Last Thursday afternoon, students ceased their respective Short Term activities to attend President Spencer’s mandatory assembly in the Grey Cage. Groups of students made their way across campus to partake in what felt like a Bates family meeting. Students sat on the floor of the Grey Cage armed with suggestion pencils and notecards received at the door, anticipating President Spencer’s speech. The spotlight is, once again, on Bates College.
Late Tuesday night April 15th, Bates Junior Mac Jackson allegedly entered the wrong White Street home in search of a friend. This resulted in confrontation with the home’s elderly owner. The events that ensued have not been fully disclosed to the Bates community. However, it is known that Jackson is being charged with aggravated assault and criminal trespassing following the altercation with the elderly man, who fell and was sent to the hospital with a broken hip.
Local news stations and papers have already jumped on the opportunity to report the incident, placing negative attention on Bates, reminiscent of the arrests made during “Throwback” in 2010. Maine station WMTV News 8 aired a segment from White Street discussing the, “Bates problem” with Lewiston resident May Burke, while the Sun Journal outlined the criminal charges and disciplinary actions that Jackson currently faces. Incidents like these fragment the schools relationship with the surrounding community.
Beginning with her email two days after the White Street incident, President Spencer made it clear that Jackson’s case is not unique, and comes in conjunction with other drinking related incidents that have occurred in the past few years.
“There have been several breaches in behavior that have shocked and concerned all of us, endangered our students and our neighbors, and put at risk basic community norms,” said Spencer in her email. President Spencer called for the College to take on a more active role in the counseling and drinking culture of Bates, something that many colleges and universities are struggling with. The first step was to hold a mandatory meeting when students returned from Spring break.
“I don’t really know how she is going to approach this. A lot of us fear that there are going to be new policies that will affect Short Term and Senior Week,” said one concerned sophomore, who like many in this article, wished to remain anonymous. Some students were critical of the mandatory meeting, “They are photographing us walking to get disciplined. I’m not sure how this is supposed to do anything.”
Once the meeting began, President Spencer quickly announced that Short Term and Senior Week would remain, putting students at ease. Spencer stated that the meeting was held to initiate a discussion among students, faculty, and the administration as colleagues. “There is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde vibe at Bates College,” Spencer stated frankly, “We are not looking to contain fun, quite the opposite, but when dorms are trashed Monday mornings, and members of the Lewiston/Auburn community are disturbed or even injured, we keep doing reputational damage to Bates.” Respect was a key theme of the discussion. In order to improve the current situation at Bates, students need to start talking to each other in order to foster a, “strong and positive campus culture,” as Spencer puts it.
Students were very receptive to the “family meeting”. One point Spencer mentioned hit particularly hard with many students, especially seniors. President Spencer talked about how with each incident Bates has, the value of our education and diploma goes down. One student stated, “Bates has worked hard to develop its academic reputation. No one wants to see that hard work go away, especially over issues of mutual respect among students and the community that can be easily solved.”
This is just the beginning of a new approach to Bates student life and culture. President Spencer is looking to form a committee that will work intensively on this issue and to implement programs that will promote positive behavior. Students can continue to enjoy Short Term, knowing that any changes made in the future will be positive.