The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: November 2012

Romney’s social policy represents a step backward for America

In recent weeks leading up to the presidential election, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been trying to gain support from women voters. While both candidates float the same general statements about increasing opportunities and support for women in the workforce, Romney’s record reveals a deep opposition to increased women’s rights in many ways.

If Romney becomes president, women can expect dramatic changes to the way the federal government addresses their welfare and personal concerns. The two major party platforms offer deviating paths from the general progression of women’s rights in this country. If Romney enters the oval office, numerous landmark government decisions which expanded the rights of women will be swept away.

Romney’s extremely conservative stance on women’s rights explains why he rarely addresses the topic in speeches or debates, and this has conveniently contributed to a lack of voter awareness. In a year when political rhetoric centers on economic issues, Romney’s views have not had a great impact on the campaign.

Rosa Reyes, ’16, is an independent voter who feels that she has not been “exposed to Mr. Romney’s views on this issue a lot.” However, she added that gender equality and women’s rights are “not a major factor” to her in this election. Because the economy is first and foremost in everyone’s mind this year, Romney has not had to defend many of his statements regarding women’s rights.

The official Romney campaign website tells a different story.  The page entitled “Values” is peppered with extreme assertions — such as a plan to “end federal funding to abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood.”

[blockquote author=”Marie Diamond, Think Progress Organization” pull=”pullleft”]Romney said he would expand a Bush-era rule that allows doctors to deny women access to contraceptives[/blockquote]

In typical GOP form, Romney turns aside the millions of women throughout the nation who depend on Planned Parenthood for mammograms, family planning counseling, contraceptives, and basic prenatal care. Despite the plethora of vital services this organization offers to U.S. women, Romney still aims to write it off simply because it offers abortions. It is also worth noting that the federal funding supplied to Planned Parenthood does not actually go toward abortions. Romney’s rhetoric goes even further, calling the organization an “advocate” of this practice.

“Romney said he would expand a Bush-era rule that allows doctors to deny women access to contraceptives,” said Marie Diamond of Think Progress Organization reports. As president, Romney seeks to end a woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding pregnancy.

Romney also seems hesitant to advocate for true gender equality and opportunity in the workforce. In the second presidential debate, he said, “If you’re going to have women in the workforce, then sometimes they need to be more flexible.” Romney effectively insinuates that female employees are inherently more difficult to work with than male employees. While this may fit with the governor’s primeval opinion of women as the “domestic mavens” of the 1950’s, it fails to acknowledge the changing role of women in society. In many families, wives and mothers are the primary breadwinners. Romney’s views are simply out of sync with this progression and era.

The regressive view of women’s rights described by the Romney campaign would have far-reaching, negative effects on society. Denying low and middle income women basic healthcare would place increased financial strain on single women and families across the country. This financial strain could cause stagnation in the growth of the economy. Also, decreasing contraceptive options for women would lead to more unwanted pregnancies, which could have numerous negative consequences for the nation.

Gender equality is an important issue in the coming presidential election. While economic policy is important during a time of recession, we as citizens cannot forgo all other issues when electing the next president of our country. All voters should be aware of the candidates’ stances on gender equality — as fair social policy is crucial to the vitality of the U.S. Regardless of whom you vote for, do understand that Mitt Romney is not an advocate for women’s rights, and will aim to enforce his conservative views upon all female citizens.



A Balanced Approach

David Weinman 

Whoever takes the oath on January 20 will face the daunting challenge of stabilizing the unsustainable levels of debt that our nation continues to accumulate. During the last four years, the debt has increased by six trillion dollars. The growing costs of entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security will only make this problem more difficult to solve.

“Because the interest payments on our debt will continue to eat up a larger slice of the federal budget, our generation will have to work to pay for the current lifestyles of our parents and grandparents,” said Cam Kaubris ’15.

Unless policy makers take drastic action within the next few years, we will condemn ourselves to a similar fate that nations such as Greece and Spain currently face.

Both candidates have acknowledged the need to address this looming crisis. President Obama argues he will lower our deficits in a “balanced” manner, through a series of tax increases and spending cuts. Governor Romney, in contrast, has committed to balance the budget solely through spending cuts. In addition, Romney has proposed to cut tax rates across the board twenty percent while offsetting the lost revenue by closing loopholes and deductions within the tax code which disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

The President claims this approach will ensure the burden of deficit reduction falls primarily on lower and middle class Americans.

However, the President fails to understand the potential boom in revenue which Romney’s tax plan will bring to the treasury. In fact, the best kept secret about revenue-neutral tax reform seems to be that it is not revenue neutral. As marginal tax rates fall, people have a greater incentive to work longer hours, receive compensation in the form of taxable income rather than tax-free benefits, and move their money from unproductive tax-free bonds to productive and taxed investments such as stocks.

Eliminating deductions and loopholes will also drastically simplify the tax code. Therefore, businesses and individuals will be able to spend less time and money complying with the complexity of the tax code. The result of these behavioral changes will not only produce growth and create jobs, but also generate crucial revenue.

The type of approach has been tried in the past with great success. President Reagan and Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neill worked together to pass the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which serves as the model for Romney’s plan.

This law reduced the top marginal tax rate from 50 percent to 28 percent. By 1989, revenues from the “personal income taxes increased 28 percent.

In addition, “the share paid by the top 10 percent jumped to 57.2 percent from 48 percent of total income tax revenues.”

This same trend has been repeated after the Coolidge, Kennedy, and Bush tax cuts. Ironically, the Romney tax plan has the potential to increase revenue and the progressivity of the tax code – the two main goals of President Obama’s proposal. In contrast, the President’s pledge to raise marginal tax rates on the wealthy will disrupt growth, job creation, and raise significantly less revenue than expected. Perhaps, if the President is searching for “balance” he should look at Governor Romney’s proposal.

It happens here, too. Bates needs to change the way we deal with sexual assault.

Judging from the number of students at NESCAC colleges who have come forward following former Amherst student Angie Epifano’s account in the Amherst Student of the horrifying details of her rape and the college’s inappropriate response and lack of support, one might say that it would not be surprising if a Bates student were to publish an article on the same topic.

Epifano’s heart-wrenching story, published October 17, brought a flood of angry and saddened responses to the injustices she experienced as a victim of rape at Amherst.

“I was so shocked that in our current world such blatant disregard for what really boils down to innate human rights would occur at an institution of supposedly high education,” said junior Abby Alexander.

The article, “An Account of Sexual Assault at Amherst College,” leaves no detail out. Epifano explained how she felt imprisoned for months at Amherst when she should have felt safe.  Epifano should be graduating from Amherst with the class of 2014.  She won’t.  She will not graduate from Amherst because she could not stay at an institution that she said would not support her.

“In the past 15 years there have been multiple serial rapists [at Amherst], 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. If a rapist is about to graduate, their punishment is often that they receive their diploma two years late,” Epifano wrote.

So let’s get this straight. Victims –– who have been assaulted at institutions that pride themselves for being extremely strict with all matters of sexual assault –– come forward, mustrepeat their story over and over to strangers. But for many perpetrators, the only punishment is a late diploma.

“The article [Epifano’s] has evoked a huge response on campus, largely in the realm of sparking a community-wide effort for change. I have friends who have been assaulted in past years who had similar experiences to Angie’s, where people they spoke to in confidence had told them not to go to the disciplinary council because of the further pain it might cause,” Claudia Gelfond, a senior at Amherst, told the BatesStudent.

We propose a community-wide change on campus. The Amherst campus has worked hard since the release of Epifano’s article, and we at Bates need to do the same. Cases like these should not be taken before a judiciary panel like Bates’s Student Conduct Committee (SCC). While the students and staff who comprise the SCC are people of intelligence and integrity, they are not trained professionals in the area of sexual assault.

Yes, we are a small liberal arts institution that takes pride in its independence. However, when someone comes forward to talk about a rape, professionals should be investigating and assisting –– and no one else.

Amherst College’s President Carolyn A. Martin has already proposed these types of changes within her first year at the college. According to the New York Times, after hearing complaints from many students, Martin hired trained investigators to look into cases that Bates would have the SCC look into. She has also updated and revised the student handbook and hired a well-known professional to look over Amherst’s policies.

“The administration [at Amherst] has been extraordinarily responsive, in my opinion, to the voices of the student body. Even before the article came out, we had a meeting to discuss the school’s policies regarding sexual misconduct, and a plan for speedy reform was already agreed upon and under way by last Sunday (the 14th);however, in light of the article, I hope that their focus and efforts will only increase,” said Amherst senior Gelfond.

            “I think it is good that this matter has been brought to light and is being addressed now, because there is clearly something wrong in our school’s culture and protocols if survivors of sexual assault were not given the attention and respect that they deserve,” added Gelfond.

Yes indeed, the culture of colleges needs to change in order for fewer sexual assaults to occur. Sexual assaults happen everywhere. But is there something about today’s “hook-up” culture and sense of entitlement that make perpetrators feel like they can do whatever they want –– or simply not think about the consequences because there is often so much drinking involved?

More than 95 percent of rapes on college campuses are not reported, according to the Department of Justice. Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes –– probably due to the response victims fear they will receive, as demonstrated in this case.  For those few who do report, the number of assailants who actually get arrested and convicted is infinitesimal.

Let’s also be honest. Sexual assault does happen at Bates.  Since Epifano bravely published her article, more people have been talking about sexual assaults at Bates, and also about the difficulties they have faced after coming forward.

The Bates Annual Safety Campus report states that there were 0, 2, and 6 sexual assaults, titled “sex offenses forcible,” reported in 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively. According to the Times, the Department of Justice published a survey of college students in 2000 that “found that for a school Amherst’s size, the expected average would be more than 100 such offenses each year, including about 18 rapes.”  Amherst is about the same size as Bates.

Everybody knows that the stated figures of “0, 2, and 6” could not possibly represent the actual number of people who are sexually assaulted at Bates. People are just not coming forward. Why?

Epifano made the decision to leave Amherst. It is clear after reading her article that she had no other choice.  She felt that the College, the deans, and the staff made her feel crazy and essentially told her it was too bad she did not have parents to advocate for her. The school should have been advocating for her. The sexual assault counselor, whom Epifano did not mention by name, resigned soon after Epifano’s article was released.

A positive consequence of Epifano’s article is the inspiration she has given others to come forward.

“While the Amherst community calls for reforms, on Wednesday the Amherst Student published an open letter to Amherst College President Martin signed by 267 students. The letter shared bits of testimonials from students who alleged they, too, had received inadequate care from school officials,” according to the Huffington Post.

Other schools across the country, including Bates, have not done enough. Colleges and universities, including Bates, must start making substantial and lasting changes in the way they support victims of sexual assault, and improving the culture of the campus to prevent these assaults.

Let’s not pretend anymore. As the New York Times article pointed out, “Are sex crimes more surprising at a school thought of as elite and supportive of women’s rights, or less surprising at the kind of place often labeled as having a culture of entitlement? Or are they just part of the stew of negligent attitudes, criminal conduct and tension between the sexes that can be found almost anywhere?”

We are not surprised. These unpleasant stories keep coming. This is not the time to be quiet.


President Spencer’s Inauguration

To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect from President Spencer’s inauguration ceremony. It was taking place in the middle of a Friday afternoon (a time when people were probably either in class or getting ready to start the weekend), and was located in Merrill gymnasium – a building not typically known as an elegant location for ceremonies.

When I showed up, however, I quickly realized that my concerns were entirely unwarranted. The room was unrecognizable as a gymnasium and had been transformed into an enormous, tastefully decorated reception hall. And as for my concerns about students not showing up? I was completely wrong; there were hardly any empty seats, and rows upon rows of seats filled with enthusiastic students.

As soon as the ceremony started, the eagerness to hear President Spencer speak was palpable. As she walked through the procession, and every time she was mentioned in any of the preceding speeches, the applause was long and loud. The proceedings began with words of welcome to President Spencer from representatives of students, faculty, staff, the mayors of Lewiston and Auburn, and the president of Williams College. After the speeches, a couple formalities, and a musical performance from the Bates orchestra, it was finally time for President Spencer’s inauguratory speech.

Sprinkled with some pertinent highlights from Bates’ history, her speech focused on three main topics: the necessity of making education available to all deserving students – even if they cannot afford it, the importance of a liberal arts education, and the impact of technology on teaching and learning.

Noah Sleeper ’15 agreed that her stressing of education was an excellent theme of the speech. He commented, “[President Spencer] drew upon her experience with education which allowed a consistent theme of the importance of education, particularly a liberal arts education. It did a good job of defining, for the Bates community and for people outside the Bates community, the values that Bates holds dear.”

President Spencer’s speech validated all of my positive expectations for the upcoming years under her presidency. In particular, her remarks about the affordability of a Bates education were especially reassuring in a time of economic uncertainty. Diversity of Bates’s students, in terms of socioeconomic backgrounds, is wholly important for allowing all students to experience a heterogeneous worldview.

As educators Richard Guarasci and Grant Cornwell wrote in their 1997 book Democratic Education in an age of Difference, students’ perspectives are “strengthened when undergraduates understand and experience social connections with those outside of their often parochial ‘autobiographies’, and when they experience the way their lives are necessarily shaped by others.”

As a liberal arts education becomes more expensive with tuitions continuing to increase, it was comforting to hear President Spencer reinforce its relevance.

Finally, it was both surprising and encouraging to hear her not only mention but also acknowledge the essential role that technology has in education – a fact that has been honestly neglected at Bates the past few years. While the shift from the webmail platform to Gmail was a much-needed change, the fact that the Internet is often down or moving unbearably slow, and the fact that the library still only has three black and white printers for the whole student body call attention to a much-needed technological upgrade at Bates. However, I am enthusiastic about the direction that President Spencer wants to take Bates in terms of technology.

Overall, President Spencer left me feeling entirely optimistic about the future of Bates. She not only understands Bates as it current exists, but also the direction in which the school must go to remain a competitive institution in both the NESCAC and the country. I look forward to experiencing my final two years at Bates under the helm of President Clayton Spencer.

CBB Champs! Football team beats Bowdoin and Colby to clinch CBB title for the first time since 2002

Bates Football earned the 2012 Colby-Bates-Bowdoin trophy this past weekend with a hard-fought 14-6 victory over the Bowdoin Polar Bears in Brunswick, Maine.

The win moves Bates to 4-3, with a strong chance to beat Hamilton next weekend and finish the season 5-3. Although the game was played at Bowdoin, the Bobcats possibly had just as many fans in attendance as the Polar Bears, as the Bates community made the trip en-masse to support their team, which is indicative of the relative success Bates has enjoyed this season.

The story of the game was Bates’ opportunism on defense, as the Bobcats were able to force three fumbles, an interception, and stop Bowdoin on three separate fourth-down conversion attempts.

Bates struggled to move the ball with consistency throughout the game, but was able to generate just enough scoring opportunities to stay ahead of the Polar Bears. Bates was plagued by an inability to convert on third downs, as their triple option attack is predicated on keeping third down attempts manageable distances.

“Bowdoin came out in a couple of different fronts that we haven’t seen which slowed us down a bit, but we were able to stick together as a unit to figure it out and get a win,” explained junior offensive lineman Michael Bernstein.

After a series of punts and an unfortunate fumble deep in their own territory, Bates’ first score came when Senior Quarterback Trevor Smith threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kevin Davis.

Smith continued his strong season with a respectable day overall, throwing for 100 yards on 11-18 passing and the touchdown to Davis, while rushing for 25 yards on 13 attempts. Davis was essentially Smith’s sole target on the day, catching 9 passes for 87 yards and the score.

Bowdoin’s offensive attack typically utilized four wide receiver sets in order to spread out Bates’ defense and find gaps on the ground and through the air.

While Bowdoin did present the Bobcats with some problems on this side of the ball, often moving the ball effectively downfield, Bates kept the Polar Bears out of the end zone and forced timely turnovers.

“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot early but we were able to turn it around and force them into some favorable downs for us and make some big plays, especially on fourth down,” noted junior safety Andrew Kukesh.

Sophomore linebacker John Durkin led the team with 11 tackles, 8 of them solo, while senior inside linebacker Josh Chronopoulos also had 11 total tackles. Kukesh continued to exhibit why he may be the best safety in the league, recovering a fumble and recording a toe-tapping interception in the third quarter.

Particularly impressive for the Bobcats were the three stops on fourth and short situations, where the defensive line flexed its muscle to stuff Bowdoin running backs and end scoring opportunities for the Polar Bears.

Bates’ final score came in the third quarter on a two-yard touchdown run from senior captain Pat George, who finished the day with 40 yards rushing on 12 carries. Sophomore slotback Mac Jackson had a breakout performance with 61 yards rushing on only 6 carries, averaging more than ten yards per carry.

Bates’ defense allowed only two field goals in the entire game, and Bates was able to run the clock out in the fourth quarter to seal the 14-6 win.

After guaranteeing their first .500 season in ten years with this victory, the Bobcats will host the Hamilton Continentals in a game that they fully expect to win next week.

“It’s all about sticking to our guns and grinding it out. Next week we have to do what we’ve been doing all year and play physical and hard every snap,” illuminated Bernstein. Bates will host Hamilton on Garcelon Field at noon on Saturday.

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