Last week, The Student staff issued a poll to Bates campus, seeking student opinion on campus issues and campus culture—just under 200 students responded to the poll.
This poll is in part motivated by the overall goal of the Student for this year. The paper wants be the students’ one stop news source, unique from Bates News, unique in the sense that the staff writes about what the campus community is talking about. Controversial or positive, if it is important to the students, we want to write about it.
This poll is in no way scientific and we do not wish to make overarching assumptions. It isn’t meant to comment on any policies or practices in place, nor invoke any policy changes. It is merely a reflection of the opinions of the respondents.
The first set of questions asked participants to rate their level of agreement with statements about certain issues, like racism, tolerance, binge drinking, sexism and socioeconomic inequality in the Bates community. Another set of questions asked students about how often issues of white privilege, gender, race and class are discussed outside of the classroom. Finally, the survey asked students to rate their level of agreement with certain statements about campus social culture. Respondents also had the opportunity to comment after each statement, if they wished, to provide further explanation. This article reports some of the results and comments from the survey.
Results showed that 53 percent of respondents agreed—at some level—that binge drinking is a serious issue at Bates. 58 percent of respondents agreed to some degree that drinking culture is fun at Bates and 43 percent agreed to some degree that drinking culture is safe at Bates.
Students were also asked about the treatment of differing ideas and beliefs on campus. When asked to rate their level of agreement with the statement “All viewpoints and opinions are respected at Bates,” 44 percent reported some level of disagreement. One respondent noted that “At such a liberal campus, other views are not often heard.” Another commented, “Conservative values are strongly discouraged.”
56 percent of respondents agreed to some degree that socioeconomic inequality is a serious issue of Bates, 46 percent agreed that sexism is a serious issue at Bates and 42 percent agreed that racism is a serious issue at Bates.
Despite these opinions, 67 percent of respondents agreed to some degree that Bates is a tolerant campus, and 57 percent reported that they agree to some extent that Bates has an inclusive campus. Yet one respondent commented “There is a big difference between tolerance and acceptance—I view our tolerant campus as one that is content with a status quo that is comfortable for most but isolating for some.”
One respondent claimed that Bates is “Inclusive in Bates’ own individual cliques” and another that “The Bates campus is full of many different cliques. Many of these interact with each other, but some are very much separated from the rest of campus.”
Many students feel the difficult issues discussed in an academic setting remain in the classroom, only sometimes entering non-academic discourse. When asked about the frequency of discussion outside the classroom surrounding issues of gender, race, class and white privilege, the opinions of respondents reported that “sometimes” these issues are discussed outside of the classroom setting. 50 percent of opinions of respondents reflected that gender is sometimes discussed outside that classroom, 49 percent reported that white privilege is sometimes discussed, 66 percent reported that race is sometimes discussed, and 59 percent reported that class is sometimes discussed. Comments like “With certain groups of people,” “only in certain spaces” and “This topic has come up in my friend group, I’m unsure if other groups discuss these issues” accompanied their responses.
When asked about disruptions to the Bates community and the surrounding Lewiston community, responses reflected an almost even split. 37 percent reported that to some degree they disagree that drinking culture at Bates frequently disturbs the Lewiston community; 34 percent of respondents agree to some degree that it does disturb the surrounding community. Similarly, 41 percent of respondents disagree to some degree that drinking culture at Bates disturbs the campus community, while 38 percent agree to some degree that it disturbs the campus community.
This poll reflected only a small portion of the campus’ student population, but hopefully provided some insight into the issues on students’ minds. Further comments and suggestions are welcome moving forward.