For those who don’t know, there is a prominent divide between students of color and white students on this campus. Of course, it’s not clear-cut, but it is absolutely there.
Everyone naturally gravitates toward people that they feel more comfortable around. Though others might see this separation as a problem to be fixed, I don’t see it that way. The main social spaces including clubs and organizations at Bates aren’t made with students of color at the forefront of people’s minds, and so people of color create their own spaces.
I do wish, though, that the Bates events which receive such a great deal of funding from the college didn’t cater so exclusively to white students. I recently spoke to Nick Dressler, the Assistant Director of Campus Life, about Village Club Series (VCS) featuring majority white artists and having historically been a space which catered to white students. The problem with events like VCS that have featured majority white artists in genres like folk and indie are that they take up cultural, financial, and physical space on campus. From my perspective, they make it such that students of color don’t have proper “breathing room,” to enjoy regularly occurring events like these that are most likely very restorative for the students who do attend.
I would like to see queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) resisting through different forms of art, or spaces that in other ways give me the opportunity to imagine beyond the limitations of neo-colonial thought which is especially prominent in academia. There comes a point where you wonder, though, who really wants to come to Maine? Am I being selfish by asking QTPOCs to travel here? Honestly, probably. Yeah.
But I think it’s time for change on this campus, with regards to how we normalize a status quo of folk music and hiking, simply because the majority of students enjoy it. I think it’s time for people on this campus who are culturally marginalized by whiteness, Americanness, and heteronormativity being so often at the forefront—students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and international students—to feel fulfilled by not only certain private functions but by intentional public space-making. What does this look like to you all?
I’m a senior now, and I’m eager to see change for future students at Bates. It’s been clear lately that Bates doesn’t prioritize the emotional wellbeing of students of color in more ways than one, evading legal trouble and continuing to exploitatively tout diversity in the meantime, but who knows? Maybe the way Bates operates can change. But, it’s not going to be easy if the administration doesn’t heed to the demands of Bates+Who?
I advise students who are coming in to Bates this year with marginalized identities and experiences, to do two things: first, go http://www.bates.edu/campus/events/village-club-series/ and apply to be on the VCS crew. After Nick received me in his Instagram DMs, he swiftly made the position paid which we both agreed could encourage more students of color to apply. Second, get thinking about how you could feel more comfortable on this campus, and start mobilizing for your wellbeing and that of your community. You are valuable. You are important. And you are worth way more than a fraction of cultural space, and a tokenizing Bates Instagram feature.