And it was not just a slap in the face for Bates; what was most unsettling, perhaps, was the number of elite institutions that dominated the top of the list. NESCAC schools, in particular, seemed overwhelmingly present. Many of Bates’ counterparts in the conference fared considerably worse than Bates in terms of socioeconomic diversity; Bates was one of eight NESCAC schools– Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, and Tufts– to make the list.

We are certainly not alone in our issues with socioeconomic diversity; but these statistics are no less worrisome. Diversity is an essential component of the college experience.

As the “Diversity & Inclusion” tab on the Bates website says, “Everyone is different; at Bates, we embrace and learn from that difference.” Diversity of all kinds– sexual, racial, cultural, and socioeconomic– plays a vital role in the intellectual vibrancy of college.

As the website suggests, diversity is a core value on Bates campus. In the past few years, Bates has made a concerted effort to promote this value. Under the Clayton administration, we have made leaps in terms of diversity initiatives. According to the Bates website, Spencer has implemented our first diversity officer, helped improve the number of underrepresented students in incoming classes, and incorporated Bates into the Connections Consortium– an intercollegiate organization that aims to promote diversity on college campuses.

Bates is demonstrably dedicated to the cause of diversity, and it is critical that we look at these statistics through the lens of our progress. But as for now, we cannot escape the numbers. We currently have a higher number of students who hail from the nation’s top one percent of income distribution than those who come from the bottom 60 percent.

So, how do we change it?

The question is, understandably, a complex one. Some of the burden might fall on the administration in continuing to push these efforts which combat socioeconomic inequity. But let us also remember our role as students.

“Diversity and Inclusion” are not problems that can be solved by numbers alone. They are social issues too, ingrained in our interactions and deeply-rooted privilege. Let us recognize that privilege, take classes that expand our experience, make an effort to talk to people different than ourselves, and allow these statistics to guide the work of the college– and our work as students too.

Diversity and inclusion, with ardor and devotion

This winter, The New York Times published a list of 38 colleges in America that have a higher percentage of students from the top one percent than the bottom 60 percent of income distribution. Bates ranked number 17.

Understandably, the Times article conflagrated on social media; the day after the statistics were released, both my parents texted me the link to the article. In adjacent columns, the 12.9 percent of students from the bottom 60 percent paled against the 18.3 percent of students from the top one percent. The statistic was, for my family and many of my peers, a slap in the face.

And it was not just a slap in the face for Bates; what was most unsettling, perhaps, was the number of elite institutions that dominated the top of the list. NESCAC schools, in particular, seemed overwhelmingly present. Many of Bates’ counterparts in the conference fared considerably worse than Bates in terms of socioeconomic diversity; Bates was one of eight NESCAC schools– Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, and Tufts– to make the list.

We are certainly not alone in our issues with socioeconomic diversity; but these statistics are no less worrisome. Diversity is an essential component of the college experience. As the “Diversity & Inclusion” tab on the Bates website says, “Everyone is different; at Bates, we embrace and learn from that difference.” Diversity of all kinds– sexual, racial, cultural, and socioeconomic– plays a vital role in the intellectual vibrancy of college.

As the website suggests, diversity is a core value on Bates campus. In the past few years, Bates has made a concerted effort to promote this value. Under the Clayton administration, we have made leaps in terms of diversity initiatives. According to the Bates website, Spencer has implemented our first diversity officer, helped improve the number of underrepresented students in incoming classes, and incorporated Bates into the Connections Consortium– an intercollegiate organization that aims to promote diversity on college campuses.

Bates is demonstrably dedicated to the cause of diversity, and it is critical that we look at these statistics through the lens of our progress. But as for now, we cannot escape the numbers. We currently have a higher number of students who hail from the nation’s top one percent of income distribution than those who come from the bottom 60 percent.

So, how do we change it?

The question is, understandably, a complex one. Some of the burden might fall on the administration in continuing to push these efforts which combat socioeconomic inequity. But let us also remember our role as students.

“Diversity and Inclusion” are not problems that can be solved by numbers alone. They are social issues too, ingrained in our interactions and deeply-rooted privilege. Let us recognize that privilege, take classes that expand our experience, make an effort to talk to people different than ourselves, and allow these statistics to guide the work of the college– and our work as students too.

 

A glimpse into the six percent

“One week really hurt my room.” Anonymous ‘20 laughs, as she pushes open the door to her room.

At first glance, her room appears like that of any other Bates student. Clothing is strewn across the floor, band posters scatter across the wall above her unmade bed, and a Keurig machine sits on the bureau in the corner, enshrined with a multitude of empty K-Cups. On her crowded desk, however, something stands out. Sandwiched between The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Bell Jar, is the hallmark blue-and-green binding which any recent high school graduate knows all too-well: The Fiske Guide to Colleges: 2017.

With the recent deadline of March 1 for many transfer students, Anonymous has just submitted applications to three colleges: Tufts, Brown, and Yale.

Transferring, as she tells me, is by no means a simple process. Transfer students must go through all the basic steps of the college-bound senior. Students submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, the common application, along with slightly-modified supplementary essays for transfer admission. With all of these components of the application, on top of a four-class Bates course load, transferring can require months of work.

So, what isn’t working for these students?

Understandably, the reasons differ. While some transfer students seek out a particular major not offered at Bates, others yearn to escape a part of campus culture. For Anonymous, her reasons were largely social: “I thought I wasn’t fitting in, as I am normally a friendly person.” Citing this aspect social life as a major reason for her transfer, Anonymous continues: “I knew that I was friendly to begin with, so it couldn’t be that.”

Having just clicked the submit button on the Common Application, Anonymous gave me a glimpse into what it’s like being fresh out of the transfer process. To hear from the other end of the process, I spoke with Maddie Lang ‘20, a spring semester transfer currently at the Miami University in Ohio.

Lang’s reasons, on the other hand, largely revolved around the size of Bates. For Lang, “Bates was too small and I got bored there within the first week. Miami offers more social [Greek] life, more majors and minors, football games, baseball games, hockey games, etc. that students actually attend.” She believes that with these opportunities, there is a stronger sense of “school spirit and community” at Miami than there is at Bates.

Though many students seek to transfer after their first year, some plan to transfer for junior year. Just beginning the transfer process, Anonymous #2 ‘20 is one of these students. Similar to the first student I spoke with, her feeling’s are also social: “I feel as though my personality is muted by the community. I’ve experienced a lot of judgmental attitudes from people. A lot of people are stuck in this idea of what they have to be… and I don’t fit that formula.” With Wesleyan and Reed at the top of her list, Anonymous #2 will be submitting applications at around this time next year.

Bates is not an anomaly in terms of transfer students. With Bowdoin’s retention rate of 98%, and 93% at Colby, Bates’ retention rate of 94% is certainly in the ballpark of our neighboring institutions. But nonetheless, it is important to glimpse a population which often times, remains invisible to the larger Bates community. While we can rest assured that many of our fellow students find a home in Lewiston — let’s consider the six percent of students who do not.

A glimpse into the six percent

“One week really hurt my room.” Anonymous 20’ laughs, as she pushes open the door to her room.

At first glance, her room appears like that of any other Bates student. Clothing is strewn across the floor, band posters scatter across the wall above her unmade bed, and a Keurig machine sits on the bureau in the corner, enshrined with a multitude of empty K-Cups. On her crowded desk, however, something stands out. Sandwiched between The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Bell Jar, is the hallmark blue-and-green binding which any recent high school graduate knows all too-well: The Fiske Guide to Colleges: 2017.

With the recent deadline of March 1 for many transfer students, Jane has just submitted applications to three colleges: Tufts, Brown, and Yale.

Transferring, as she tells me, is by no means a simple process. Transfer students must go through all the basic steps of the college-bound senior. Students submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, the common application, along with slightly-modified supplementary essays for transfer admission. With all of these components of the application, on top of a four-class Bates course load, transferring can require months of work.

So, what isn’t working for these students?

Understandably, the reasons differ. While some transfer students seek out a particular major not offered at Bates, others yearn to escape a part of campus culture. For Anonymous, her reasons were largely social: “I thought I wasn’t fitting in, as I am normally a friendly person.” Citing this aspect social life as a major reason for her transfer, Anonymous continues: “I knew that I was friendly to begin with, so it couldn’t be that.”

Having just clicked the submit button on the Common Application, Anonymous gave me a glimpse into what it’s like being fresh out of the transfer process. To hear from the other end of the process, I spoke with Maddie Lang ‘20, a spring semester transfer currently at the Miami University in Ohio.

Lang’s reasons, on the other hand, largely revolved around the size of Bates. For Lang, “Bates was too small and I got bored there within the first week. Miami offers more social [Greek] life, more majors and minors, football games, baseball games, hockey games, etc. that students actually attend.” She believes that with these opportunities, there is a stronger sense of “school spirit and community” at Miami than there is at Bates.

Though many students seek to transfer after their first year, some plan to transfer for junior year. Just beginning the transfer process, Anonymous #2 ‘20 is one of these students. Similar to the first student I spoke with, her feeling’s are also social: “I feel as though my personality is muted by the community. I’ve experienced a lot of judgmental attitudes from people. A lot of people are stuck in this idea of what they have to be… and I don’t fit that formula.” With Wesleyan and Reed at the top of her list, Anonymous #2 will be submitting applications at around this time next year.

Bates is not an anomaly in terms of transfer students. With Bowdoin’s retention rate of 98%, and 93% at Colby, Bates’ retention rate of 94% is certainly in the ballpark of our neighboring institutions. But nonetheless, it is important to glimpse a population which often times, remains invisible to the larger Bates community. While we can rest assured that many of our fellow students find a home in Lewiston — let’s consider the six percent of students who do not.

What’s inside a Canada Goose Jacket?

At any school, clothing trends come in tidal waves. Bates is no different; after the first snow hit campus this year, hordes of L.L. Bean boots dominated alumni walk. As the temperature continued to drop, however, a new item seemed to be on the rise: the Canada Goose jacket. Adorned with a fur-lined hood and its circular red emblem, the distinctive profile dotted the snowy campus landscape.

Trends can be controversial. Even the beloved Bean Boots received backlash in recent months after the company was allegedly revealed to be a beneficiary of the Trump campaign. Canada Goose jackets have proven to be no different; though notably stylish, their sleek profiles are shrouded in controversy. This controversy seems to originate from a variety of sources, such as the quantity of down in the jacket, or its reputation as a status symbol. The heat of the controversy, however, seems to emanate from the jacket’s notorious, fur-lined hood.

The hood is lined with certifiably real, but “ethically sourced,” coyote fur. As jacket sales began to conflagrate among communities, videos critiquing the company’s practices followed suit. In one particular viral video, a coyote is shown suffering in a trap, allegedly set by representatives of Canada Goose. These videos are viscerally startling; the coyote’s suffering seems palpably helpless. A negative connotation with the brand’s name began to seep into the public’s perception, and rightfully so.

But throughout this controversy, I was left with a lingering question– why is it that Canada Goose jackets are so particularly controversial? Human use of animals, of which Canada Goose is one example, is pervasive. The slaughterhouse practices behind commercial meat production, for instance, seem to match, if not exceed, the cruelty displayed in the coyote trapping videos. Pigs, chickens, and cattle are slit open and sawed apart in nauseating, deeply upsetting ways. Though meat consumption has been known to spark heated ethical debates, it seems notably less controversial than the practices behind Canada Goose jacket.

Unless all those who condemn Canada Goose also comprise this vegetarian/vegan minority, this conflict seems to bring nuance to the animal rights debate. When considering the Canada Goose controversy, I am still stuck with the same question: why is it that slaughtering a coyote for its fur is significantly more controversial than slaughtering a cow for its meat?

I think a strong counterargument to this claim is that the coyote fur is superfluous, an unnecessary component of the jacket’s design. Though Canada Goose claims that the fur is essential to the jacket’s functionality, many of the company’s counterparts– The North Face, Patagonia, Burton, alike– have opted for synthetic fur. But if this is the central argument against Canada Goose, it seems that this argument could just as easily be applied to the meat-eating example; a commonly held argument against meat eating is that it is unnecessary. It’s clear by now that a variety of plant based proteins– nuts, soy, among others– are more than enough to sustain the average person’s protein needs. This counterargument in both cases revolves around the same argument– we have alternatives at hand that do not involve the use of animals. But still, the Canada Goose jacket seems bafflingly more controversial than the consumption of meat.

Though I have posed many questions throughout this article, one thing is for certain– the Canada Goose jacket, like many fashion items, is no longer just clothing. It is kindling for heated conversations about our use of animals, and our ethical perspectives at large. And as we have these conversations, it’s important to consider one takeaway from this debate– just because something exists, does not mean it ought to. Perhaps, we should retire the jackets. But if we do, we might just have to give up meat too.

A space for art

When I first arrived at Bates this fall, I was in awe of the campus. It had everything I had wanted in a college campus: a spectacular dining facility, a comfortable dorm and excellent places to study. But as time went on, I felt like something was missing. The campus was stunning– but at times, I sensed a vacancy. Where was the art?

There were, of course, pieces scattered around some academic buildings. A lovely blue abstraction perched above a library stairwell, some charcoal sketches sprinkled here and there. We had a wonderful museum, but the art seemed isolated to that area of campus. The art that I did see was extraordinary– but I felt like I had to look for it.

I think that art can be an impactful medium through which we can develop ourselves and our ideas. I come from a background in arts; I attended a heavily arts-oriented high school, and I’ve worked at an arts center for several years. I’m accustomed to understanding art as an essential component of any landscape, so it’s satisfying to watch this continued at Bates. But I think we can do even better.

I think art can be more than something to see intermittently. Rather than something to fill the void of an empty wall, I think that art can play an even greater role on campus. I think that it can be more than just something to pass by, or stumble upon occasionally. I think art should be in your face.

I think there is real value in recognizing the value of art in an environment. After all, it’s value extends beyond pure aesthetics– art can be political, philosophical and deeply intellectual. And art is not only as important as any other academic discipline, but has the power to achieve things that other disciplines cannot. I think that it’s through art that we can articulate ideas that are difficult to express otherwise.

Art can be an outlet for discussion– and a very effective one too. We have several essential forums for discussion on campus, the Bates Student being one. I think that art is another.

After all, art has the power to resonate with people in a way that forums do not. Art isn’t hidden away in newspaper dispensers or tucked away online. It’s a visible element of the spaces in which we live, in a way that other intellectual forums are not. One can choose not to read a newspaper article, but I think there is an inevitability to art. As you go about your day, you digest it– whether you intend to or not.

So I hope this forum article serves to recognize the importance of another essential forum. I think that in the wake of the election, our minds are brewing with ideas. Some will speak these ideas through the newspaper, and other forums. But I think that art can be an equally important voice. So, through whichever medium best suits you, let’s keep the conversation going.

 

Talking about Trump

On the morning of November ninth, my professor opened the class with something I didn’t want to hear: talk to each other.

Like many Bates students that morning, I had shuffled down Alumni Walk with my head down. Chalked on the ground were catchy messages pushing the community to vote; many of these vouched for Hillary, some denounced Trump. But the character of these notes had changed radically overnight. These messages, once cheerful reminders the future of America, were the salt in the wound.

I was baffled with the election results, and shared this confusion with many other Bates students looking for groups of likeminded friends. In these conversations, we fed off of each other. I’d leave riled up and impassioned, but with little pushback to my own perspective. Out of anger, these interactions became vehicles through which I could vent my anger, opposed to forums for effective intellectual discourse. I was comforted by the sound of my own echo.

The one sided nature of these conversations felt fundamentally wrong, but the ideological gap felt impermeable. I knew that I had to break out from my liberal bubble, but I felt trapped. After all, I feared for the civil rights of millions of Americans. Trump is unapologetically misogynistic, racist and nativist. Pence is openly anti-LGBT, actively fighting to unravel decades of progress in the gay rights movement. And half of Americans support the duo, nonetheless. How was I supposed to talk to someone who voted for a candidate that makes so many people I care about feel worthless?

And this animosity towards minorities was unrestricted to the sphere of political ideology: the manifestations of it were very, very real. In the days after the election, incidents began to crop up across campuses. Witnesses watched in horror as two young men with Trump signs parked their car in front of a house for Black students, spitting on one student.

In these initial glimpses into Trump’s America, my professor’s hanging advice seemed impossible to grasp. After all, the differences felt more than political– they were ethical. But I had to reconcile the fact that one in two Americans had voted for the candidate. But at Bates, I struggled to find spokespeople of the other side. In a dearth of conservative perspectives on campus, I sought out this perspective digitally.

Although the conservative presence on campus seemed lacking, brief research suggested that it was merely silenced. I read an article in the New York Times called: “How My Liberal University Cemented My Vote For Trump,” written by a student at fellow NESCAC Wesleyan. Readings his specific delineations of his reasons for voting for Trump, I began to understand his view. I knew that Wesleyan and Bates were both small, left leaning liberal arts Colleges, and shared much in common. So if Trump supporters were at Wesleyan, they were at Bates as well. But they stayed quiet.

And the explanation behind their silence was clear– we live in a fragmented America. Whether it’s between rural and urban, or liberal and conservative, divisions are everywhere. If we ever want to bridge these gaps, we must first understand how they got there.

Finally, let’s not forget where we are. In the security of the Bates bubble, it’s easy to forget that our own district voted for Trump. We may have removed the fence from our campus perimeter, but an ideological divide still exists. But by opening dialogues, we can begin to understand these barriers– and perhaps begin to deconstruct them.

 

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