There is a common understanding amongst members of the Bates community: Batesies are nice. During orientation week it was not unusual to hear first-years talk about how they chose Bates over the surrounding liberal arts schools at least partially because they felt that the people here are kinder and more down to earth than those at other institutions.
“Other schools that I visited, especially the other NESCACs, like Colby, all had pretentious vibes, which is not something I feel here at Bates,” Josh Caldwell, a first-year lacrosse recruit said. “I already feel so welcomed only three weeks into my freshman year.”
Personally, while I cannot vouch for the decency of the people at Colby, or that of the students at any other school for that matter, I can vouch for the decency of the Bates community. There is a welcoming air that emanates throughout the entire campus—from the students to the dining staff to the custodial staff, even the professors. Of course there are certain exceptions, and one such area where I have noticed that the Bates attitude of courtesy and goodwill does not always extend, is to our hometown, Lewiston.
There was one “Yak” posted on Yik Yak, a social media forum designed to allow college students to post anonymously, that really stuck out in my mind, as it seemed to highlight the issue. It read, “People here get so closed minded like da-***? You say Lewiston is a **** hole it’s like get off your high horse and back to reality you privileged mother****** #passionpost #its not kind [sic].” While it was a very aggressive post, I think that there is something to be learned from it. We should acknowledge that not all, but many, of us are from privileged, if not affluent backgrounds. Often, accompanying that is a sense of entitlement, and while that does not necessarily manifest itself in our actions towards each other, it can sometimes manifest itself in our actions and attitudes toward Lewiston.
There are two ways that Bates students disrespect Lewiston that have stood out to me. The first is the common reference to Lewiston as “The Dirty Lew.”
“People have these misconceptions about downtown—that it’s dangerous and trashy, but if you look hard enough anywhere, you can say that about a lot of places,” Jeremy Cairns, a first-year from Lewiston said. The other way is when students refer to the townspeople as “townies.” It is a seemingly harmless nickname. The problem with both of these insults is that it creates a separation between the people of Lewiston and Bates students. As students at a prestigious liberal arts college we should be striving to close that gap. We should get more involved with the community. If you genuinely feel like Lewiston is a “****hole,” start volunteering. The school does a great job at offering volunteering opportunities through the Harward Center and various clubs.
I do not want to insinuate that everyone on campus is discourteous towards Lewiston, or that coming from a privileged background is bad. In fact, it seems like in general, the Bates community has a decent relationship with Lewiston. Cairns put it like this: “With as diverse a community as Bates has, with the numerous students from across the country, people are bound to experience some culture shock in some form or another. It’s been surprisingly refreshing that a majority of students I’ve met around here have not had the culture shock of moving to a small ‘city’ such as Lewiston manifest into negative preconceptions about my hometown. That’s not to say that I haven’t heard some students say not so wonderful things.”
In writing this I just want to encourage that as a community we keep an open mind about the city that surrounds us. We should not think of ourselves as separate from Lewiston, but work towards maintaining and strengthening our connections with the place we call our home.