This Monday brought the end to what can be considered among the most contentious elections in Bates history. The members of the Campus Culture Working Group were announced via [announce] email.
Of the ten newly-appointed representatives, eight were elected through the Garnet Gateway ballot, while two were appointed through deliberation within the student government. The eight elected members of the delegation equally represent the first-year, sophomore, junior, and senior classes, with the additional two members chosen by the student government each represent random classes (one sophomore and one junior). The student delegates are: Keenan Shields ’18, Katrina Muñoz ’18, Tara Khanmalek ’17, Charlie Klein ’17, Fatima Sacko ’17, Daly Johnson ’16, Emilie Muller ’16, Javier Morales ’16, Christina Stiles ’15, and Patrick Tolosky ’15.
The voter turnout for the Campus Culture Working Group at Bates was near 22 percent, with 801 votes issued through Garnet Gateway, each student having the opportunity to vote for two of the three representatives for their class. Considering the time elapsed since the cancellation of Trick or Drink, many students’ zealous demands for administrative atonement has reached a denouement.
This particularly low level of voter engagement echoes many trends seen in the November 4th General Elections, in which the national voter turnout, 36.3 percent, was the lowest level of eligible voter participation since 33.9 percent in 1942.
The proposal for the creation of the group came from concerns within the student body over the cancellation of the College’s tacitly-endorsed, liquid tradition of “Trick or Drink”. Student fervor over the cancellation of “Trick or Drink” has subsided in recent weeks. Left in its wake, however, are indicting definitions of what constitutes the “culture” of Bates College, with no inclusion into the composition of “campus culture” of such fundamentals as the arts, academics, class, gender or race.
The working group will be guided by a series of questions mentioned in the email sent out by Allen Sumrall, BCSG Parliamentarian, each interrogating facets of drinking culture on campus. Of the five query posed, three of them addressed a “healthier campus community,” with the other two each nodding to “dangerous situations” or “substance abuse.” The foundation of the working group is clearly rooted in student demands for a reconsidered campus drinking policy, but is being created at a time when student interest remains low.
Across campus, through emails, and in informal discussion, the Campus Culture Working Group is often mistaken for a “committee.” A clear distinction arises in that “working groups” at Bates are not designed to be permanent, nor are they necessarily meant to create lasting change: they are created as a stepping-stone toward a larger purpose. These groups are designed to incorporate faculty, administration, and student views in constructing a framework for future action, such as the future creation of a committee.
The working group’s official purpose has also yet to be determined, but has been described as “responsible for developing a set of recommendations to strengthen campus culture.”
The “culture” to be challenged, described foremost as liquid in the email, is not necessarily the primary conviction of the campus representatives.
Through interviews with several of the elected members of the CCWG, it has become clear, although drinking culture does remain an important component of the intended approach by the committee, “campus culture” at Bates covers a spectrum rendering alcohol but a piece in the complex web of what constitutes “Bates.”
Sophomore delegate Charlie Klein views inclusivity as the primary concern of his conception of the overwhelming culture of Bates.
“To me, campus culture is a combination of student attitudes, which are defined by student interactions (conversations, inclusiveness, etc.) and student activities like athletics and the arts,” said Klein in an interview. “A positive campus culture is one without social divides within student activities and interactions. Without these divides, the attitudes of the student body can flourish.”
Senior Pat Tolosky will be bringing his own multifaceted view of the Bates’ cultural composition to the discussions starting this coming winter.
“I want our culture to be one where all types of difference (athleticism, food interests, skin color, gender, outdoorsiness, spirituality, hobbies, sexuality, etc.) are celebrated and accepted, not pushed aside or simply tolerated” Tolosky told The Student.
First-year Keenan Shields avoids risky definitions in his approach to campus culture.
“Our campus culture is the set of values and beliefs, both shared and individual, that the student body holds. More importantly, the behaviors derived from our beliefs and values are the tangible expression of our culture” Shields explained via email.
The Campus Culture Working Group will meet once before the end of Fall 2014, and is expected to meet throughout Winter 2015.