The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: November 2016 Page 2 of 6

Sarah Juli and Claire Porter return to the dance studios with their newest duet

Expression plays a large role in Juli and Porter’s work. GRANT HALVERSON/COURTESY PHOTO

Expression plays a large role in Juli and Porter’s work. GRANT HALVERSON/COURTESY PHOTO

“Short Stories” relies heavily on humor. GRANT HALVERSON/COURTESY PHOTO

“Short Stories” relies heavily on humor. GRANT HALVERSON/COURTESY PHOTO

It started in caps and gowns. They both stood at the podium whispering to each other, waiting to begin. “Are you wearing deodorant? I don’t think you’re wearing deodorant.” “I never wear deodorant.” They begin their commencement addresses at the same time at the podium, eliciting immediate laughter from us in the audience. They stop. Back up. Begin again, this time with more aggression and larger gestures. They repeat this a third time, before their simultaneous speeches morph into a costume change. This time, they take turns walking downstage on the runway in different articles of clothing, including a foam finger, asking different variations of “Does this clash?”

Sara Juli and Claire Porter are known for their comedic artistry. Juli, a Maine-based solo artist and Porter, from New Jersey, were first paired together by the American Dance Festival (ADF) a couple years ago and commissioned to present a duet based on anything. To dance artists, this sort of prompt is insidious. The piece they made for ADF was titled “Short Stories” where they were dressed in large, simple ball gowns, sneakers, and red underpants that were exposed later in the piece. In this piece, they told segments of everyday happenings that, when coupled with gestural movements, created a powerful sense of humor that drove the piece to success. The underlying message was that the small things in life can lead to something bigger. Now, they are at it again and came to the Marcy Plavin Dance Studios on campus to workshop their newest duet.

On Friday, November 11, they held an informal showing where several dance students were able to watch and give feedback on the 20 minutes of material they have already made. The two women did not tell us what they thought the piece was about and left the interpretation open to us. As the piece evolved, a sense of competition surfaced via vocal comments and physical gestures. At one point, Juli grabbed two pompoms and performed a cheer to the famous “Be Aggressive” but incorporated suggestions of how to be polite such as “accept the water” and “maintain eye contact.” As it turns out, Juli researched rules on how to succeed in an interview and her cheer consisted of the tips she found online.

In the runway section, Juli mentioned that they were inspired by her seven year old’s recent desire to dress herself, despite the clashing patterns. Juli said that this made her realize that a child’s identity is in part shaped by the clothes they choose to wear. From then on, she has let her daughter dress herself for school everyday.

The dual commencement addresses opened the piece and raised the question of “are they the same person?” insisting a sense of internal competition and criticism that could be translated throughout the whole piece. This is especially apparent in the next section where the two women are sitting in folding chairs going back and forth with suggestions, as if it were a first date gone wrong. Juli would say, “Well, I thought you would have paid the bill” and Porter would reply with “Well, I thought you would have done your hair” and so on and so forth, all the while they were inching closer and closer to each other in the chairs.

The piece raised several questions of gender, rule-breaking, societal expectations and the relationship between the dancers. Were they the same person exposing internal criticism? Were they mother and daughter? Was this about the expectations others have for female behavior? How important is it to follow social rules? None of these questions could be answered by Juli and Porter just yet, as they are in the very beginning stages of their choreographic process. However, I am certain these inquiries, among others, will be illuminated more and more along the way as the piece morphs and develops. These two women gave us an inside look of what is certain to be yet another hilariously realistic piece of art.


A list of emo albums to listen to if you’re feeling particularly emo considering recent events

If you are feeling at all saddened by this election, then I’ve got your remedy to political dissatisfaction. I’ve always believed the immediate solution to sadness is sad music, so for you I’ve gathered some of my favorite emo albums for you to wallow in. Even if you are entirely content with the outcome of this race, then I still implore you to sit and listen to these very good emo records. Or you could do whatever you want. Enjoy if you so choose.

What It Takes To Move Forward – Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)

Continuing upon long tradition of emo excellence from the Midwest, empire! empire! took front at the third wave of emo revival with their return from emo-punk to a gentler, more somber approach to the genre. Recalling Mineral’s tender EndSerenading, this album is soft, romantic and lyrically impressive. A long album full of long songs, What It Takes requires some effort to finish. Listen to the banjo ballad “With Your Greatest Fears Realized, You Will Never be Comforted” and “Keep What You Have Built Up Here.”

The Power of Failing – Mineral

Mineral was the grandaddy of alternative rock in the new millennium and perhaps the greatest Midwestern emo band ever to come, having (along with Sunny Day Real Estate and Jawbreaker) fundamentally changed the emo sound from a hardcore offshoot to something singular and sad. The Power of Failing is Mineral’s first of only two albums released during their four year lifespan and runs over with emotive energy and lo-fi sincerity. Listen for the songs “Parking Lot,” “Gloria” and “Dolorosa.”

Nothing Was Missing, Except Me – Hightide Hotel

Hightide Hotel is a Philadelphia-based band known for their tight lyricism and breadth of sound. Nothing Was Missing is a bright and brief album, clocking in at barely thirty minutes but full of adolescent passion. The band has undertones of math rock and at moments they fuzz over with business. Sometimes an acoustic guitar, or a sample, or a chorus comes out of nowhere, but it’s all done in fun. Some great tracks include “I’m Just Sippin On Monster, Thinkin About Life” and “Life is Precious, and God, and the Bible.”

Look Now Look Again – Rainer Maria

Formed in Madison, WI, Rainer Maria was one of few female-fronted emo bands in a genre that is almost entirely done from a male perspective. Look Now Look Again was released in 1999, just as emo took a more pop-oriented step. Despite the zeitgeist, they maintained a style devoted to dynamism, poise and ambience. Notable songs: “Planetary,” “Rise” and “Breakfast of Champions.”

Four Minute Mile – The Get Up Kids

An important precursor to pop punk, the Get Up Kids created a sound that was less sparkled and airy than other emo artists and more grounded in traditional punk. Pop punk bands Fall Out Boy and Blink-182 have both claimed the Get Up Kids to have been essential to their own creations and intents. This album is their 1997 debut and is equal parts confession and rebellion. It is rough and immature and indispensable to the genre. Some tracks to notice: “No Love” and “Don’t Hate Me.”

The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me – Brand New

The Devil And God is a pillar in the pantheon of mid-00’s emo and one of the only true emo albums to receive mainstream attention. A concept album about the fight between good and evil, this record works in dichotomies: soft and loud, defeat and victory. Though rather typical in structure, the album accomplishes total devotion to a theme and its atmosphere. Notable tracks: “Sowing Season,” “Jesus Christ” and “You Won’t Know”.


Winter sports previews

Women’s Basketball

Last year’s women’s basketball team put together a solid season, finishing with a 9-15 overall record and a 4-6 showing in the NESCAC, just missing out on the conference tournament. Last year’s team featured just one senior, Chelsea Nason ‘16 who started on the wing for the Cats, so the team should not experience any significant growing pains in terms of chemistry or a lack

This year’s roster will be coming in as a young group with a lot of experience under their belt. They are returning 88% of their scoring output from last year, and are poised to eclipse the .500 mark for the first time since 2010-11. The team will look to Nina Davenport ‘18, as their go to player on the court. Davenport, who averaged fifteen and eight last season and received all-state honors, is expected to have a monster season. Keep on eye on rising seniors Bernadette Connors ‘17 and Allie Coppola ‘17, who both averaged nine a game last year, as two players who will move into the role of steady, reliable leaders and contributors on this team.

Look for the 2016-17 edition of Bates women’s basketball to defend Alumni gymnasium well, secure a few key road victories during their conference slate, and make a run in March.

Stock: Up

Men’s Basketball

Bates Men’s basketball had little reason to celebrate last season. They finished with a disappointing 10-14 record, and did not qualify for any postseason play. Looking ahead to this season, the outlook does not look much better.

Although this year’s team has only lost three seniors to graduation, they were all big contributors and will be sorely missed. Particularly guard Mike Boornazian ‘16, who is 9th all time in scoring in Bates history. This year’s team seemingly has no one who can fill his role as an elite wing scorer.

Indeed, Bates will rely heavily on senior twins Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche ‘17. The defensive minded men will have to step up their offensive game in order for the Bobcats to compete in the NESCAC. Guards Shawn Strickland ‘18, Justin Zukowski ‘18 and Jerome Darling ‘17 are other returners that will be forced to play big roles.

The main flaw with this year’s team is that they lack a go-to guy on offense. No one on the roster has proven that they can consistently score in key situations. Unless they can find that player, it’s going to be a rough season.

Last year’s poor showing was especially disappointing because the season prior to last, the team had the best year in Bates basketball history. In 2014-15, they won a record 21 games and made the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

Some believe that men’s basketball will continue their winning ways this season, but if you take a closer look at the history of the team, 2014-15 was a clear outlier in terms of success. In fact, it is the only season that the Bobcats have finished over .500 since 2010.

Bates men’s basketball will continue the downward trajectory and finish with an 8-16 record.

Stock: Down

Women’s Squash

The women’s squash team was incredibly young last year, with a roster that included one senior and seven first years. The team is only losing last year’s captain, Lauren Williams ‘16, who competed at six in the team’s ladder last year. The crop of young talent has gained a year of experience, and will look to perform at an even higher level during the upcoming season.

This team is “young, focused and spirited and very confident” in the words of head coach Pat Cosquer ‘97, who is entering his 9th year as head of the Bates squash program. Cosquer listed returning young star Kristyna Alexova ‘19, who was 1st team all-conference and NESCAC rookie of the year last year, as a player to watch this year, along with with classmate Vicky Arjoon ‘19 and newcomer Luca Polgar ‘20. Polgar, along with fellow recruit Eliza Dunham ‘20 are expected to compete in the top five of the team’s ladder.

Cosquer has a proven track record during his tenure of preparing Bates’ squash teams to be perennial competitors. After finishing 5th in the NESCAC last year, with a 13-11 overall mark, look for this team to make some serious noise all season improving on last year’s marks in conference and out.

Stock: Up

Men’s Squash

Assessing how the Men’s squash team will fare this season is particularly hard. They did lose two time defending national champion, Ahmed Abdel Khalek ‘16, which will certainly lead to a decline in talent. But what this year’s team will lose in talent, they will gain in chemistry in the absence of Khalek.

The team returns a veteran group of players; Six out of the 14 players are seniors. Coach Cosquer said in an email that this is the deepest team he has ever coached at Bates. Especially look out for Ahmed Hatata ‘17. He is a three time All-American and has a 56-8 overall record.

Men’s squash will have a better season as a collective team, but they will not enjoy as much individual success.

Stock: Even

Alpine Skiing

Bates alpine skiing had a huge shakeup this off-season. Shockingly, coach Rogan Connell resigned after 15 years at Bates.

Replacing Connell will be Micaela Holland ‘11. Holland qualified for three NCAA National Collegiate Ski Championships in her time as a student-athlete at Bates. She spent the last three years as head alpine skiing coach at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY.

The men’s team will be the youngest in the conference by far according to team leader Matt Glasgow ‘19. They are completely made up of sophomores and freshman, as they have no seniors or juniors. With a new coach, and extremely young team this will be a rebuilding year for the men’s alpine team.

The women’s team carries a lot of momentum from last season. They return many key players, including Kelsey Chenoweth ‘17. Chenoweth qualified for the NCAA Championships two seasons ago, and is poised to do again this year. Despite adjusting to a new coach, the women’s team will improve this season

Men’s team stock: Down Women’s team stock: Up

Nordic Skiing

The Nordic ski team has been arduously preparing for their upcoming season, and hopefully they will have a lot to show for it in the form of quality results at their races this year.

The men’s team will be anchored by a strong core of senior skiers in Wade Rosco ‘17, Nate Moreau ‘17 and Max Millslagle ‘17, who will push each other in their pursuit to qualify for nationals. Similarly on the women’s side, a strong core of upperclass skiers, including Laurel Fiddler ‘17, Halie Lange ‘17 and Sadie James ‘17.

James, who is the only returning skier from either the men’s or the women’s side to qualify for nationals last year, where competed in the 5K freestyle race and the classic 15K race in Colorado last year, and finished in 37th and 30th overall, respectively. She will be intent on returning to the national event, and improving on her times.

This team is as lovable as they are fast, but don’t expect any massive improvements from last season’s results.

Men’s team stock: Even Women’s team stock: Even


From the same place as us

Farah Ben Jemaa is the quiet, but always present French TA from Tunisia. Insightful, but cautious and alway curious, she tells her story about her life now and in Tunisia:

Farah Ben Jemaa: “I was born in Tunisia; I lived my whole life there. I was a very introvert kid, so it didn’t go well in school; it was a little bit better in high school, you grow up so you get more comfortable with yourself. Uh, so the defining thing; there are two defining things in my childhood. I wasn’t very out there so I spent my childhood reading books and not knowing people, and the other thing is that I went to a private school, so when I moved from mmm Junior high to High school, I had to go to a public school and it was like two completely different worlds and I had to and that was my first contact with reality and how my country is. I am so happy it happened that way. Basically, that is it. I don’t have a lot of memories of my childhood.”

William Ebert: How was high school a transformative experience?

FBJ: “Um, it is the difference between what I was used to my whole life and what I discovered, what I did not know existed and I discovered it in high school. When I moved to the high school, you had people coming from everywhere because it was downtown, and uh a very old high school, so very different people, and I started learning that you can have terrible grades in school and not be succeeding and be a good person, that was, oddly enough, a discovery for me! I had been brought up to believe that good people have good grades, nice people succeed in school and then I met really nice people who were repeating a year, most of my friends were repeating the year so they were older.

WE: What was it like growing up in Tunisia?

FBJ: Um so one problem in Tunisia is that there isn’t enough public spaces I mean the public space is not really friendly or kid friendly or teenager friendly, so we used to go to each others’ houses more, so we’d go to friends or family. It was very indoors, most of our activities were at each others’ houses, um, what else do we do in Tunisia when we are growing up? It is really family center education, your cousin are really, you share your daily life with your cousin, you share your daily life with your family, so when go to the beach, you go to an aunt’s house, so everything is, maybe it is my experience, everything is centered around the family. We used to go out to suburbs because the suburbs are by the sea, and just um I guess this is really boring hmm. I mean it is just a normal childhood, you hang out with people and you know. Our lives are really not so different.

WE: What did you do after high school?

FBJ: I went to college, I went to a college where, it is something that we inherited from the French, called prepa, basically a school where you go for two year, very selective, very intensive, very hard, and after that you sit for an exam, for many exams, to go to other schools, ok? So the point is that, after 5 years, between that school and the other ones, you are supposed to be able to sit for another exam to get into college. You’re faced with failure all the time because it is so hard, and professors are amazing so you, can’t help, I mean you can’t prevent yourself from comparing yourself to the professors and thinking you’ll never be worth anything and you work hard nonetheless. I also began to travel abroad and that’s something we really need. Not even the greater world, I think that if um, we would have a very different Middle East if the young people from the Middle East could go see each other, could just travel to other Middle Eastern countries. It’s, travel is one of the most difficult things to do for people of my region. Because it is very expensive and because of usually visas. So if we could if we had more travel opportunities, I think, I’m confident that the region would look much different if we could travel.

WE: What was your life like after college?

FBJ: It was really funny. So I told you after college you take 5 years and then an exam. Well in the 5th year I was at a different school and it just happened that, that was where I was recruited the following year, I mean in a two month period, I had a degree and started teaching at the same school I had just graduated from. It was so weird, I couldn’t, I didn’t even know how to address them because two months ago, I would call them Monsieur and Madame and now we’re colleagues so it made for really awkward situations. I also was really very young. I was 23 and it wasn’t a very large college, so lots of people were older than me, many of my students were older than me. There was this one time where this woman came up to me after there was an exam, and there is this expression in Tunisia ‘my dear daughter’ or ‘son’, that you use with someone that could be your daughter or you son. But this woman came up to me and she gave me back her paper and said ‘Madame, my dear daughter, don’t grade us too harshly’, but it was so funny the juxtaposition of Madame which is how you address your professors and my dear daughter. I couldn’t step into the teachers lounge for the first semester, it felt like I was being somewhere I shouldn’t be. And that was the first year I taught.

WE: How has been your experience in America?

FBJ: So something are exactly how I thought they would be, New York for example. When you live outside of America, you are so exposed to that imagery that when you get there, you feel like you’re inside, you feel like you’re still watching. I feel like I was still watching something and not there, but sometime I realized that I actually was there. And it feels very funny to feel like you’re inside a world of fiction. Um so yea, New York, really gave me that impression. But there is a crazy part to America, everything is so huge! And not just, I don’t mean in a bad way, but everything is oversized, enormous; everything, everything.  There were a few things that struck me as strange like the fact that there were so many old people still working and that’s really not something you see in Europe or Tunisia. And here that really broke my heart when I arrived, to see very, very old people working jobs they had to take because they needed to.

WE: Do you think Tunisia is the same in some way to America?

FBJ: Tunisia has been through so much change in the past 5 years, it is progressing, but it’ll take some time. Tunisia is a very interesting country right now, it is ah, it shouldn’t be working, but it is, and I don’t know how! I think, lots of people feel the same about their country, how is it working? What I also like about Tunisia in the current context, so there was a revolution 5 years ago uh that’s what sprung the whole Arab Spring thing, and messed up the region and we are the only country that manage to not have a civil war and go back to a dictator, we got through it. So I like that Tunisia complicates that narrative. European media usually says ‘O so democracy cannot work with an Islamic country, well it does in Tunisia. So far we have been having democratic elections. They usually say that it is difficult to fight ISIS, because ISIS has the support of the population, it doesn’t in Tunisia, they tried to invade  us and the army but mostly the population kick them out to Libya. Maybe I’m being chauvinistic and having misplaced pride, but I like that Tunisia doesn’t fit into the usual narrative about Arab countries. I like that.

Maine ACLU asks US Dept. of Justice to investigate voter suppression effort at Bates College

Sunday morning students encountered bright orange leaflets reading “BATES ELECTION LEGAL ADVISORY.” The word ‘legal’ was underlined and had stars around it to add emphasis. Below that were two categorically false statements. First, students wanting to vote must change their driver’s licenses to a Maine license and second that vehicles must be re-registered, with a note stating that this often costs hundreds of dollars. The leaflets were immediately removed from Commons and dorm buildings, and a suspect was identified in the Lewiston Sun Journal as a tall blonde man.

Less than two weeks ago, Federal and State officials along with the ACLU of Maine published a press release on election fraud claims. U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II said in the press release, “Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud. The Department of Justice will act promptly and aggressively to protect the integrity of the election process.”

A Maine Assistant United States Attorney said he could not yet comment on the specifics of the case, and directed The Student to the FBI. At this time, the FBI was unavailable for comment. Legal Director at the ACLU of Maine Zachary Heiden spoke with The Student, saying, “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prevents any person from threatening or intimidating or coercing or attempting to threaten or attempting to intimidate a person to interfere with their right to vote. And it seemed to me, given the timing of the letter (just before an election), and the target audience (student voters), that the only reasonable purpose of such a letter would be to scare students into not voting.”

Heiden also noted, “Intent is not the only important question under the Voting Rights Act, so even if the people who sent these fliers or the Governor did not intend to coerce, threaten, or intimidate, if the letters had the likely effect of doing that, they would still violate the law. So another part of the investigation would be to figure out what was the effect; were people intimidated? Were people scared? Were people made to feel that they would be subject to unwelcome government attention if they decided to exercise their fundamental rights?”

Governor Paul LePage had his own take on the matter, saying in a statement on his website that Democrats “have encouraged college students from out of state to vote in Maine” and college students are allowed to vote “as long as they follow all laws that regulate voting, motor vehicles and taxes.” Of course, citizens are not required to own a vehicle to vote, nor are voters required to have a driver’s license.

Heiden said that, in addition to investigating the incident at Bates, the ACLU is “looking into comments made by the Governor today that also target student voting, and we have called on the US Department of Justice to investigate.”

According to Heiden, “the Voting Rights Act of 1965 makes this a civil offense. But the National Voter Registration Act [of 1993] makes it, intentionally, a criminal offense. There are both criminal and civil penalties associated with this.”

President Clayton Spencer spoke of the event to the Sun Journal, saying it was “clearly a deliberate attempt at voter suppression,” and released a statement on the Bates website saying: “Many Bates students are eligible to register and vote in the City of Lewiston. Any unofficial communications that suggest otherwise are contrary to the ideals of American democracy.”

This voter suppression effort has mobilized the Bates student body. On the evening of November 7, Bates students staged a student demonstration, organized by Bates Student Action and Bates Democrats, decrying Republican nominee Donald Trump and his problematic tactics throughout his campaign. Meghan Lynch ‘17, election co-lead of Bates Student Action, said before the demonstration, “We are now incorporating the voter suppression signs. We will be distributing replicates of the original signs with actual information about the voter registration process during the demonstration.”

“We planned the demonstration so as to send a sense of urgency to students about the value of our vote in this contested district,” Lynch said. “Bates students will have a huge effect on whether or not Trump gets the 2nd district’s elector, and the presidency could come down to a few electors. Bates students could ‘tip the scale’ towards Clinton, as will be demonstrated by the banner.”

With robust efforts on campus to get out the vote, canvass for ballot initiatives, early voting transport, and registering students, Bates College is gearing up for the 2016 Presidential Election. And it doesn’t appear that these orange leaflets are about to dissuade any Bobcats from exercising their Constitutional right and civic duty.

Lynch concluded, “I just think it is incredibly ironic that while these voter suppression signs were being distributed on campus, we had over 40 Bates students canvassing off campus, encouraging other Lewiston residents to vote.”


Who are the Language TAs?

The language classes at Bates often have a Teacher’s Assistant who tend to be upperclassmen willing to help their classmates if they have any questions or problems regarding the various topics they are learning. Additionally, TAs sometime function as teachers by supervising a lesson or preparing agenda for a class.

The language TAs are not your typical Bates students: they have already graduated from an institution of higher education, and most reside outside of the United States. The language TAs make up an interesting group of individuals: recently graduated, but beginning to ferment a career in academia graduates and on the cusp of the stereotypical monotony of adulthood.

But the past experiences of TAs on campus are often un-probed by students on campus. Who are these individuals? What were their lives like? And how did they come to Bates? What we intend to do is answer these questions, and, through each interview, we will attempt to convey who these people are. Sometimes readers will get a good sense of a TA, while other times readers will be left as they were before. While we cannot say that we will do their stories justice, we hope to share some of the rich and interesting past experiences of the TAs on campus with our readers. Through these interviews we hope to not only inform you about who they are, but also give you a better picture of the world as a whole.

The interviews will be of a different format; they will not be edited for grammar or content. Their answers and narrative will be given verbatim, with all the grammatical errors and disorganized thoughts in plain view. Through this, we hope to convey to you a better sense of who they are through their own voices.

Unfortunately, due to limiting constraints, the interviews will be shortened from their actual length.


Wasteland, not a waste of time

Amidst the chaos of the election, the Environmental Coalition screened a documentary, Wasteland, on Monday in Olin. The film was different from the typical documentary, in that, it was not purely factual; rather, it included people’s stories and emotions as a way to connect to the audience.

The film’s premise was that of an artist Vik Muniz who incorporates trash and garbage into his art—there is an aspect of transforming the material into art. Muniz spends two years in Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is the world’s largest landfill by the volume of trash that enters it each day.

Given that the city of Rio does not have a recycling center in the city—something the locals have been demanding—an Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho formed. The pickers are people who collect recyclables, which are later picked up by the wholesalers. In a sense, their job is to help increase the capacity of the landfill.

The Association of Pickers of Jardin Gramacho, like any other movement, has a hierarchy with a president and vice-president; however, they all work together to reach their goals. For example, some of their movements included a push for paved roads and a sewage system—all of which have been granted to them.

Muniz spends a considerable amount of time concentrating on the lives of the pickers and taking their photographs to later sell them: all profits go to the president of the Association of Pickers of Jardin Gramacho. The focus is on a few out of 2,500 pickers, where we see the abhorrent situations in which they reside; however, they aim to keep a positive perspective on their lives.

Even though the documentary portrays the lives of people living in a lower-income country compared to that of the United States, it is crucial to recognize the impact trash has on people’s lives. We are a nation that has a recycling center in the city and a country that does not have trash flooding the streets; however, we are also a country that is rather careless about their trash.

To learn more about the work the Environmental Coalition is doing and their initiatives, email Noel Potter ’17.


LePage Shuts Door on Refugees

This past Friday, Governor Paul LePage announced that Maine will be withdrawing from the federal government’s refugee resettlement program. While LePage can not actually prevent refugees from being resettled in this state, he can refuse to provide them with social services such as welfare and health care. He justified Maine’s withdrawal citing the burden that these refugees have on the state’s welfare system, the “lack” of vetting that they receive before arriving, and the case of one man who was radicalized after coming to Maine. To some, LePage’s withdrawal just signals his attention to the importance of ensuring Maine’s safety, security and economic stability. I would like to call out his actions for what they really are: racist and xenophobic bullshit.

LePage never cites any facts to back up his claims that refugees burden the state’s welfare system. Time and time again, welfare statistics have shown that in Lewiston, refugees are not draining the system dry (as LePage and Mayor MacDonald would like to have everyone think). In Lewiston, Somali use of welfare is proportionate to the percentage of the population that they represent and no one is drawing upon welfare benefits that they do not qualify for. The governor’s rhetoric about refugee use of welfare shows that he does not believe that “these kinds of people” should be receiving assistance from the government. But what about them disqualifies them from accessing these resources?

In addition, his assertion that refugees are not being properly screened before being sent to the United States is also racism masquerading as concern for safety. The process of refugee resettlement can take years. Within this time, there are countless interviews, security checks, and screenings before a person can be approved for resettlement in the United States. This is an extremely stringent process, which Paul LePage apparently does not think is comprehensive enough to vet African and Middle Eastern refugees. However, I doubt LePage would force a white European immigrant to undergo the same rigorous process before coming to Maine.

Finally, in discussion over closing Maine’s borders to refugees, LePage likes to cite the case of a man who lived in Maine but returned to the Middle East to fight with a terrorist organization there. Yes, there are a few cases of this happening. But, this is one man out of the hundreds of refugees who have come to Maine and become contributing members of their local communities. If one member of the refugee community commits a crime, the whole community is held in suspicion. However, a white man can commit an act of terrorism against a black church and we treat them as an outlier. This double standard is completely racist and Islamophobic. This does not even address the forces of social and cultural isolation (that we, the dominant culture cause) that could have caused this man to feel driven to join a terrorist group overseas.

LePage is perpetuating a racist rhetoric, which prevents people from seeing and accepting refugees as neighbors, friends, and contributors to the local community. LePage has no factual basis for rejecting the resettlement of refugees in this state. And maybe the governor has not noticed but, the aging population and departure of young people means that Maine is shrinking. Refusing refugees through political action and hateful rhetoric that turns many away spells out dark times for the future of the state. Beyond that, we have a duty to extend some basic human decency to the people who are trying to make a life for themselves and their families in this great state. Refugees are escaping horrors that most of us (including Paul LePage) will never have to experience. They are fleeing from famine, persecution, and war. And instead of opening our arms, and giving them the chance to live the kind of life that we are so fortunate to lead, Paul LePage is slamming the door shut.


Westworld: When does consciousness intersect artificial intelligence

With six of Game of Thrones’ eight seasons now behind us, the question of the influence it is had on television is becoming more and more ripe for the asking. In many ways, Westworld – the new HBO show filling GoT’s timeslot until season seven begins – is the simultaneously enthralling and frustrating answer to that question. Game of Thrones and Westworld share a lot in common, including their composer and the way they tell their stories. That is both a good thing and a bad thing.

Westworld centers around a near-future Wild West-themed amusement park populated by nearly-human robots called hosts. Think the Frontierland section of Disneyworld, except that instead of Mickey Mouse greeting you at the gates, it is an attractive young man named Teddy who will help you find nearby bandits for a good bounty hunt. Once in the park, guests can pretty much do whatever they want with only minimal consequences: guests can be hurt but not killed by hosts, freeing them up to do essentially anything they desire.

Without saying too much about the plot (this is the kind of show where you really should not do that), Westworld follows several park administrators, maintenance workers, hosts and guests as the park’s creator, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), plans an update to the narratives and host behaviors in the park. Long story short, things get strange when some hosts in the park, including a simulation of a young woman named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), begin behaving strangely, exhibiting signs of cognition outside the parameters set by their creator. At its core, the question Westworld asks is an ontological one: what does it mean to be conscious or sentient?

Considering the age we live in, this question is crucial. We interact more and more with artificial intelligence in our daily lives, and Westworld wonders at the point of delineation at which those intelligences cease to be artificial. This thought, of humanity having created something it can no longer control, is enough to keep me interested in Westworld, just as it was for films like Ex Machina or Her. But that does not mean Westworld is without its problems.

If your main gripe with Game of Thrones is the flurry of storylines unfurling in a number of separate locations, then you should know that Westworld is little different. Between park workers, hosts and guests, there are lots of perspectives from which to tell this story. As a result, Westworld jumps around a lot, which can get a little annoying when some scenes or stories are clearly written with significantly less care than others. At times, the show’s dialogue is quite strong; any conversation between Dolores and Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard (a human in charge of overseeing host behavior) is sure to be as interesting as it is chilling. At others, the dialogue is almost unbearably cringe-worthy; I had to take a five minute break while watching last week’s episode when one character said the line “you are a butcher and that is all you’ll ever be.”

Another issue I have with Westworld is that, halfway through the show’s first season, it has asked a lot more questions than it has been willing to answer. Five episodes in, we have a sense that something is going on, but that something never seems to get much closer. For instance, viewers have known about “The Maze” from the first week, but we are still waiting for characters to find the entrance. We have the sense that Ford is up to something, but we are no closer to figuring out what that is than we were five weeks ago. Westworld is setting up all these big finishes without giving us the information we need to remain invested in how the characters get there.

And yet, these problems have not yet stopped Westworld from being a great show worthy of your time. The show has the next few weeks to sort these problems out, and I am hopeful that that will happen, if only because the notion of this show going one full season without providing any payoff from any of its “something-strange-is-afoot” narratives would constitute a true waste of my time. Besides, there is still a lot to like about this show: the soundtrack is engaging, the themes are well worth pondering, the acting is good when the script isn’t holding the actors back and Westworld is as well-shot as any television show I have seen. Whether it can overcome its inconsistent writing remains to be seen, but until then, I would say Westworld is more than worth a look.


Acapella gone wild: Sex week edition

Ned Thunem from the Deansmen sings “Let Me Go.” DREW PERLMUTTER/THE BATES STUDENT

Ned Thunem from the Deansmen sings “Let Me Go.” DREW PERLMUTTER/THE BATES STUDENT

The ManOps display love and affection for Sex Week. DREW PERLMUTTER/THE BATES STUDENT

The ManOps display love and affection for Sex Week. DREW PERLMUTTER/THE BATES STUDENT

Need an extra condom, anyone? After attending the Bates Sex Week a cappella concert, audience members are stocked up on both the flavored and lubricated rubbers that covered every table in the Fireplace Lounge this past Wednesday night. Sex Week organizers also provided information regarding healthy sex and STD statistics amongst college-aged students.

Once audience members had filled into the intimate atmosphere and observed the various condoms and pamphlets, the Deansmen strolled in snapping and singing “L-O-V-E” with Henry Baird ’17 as the soloist. I was surprised to see the Deansmen out of their tuxedos and in much more casual button-up shirts and pants, but their performance made up for their absent attire. After their first song, Baird introduced the group and the concert to the audience while making jokes regarding his lack of preparation and awkward wording.

The group quickly maintained their energy with a Deansmen classic: “Let Me Go.” My personal favorite, this song incorporates both wonderful vocals and entertaining armography; you cannot go wrong with that pair. Finally, they sang, “Sexual Healing.” The song begins by whispering, then grows into a confident and comfortable song about the power of sex in a relationship. Towards the end, the group gradually fades from the strong instrumentals of the chorus to the repetitive line “heal me my darling.” As the voices fade and ascend higher in pitch, the intimate nature of the song is revealed.

The Merimanders followed, performing the most technically strong set. Starting with “Feeling Good,” Emily Tan ’19 and Sarah Curtis ’18 demonstrate note-for-note perfection through their clear voices while the rest of the group exemplifies typical Merimanders skill for arranging scores.

After uproarious applause, the group shifts into their second piece: a mash-up of “Scrubs” and “No.” Aside from the originality of this combination, the bridge of the song builds in such a way as to truly render the frustrating experience of receiving attention in undesired ways. Towards the end of the number, the women share knowing glances; soon they break out into giggling choreography in time to the “Untouchable, untouchable” repetition in “Scrubs.” Throughout the song, they were in anticipation of this exciting and dramatic portion of the piece.

As the Merimanders leave the stage, they welcome the Manic Optimists (ManOps) to the front.

As the ManOps trickled in from the audience, I was unprepared for the drama their performance would bring. After giving pitches, they break out into the song “Inside of you.” A clear reference to sex, the song includes such phrases as “inside of you, please let me inside” and “so nice, so very nice.” The audience responds in laughter as soon as the innuendo is realized, and the ManOps maintain a serious façade until the last few lines of the song. Reaching a climax (pun intended) at the line, “it’s so much more than just a screw” the group starts to smile and the audience hardly manages to stifle their uproarious laughter.

Transitioning into their second song, the ManOps keep up their energy with the song Magic Mike made even more seductive than it already was, “Pony.” Replete with lines offering a “ride” you “won’t want to get off,” this song maintains the giggly and sexual atmosphere of their previous song. Some audience members cheer and screamed at lines such as, “juices flowing down your thigh,” suggesting that such lyrical content was unexpected due to its racy nature previously not performed so openly. Miming grinding, the singers enjoyed joking and playing with the sexual themes of both their songs.

As the above description highlights, the songs chosen by each a cappella group discuss sexual and romantic themes- appropriate choices for Bates Sex Week activities. I look forward to next year’s sex week and the songs chosen to represent what the week means to each group.


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