Let me just get straight to the point: Bates needs to add a social justice requirement. It is imperative to learn about the injustices and differences in and outside our bubble before converging with society outside of Bates.
A part of Bates mission statement states, “With ardor and devotion – Amore ac Studio – we engage the transformative power of our differences, cultivating intellectual discovery and informed civic action.” After reading that particular part of the mission, my first thought was, if Bates had a social justice requirement, then we would be telling the truth within our mission statement.
Since when have Bates students engaged in the transformative power of difference? Although it sounds great to prospective applicants, we must be honest. As an institution, students engage whole-heartedly in the stereotypical college lifestyle – not the transformative power of differences. You know, the college lifestyle that places drinking on a pedestal, that never asks you to take a course that will make you realize your privilege. I do not doubt that Bates and some of its members really try to make a conscious effort to learn about others’ differences (economic, racial, gender, sexual orientation, privilege, etc.), but the vast majority does not. Potentially, by having a social justice requirement, students and faculty members will really understand the meaning of engaging in the transformative power of differences.
What about informed civic action? What does it even mean when Bates uses it in the mission statement? Although Bates encourages students to engage with the Lewiston-Auburn community, the problem has become that students are perfectly fine living in the bubble while keeping the mentality that Lewiston is the “Dirty Lew.” If you are thinking, “but I have been to Pure Thai, Mother India, and Forage!”, then you have been to the typical Bates spots. Next time, maybe try a Somali restaurant, or other spots in the community not usually flanked by Batesies. Just like Bates, Lewiston has its faults and just like Bates, Lewiston is working to better itself. No place is perfect; so why not venture out of the bubble or take a stroll to the Harward Center on Wood St. so that you could get involved within the community? Lewiston is filled with lots of culture, diversity, and curious people, so why not interact with them? You will be doing yourself a favor by getting out of your comfort zone, while contributing to developing the perception that the residents of Lewiston have about Batesies.
Bates needs this social justice requirement and I would argue we need it more than the S, L, or Q. As a community we are not taking the opportunity to embrace our differences with curiosity, but rather with ignorant remarks. I am tired of hearing, “are you African?” or “Are you gay?” and “Why don’t you fit the stereotypes of black men?” I can be dark skin and not African because people of color come from many different beautiful shades of black and brown. I can be an upbeat guy who loves to dance and have so much respect for women, while being a heterosexual male. I do not have to fit the stereotypes that people set in place to drag me down in some instances because my momma did not raise me to conform to a specific set of qualities. Maybe by having a social justice requirement in the future, students will get a better understanding of the injustices others have to face on a daily basis and why it is unfair to ignore our own ignorances.