The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: October 2012

In memoriam Troy Pappas ’16

On a weekend in early October, a tragic accident left a void in the Bates community. Troy Pappas passed away, taking with him a mélange of qualities that made him at once unique and a very fitting member of the student body.

A first-year student, Troy’s time at Bates ended prematurely, cutting relationships he’d just begun to foster and leaving experiences unabsorbed. But even though he spent only a month in our company, Troy’s impact on our collegiate family cannot be understated.

Troy grew up in Eliot, ME and graduated from Marshwood High School with highest honors. A boy with diverse interests, Troy flourished as a member of three different athletic teams while still finding time for student government and math team. In his time at Bates, Troy continued to pursue his passion for football and focused his academics in math and science.

After the accident and Troy’s death, which coincided with Parent’s Weekend, a sort of stillness seemed to flavor the entirety of campus. His teammates and close friends suffered from the shock of a personal loss, while even those who did not have the pleasure of knowing him began the long process of mourning and recovery.

Bates is a small school, which leads to a collective mindset throughout the community. We collectively work hard during the week, collectively support our clubs and teams, and collectively love the place we call home. Troy’s death taught us to collectively mourn, and to draw strength from our connectedness when little else seems stable.

Directly following the announcement of Troy’s passing, tension on campus was tangible. But so, too, was the immediate notion of the proverbial safety net, the strength in numbers and proliferated system of support, that developed in the ensuing days.

At a memorial service hosted in the Peter J. Gomes Chapel, Dean of First-Year Students Holly Gurney said a few words in honor of Troy’s memory. She spent the days after his accident gathering stories from friends and classmates, and her summation was that Troy was a rather outstanding boy. She spoke of his time on the football team, detailing how he routinely put in extra hours to ensure the success of himself and his fellow players. She said that people had described him unanimously as “charming”, “a sweetheart”, and an academically-gifted student.

“Troy liked to talk about things that mattered,” said Gurney. “He liked to really get to know people” and was apparently persistent when pursuing friendships. It is easy to imagine the track Troy would have found at Bates, one combining a rigorous academic and athletic schedule with a vibrant and fulfilling social life dominated by loyal friends, copious acquaintances, and a general feeling of acceptance within the Bates community. It is our deepest loss that we as classmates, faculty and advisors will not be able to watch Troy find his wings in classes and on the field while simultaneously planting strong roots that would mark him as a prosperous member of our collective society.

At the service, Multifaith Chaplain Bill Blaine-Wallace reflected on the importance of mourning. He told the gathered crowd that mourning is a personal process; no one will feel this pain in the same way, and therefore it is abundantly important for us to be there for each other for as long as it takes. “It is okay to be sad,” said Blaine-Wallace, noting that sadness is a natural part of the process and can help to heal. Speakers stood at a podium in front of 1000 paper doves folded by Bates students in tribute to Troy and his memory. The atmosphere of the service was certainly mixed; a loss like this elicits crushing feelings of overwhelming grief, and yet it is impossible not to celebrate Troy for the boy he was while he was with us.

It has been nearly a month since Troy’s passing, a busy month filled with midterms and Fall Recess and the inauguration of a new college president. In the midst of our everyday lives, it is easy to forget that a member of our community is missing, and that many of our friends and classmates are still feeling this loss deeply and daily. As a community, we should work to keep that intense feeling of support that spread rapidly across campus in the confusing wake of Troy’s accident. Sadness is not weakness, mourning is a personal process, and sometimes talking with peers or councilors is the best way to heal. Let us recognize the fragility of life; even at eighteen, nineteen, twenty, we are not invincible. Let us live fully yet carefully, let us form meaningful and lasting relationships, and let us be a source of comfort for our friends in times of crisis. And let us, of course, remember Troy, a boy so filled with promise that those who knew him felt it radiate.

On behalf of the Bates College community, the Student would like to offer our continued condolences and support to Troy’s family and friends. We will always keep him as a part of our collective memory.

Welcome home, President Spencer

On October 26, Bates College faculty, staff, students, and alumni gathered inside Merrill Indoor Gymnasium to formally welcome President A. Clayton Spencer to her new home.

In 2011, Spencer’s impressive résumé and “Bates” personality convinced the Board of Trustees that she was the right pick for the school’s next president. Her vast experience with education began working as chief education counsel to the United States Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. During this time, she worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy and made significant contributions to the nation’s education legislation and policy.

Spencer then went on to work in several positions at Harvard University before becoming the school’s Vice President for Policy. During her time as Vice President, she played an essential role in the redesign of the school’s financial aid program and helped to create the Crimson Summer Academy for gifted, yet financially-disadvantaged, high school students.

Since the official start of her term as Bates’ president in July, Spencer has been an ubiquitous presence on the campus, and her inauguration long-awaited.

Representatives from each part of the Bates community began Spencer’s inauguration ceremony
with kind words of welcome. Speaking on behalf of the students, Jacqui Holmes told Spencer, “It’s your down to earth nature and sense of humor that make you so Bates.” Alumnus Jennifer Bouchard assured the audience, “With President Spencer at the helm, the rest of the world will hear from Bates.” With each greeting from the community, it became apparent that Spencer had already profoundly impacted the lives of many and that each member highly anticipated her continued work with the college.

To conclude the series of greetings, President Adam Falk of Williams College applauded the president’s work in the educational field and offered further insight to her personality. As a classmate of Spencer’s at Williams College, Falk shared some of the pair’s personal experiences and added to the chorus of praise for the president.

“You understand as well as anyone I know, what makes colleges and universities work,” he stated, “That you have heart in abundance has already been shown… in your new home.”

Following the greetings from the Bates community, President Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard University formally introduced the college’s new president with a summation of Spencer’s stay as Harvard’s Vice President of Policy: “Everything good that happened from when she arrived in 1997 to when she left in June was because of Clayton Spencer. Everything bad that happened while she was here was something she objected to.”

Spencer was then presented symbols of the office: the presidential collar, record book, and keys. The presidential collar was a gift from the Class of 1904, and has been worn for ceremonial events since 1954. The record book is meant to “represent the [college’s] longevity, high aspirations, and historical legacy,” while the keys represent the president’s authority.

With this presentation, the remainder of the ceremony was handed over to Spencer. Her sense of humor and presence on the stage commanded the attention of the audience as she accepted the symbols and moved to deliver her speech.

Almost immediately, Spencer took on a serious tone – urgently addressing current changes in the framework of the nation and drawing upon words of the same tone from past presidents of the college. Now, she said, it is critical to focus on both maintaing and improving the principles upon which the college was founded. To further expound upon this message, she related the story of late Bates alumnus, Benjamin E. Mays.

Mays’ story highlighted the essence of Bates College, but also called to attention changes that Spencer said will need to be addressed. With the story, she sought to show the Bates community the values necessary to improving the college.

“At Bates, we don’t have time to waste. We know who we are and what we stand for, and we stand ready – together – to challenge ourselves and to engage the world,” Spencer concluded.

The inauguration came to an end as faculty, staff, and distinguished guests marched out of the gymnasium to the beats of the Steel Pan Orchestra. Words of Harvard President Faust, however, lingered: “Bates is blessed to have found its perfect president.”

Dress nice, make ‘em look twice

Women Advocacy Group’s soiree and reactions to sexual assault controversy at Amherst

This past Saturday evening, the Bates Women’s Advocacy Group held their first-ever Soiree, held from 8-11pm in the Little Room in Chase. It was advertised as a “classy and elegant evening” and expectations were surely met with delicious hors d’oeuvres catered by the Bread Shack and a nice selection of wines hand-picked by connoisseurs at The Vault in Lewiston. A small Bates jazz ensemble played sets throughout the evening and soiree attendees, both male and female, came dressed in their cocktail hour best.

Formerly known as the Women’s Resource Center on campus, the Bates Women’s Advocacy Group (WAG) is “a student-run campus organization that promotes awareness, discussion, and activism around women’s issues on the college, local, national, and international levels. WAG is intended to serve as a safe and comfortable space for all genders on campus and to provide a place for all members of the Bates community to engage in dialogue and activism regarding gender issues. WAG’s activities are meant to foster a campus atmosphere free of sexism, discrimination and violence.”

One of this year’s s WAG co-coordinators, senior Pamela Ross, spoke about the group’s decision to throw a soiree. “We wanted to increase our visibility on campus and make everyone more aware of our presence.” They knew that an open social event would help generate publicity for the group and in the long term, help expand membership and “get more people on board with [our] planned programing for the year.” The group chose a soiree because “a more relaxed atmosphere would help foster conversation and social connection. We wanted all the guests to become better acquainted with our members and learn more about the group’s purpose.” Pamela added, “We also tackle some very serious issues, so to throw a wild party would have likely been in poor taste.”

Pamela has been a member of the group for several years and notes that “Over time, the WAG has shifted its focus from functioning strictly as a safe space in which to foster dialogue regarding women and gender issues to implementing programming and hosting events that address issues head on.” The group holds weekly meetings at 7pm on Thursdays at 45 Campus Avenue and recently, they “were having such great conversations that we wanted to put what we’d learned into practice.” The WAG wanted to become more active on campus and collaborate with other groups like Women of Color to design and execute educational programming.

At the most recent WAG meeting, an important topic of conversation was the recent news regarding sexual assault and rape at Amherst College. On October 17th, former Amherst student Angie Epifano (’14) wrote an op-ed piece for the Amherst student newspaper that told the story of being sexually assaulted at Amherst and voiced that after the event, the school handled her report inappropriately. The emotional turmoil of the incident and its aftermath eventually led Angie to choose to withdraw from Amherst. In her story, she reflected on the college’s lack of adequate response and support to the incident and wrote, “It was about time people began to realize that Amherst wasn’t just majestic dorms and world-class professors.”

Angie eventually reported her rapist but shared the unfortunate but true fact that he graduated with honors but she never did graduate from the college. The more Angie learned about Amherst’s sexual assault policy, the more she felt relieved and confident about her decision to transfer. In the op-ed, Angie relayed several of the facts about violence at Amherst. It is a school of “almost 1800 students; last year alone there were a minimum of 10 sexual assaults on campus. In the past 15 years there have been multiple serial rapists, men who raped more than five girls, according to the sexual assault counselor. Rapists are given less punishment than students caught stealing. Survivors are often forced to take time off, while rapists are allowed to stay on campus.”

Angie’s story has moved women at other universities to speak out about their own experiences of inadequate response to sexual assault on campus. Since the release of the story, the Amherst community has called for reforms. On Wednesday, the newspaper published an open letter to Amherst President Biddy Martin signed by 267 students. The letter shared bits of testimonials from students recounted their own stories and the inadequate care they felt school officials had provided.

The same day, the Amherst Student published another personal account of sexual assault on campus, from former Mt. Holyoke student Alexis Myers who said she was raped by an Amherst College acquaintance. Alexis explained that after she reported her assault, she went through a disciplinary hearing, where she had to repeatedly defend herself from claims that she “made it up” and was forced to explain “rape is rape.” And just last week on the NESCAC blog, “In the ‘Cac,” an anonymous Tufts student wrote that she had spoken to a number of other students who were survivors of sexual assaults that, like her own, went unreported.

WAG’s other co-coordinator, junior Anna Munter, talked about the WAG’s recent conversation regarding the incident at Amherst and the theme of sexual assault on Bates campus. Last year, WAG did a project entitled, “Sex Secrets: A Wall of Stories” which brought forth numerous testimonials from Bates students who had been assaulted during their time at Bates, yet whose experiences have not been addressed or properly dealt with. It was a project where students could anonymously submit sex-related “secrets” in attempt to promote dialogue and provide an alternative form of therapy to victims of sexual crimes. Anna says, “The Amherst rape article has been enormously important and motivational because it is finally making this ‘private’ issue a public one and both WAG members and individuals of the student body are using it as the platform of power they need to fight even harder to make a change at Bates.”

In the next month, WAG is planning to facilitate a dialogue in order to deal with sexual assault at Bates. Some of the issues they plan to address are the ambiguity over the term “consent” and examining how incoming freshmen are taught about assault during Orientation and by their JAs. In addition, Anna expressed concern about the shocking fact that both the sexual assault help-line and webpage are both currently out-of-order and in need of proper maintenance. At their last meeting, WAG members also talked about how people need to be made more aware of the role of Molly Nelson, Bates’ SAVA (Sexual Assault Victim Advocate) and the ways in which she can be a resource to the community.

Munter explained that in general, sexual assault is an uncomfortable issue, but one that affects everybody, either directly or indirectly. As co-coordinator of the WAG, Anna said one of the biggest concerns of the group is finding the best way to discuss such a difficult issue appropriately and sensitively. The upcoming dialogue is meant to foster an environment where students can have a frank conversation about sexual assault and the ways in which it affects them or the people they know here at Bates.

Without a doubt, there was an overwhelmingly unanimous feeling in the group that this is an issue that must be addressed.

Munter reflected, “If

I thought that the type of experience described by Angie Epifano never happened at a place like Bates, I’d be kidding myself. It is easy to choose not to think about sexual assault if it has never happened to you personall

y, but chances are almost every Bates student has had or will have an interaction with either a sexual assault victim or perpetrator during their time here.”

“One of the most heartbreaking things about Epifano’s story was how she felt as though she was fighting her battle alone. One of the things Bates has going for it is the intimacy of its community. It is a setting where we can have this type of campus-wide dialogue and where an attitude-change toward sexual assault is not impossible. However, we need to stop pretending like this issue doesn’t apply to us and sit down and actually have the conversation. Students are responsible for taking care of other students and in order to make that happen, there must first be dialogue,” Munter concluded.

WAG is c
Overall, WAG co-coordinator Pamela believed the soirée “was definitely a success.” She said that, “Turnout was fantastic and I’ve gotten positive feedback from everyone who attended.” Pamela thinks Batesies appreciated the more relaxed social approach and saw it as “a welcome alternative” to typical weekend activities. “We got to inform many students about WAG and its mission. I think the event’s success helped us gain momentum, which we’ll need to complete the many projects we have planned.”lose to unveiling this multi-stage anti-sexual violence campaign in conjunction with students from the Sociology Department. Together, the students want to better educate peers about the flaws in the sexual culture at Bates and how they can be fixed. The WAG will also be collaborating with Women of Color again this year for National Women’s History Month in March. The group is also in the process of planning a public debate, a panel on feminism, and the Women At Bates Dinner which they’d like to become an annual tradition.

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