The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: September 2017 Page 2 of 5

Back to Bates: A First Year’s Experience

After three weeks of living on campus and becoming adjusted to our lives as Bates students, being engaged in our classes, spending hours in Commons, and meeting new faces daily – our parents arrived. This weekend was “Back to Bates Weekend for Students and Families,” a time during which campus is filled with not only students and faculty, but parents too.

Friday night, after eating a delicious Italian dinner at DaVinci’s in Lewiston, my parents and I attended the a cappella concert, a must-see for parent’s weekend. The concert gave students and parents a little taste of the talent and creativity that is here at Bates. Although my parents both thoroughly enjoyed the concert, the most meaningful part for them came before the concert actually began.

We arrived around 7:30 p.m., watching students and parents trickle in. I sit in between my parents, telling them a bit about the different singing groups at Bates. At one point, vivid in my memory, my dad turns to me and says, “I can just tell – you are surrounded by the nicest kids and parents.” Keep in mind, my father had interacted with maybe two or three families thus far; his observation was based on the faces he saw in the Gray Cage – faces full of smiles.

The a cappella concert was one of the many highlights of the weekend. Our homecoming football game was on Saturday afternoon, a scene that attracted many families. Although we lost, it was a great way for families to mingle and get a taste of the athletics scene at Bates. There was also a dance concert at noon on Saturday and Sunday, which was another way for parents (and students) to witness the creativity at Bates. A variety of performances were shown, including preview works from The Trisha Brown Dance Company, student clubs, and independent choreographers. The dancers were impeccable, and, similar to the a cappella concert, they showed off just a fraction of our wonderful Bates student body. After talking to a handful of students at the different festivities, my parents commented on how honest each student was. Most first years commented on how their transition has mostly been smooth, but of course, there are harder parts as well. This type of honesty is refreshing, and is exactly what Bates students are; confident enough about themselves to tell a new set of parents that their transition to college has been great, but of course, there have been some difficult moments.   

Claire Kelly ’21, speaks highly of her first parent’s weekend, admitting that it was special for her to have her parents in her new home. Other first years speak of a similar experience. Eliza Blood ’21 feels that this weekend was the perfect way to introduce her family to her new life, “not just the campus, but to new friends and to Maine.” This weekend was a great stepping stone for first year parents to be given a snippet of their children’s new lives. For returning students, this weekend was an excellent way for them to introduce their parents to new and old friends. Eleanor Shields ’20 says that parent’s weekend is a great way for her to show her parents her home here in Lewiston. Last year, she was “still getting acclimated” when parents weekend came around, but this year she was able to bring her family to her favorite spots and “introduce them to all the little things that make this place home.”

Overall, Back to Bates as a member of the class of 2021 was the first introduction my parents and 509 other parents had into their children’s college lives. Anna Hadar ’21 discussed how showing her parents around the campus made her realize “how settled [she] is at Bates,” and how it has become familiar within the three short weeks she has been on campus. And for the other three classes, it allowed parents to come back to the place that has been their child’s home for two, three, or four years. My first parent’s weekend was a great success, and I cannot wait for the next three.

The Power of History and Charlottesville: A Bates Perspective

On August 11 and 12, in Charlottesville, Virginia, thousands of white nationalists, Klansmen, and Neo-Nazis gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally. One of their major objectives was protesting the proposed removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park. People across the country and world were taken aback by these worldviews and actions, and Bates College was no exception.

On Monday, September 18, the Bates History Department held a roundtable titled “Responding to Charlottesville: Historical Perspectives.” Held in the basement of Pettengill Hall, room G65 far exceeded capacity as swaths of students and professors gathered to hear what historians had to say about Confederate statues and how something like Charlottesville could happen in 2017.

Professor Christopher Petrella moderated and contributed to the talk, with the four main speakers being Bates professors Margaret Creighton (chair of the history department), Patrick Otim, and Andrew Baker, along with visiting Harvard University PhD student Robin McDowell.

Professor Baker spoke first and stated that, when looking at these events, “the value of history is just as much about absence as it is presence.” Baker’s main initial points were that we cannot isolate the history of white supremacy as unique to the South, like how Northern scholars in the Dunning School at Columbia University in the twentieth century wrote extensive literature romanticizing slavery. Baker added that “it’s on us to aim for harder targets” when confronting racism, alluding to places like parks and colleges named after controversial figures.

Margaret Creighton spoke next and recounted a story of a road trip she took years ago with her “Introduction to Historical Methods” short term class to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. While there, they met a black woman whose enslaved ancestors played key roles in allowing Union troops to advance at the Battle of Gettysburg, but today receive little recognition from the town’s historical societies. Creighton used this anecdote to combat the narrative that removing monuments was akin to erasing history: “there are so many people for whom monuments were never built and their history was never written.”

Patrick Otim followed by recounting how he flew back from his native Uganda just days before Charlottesville transpired and how the event made him question much of what he has learned about the United States. He said how, as an “outsider”, he was shocked by the racial relations in this country and how he “started questioning things and ideas like the First Amendment, freedom of speech; where I come from, these things don’t exist.” Otim then discussed how issues like white supremacy and a country’s past leaders are so different in a place like Uganda that suffered under colonialism, only to then have many Ugandan leaders become tyrants.

Robin McDowell gave the final opening remarks and discussed her leadership in Take ‘Em Down NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana), an activist group with the goal of removing Confederate monuments. She described being screamed at by enraged (at times armed) counter protesters and how this has impacted her research as a student of African-American studies. She also disliked how many people see removing Confederate statues as a superficial solution to racism: “it is not and it never was just about the statues. The monuments are tools for coalition building and community engagement.”

The panel then moved into question and answer, with Petrella asking broad questions and the public also being allowed to inquire. Questions ranged from the role art history might play in looking at these statues to how extreme groups like Antifa could help or hurt the cause.

One question that generated particular buzz amongst the speakers was how useful historians are in combatting racism in this country. All the panelists, along with professors in the audience, agreed that they and their fellow academics needed to be more active in breaching the ivory tower and to inform those willing to listen. Baker said that, for example, historians ought to spread the truth that “these statues were put up to claim public space in the name of military victory, as in white supremacy and Klansmen terrorism.” The panelists all concurred that subverting the true meaning of these statues, with lessons like the aforementioned one, is a crucial step towards stopping their lionization.

In the end, McDowell proclaimed that “wherever we tear down, we also need to build up.” In other words, we must continue the fight against systemic racism and create new social dynamics to build stronger interracial relationships.

All narratives in history have impact, but many are given more legitimacy than others. THEOPHIL SYSLO/BATES COLLEGE


Half Light: Album Review

You should know the name Rostam Batmanglij. Previously the musical brain of Vampire Weekend until leaving in 2014, most recently he’s been making a name for himself producing songs for some of the best pop artists working right now, including Frank Ocean (“Ivy”), Carly Rae Jepson (“Warm Blood”), Solange (“F.U.B.U”), and Charli XCX (“Need Ur Luv”).

Now, Rostam has finally released an album all his own, Half-Light, the production of which has been off-and-on for six years. Listening to Half-Light makes me worry for the new Vampire Weekend album that is reportedly coming soon. I remember listening to one of the early singles (“Gwan,” the best song on the album) and asking my friend, “What do you think the new Vampire Weekend will sound like?” He responded, “I think this is the new Vampire Weekend album.”

When taken out of the context of Vampire Weekend, Rostam’s influence on the band becomes much more pronounced. Within Half-Light can be found the same bright, restless strings, dusty, sharp drums and a piano that sound like it’s being played underwater. However, one of Rostam’s talents that we didn’t see much of in Vampire Weekend and one of the most pleasant surprises on the album, is his singing voice, which always sounds like it’s being delivered with a smile on his face. This warmth permeates Half-Light, an album that I would live in if I could.

The illustrative lyrics also do work in this regard, like in the blissful single, “Bike Dream,” a song destined to be a popular favorite. On Genius, Rostam annotated the lyric, “orange swimming through the trees,” saying that he liked it because it can “refer to the leaves changing, and to fall – and in doing so set the song in a specific time of year.” This attention to specificity is largely what makes Half-Light succeed in creating its own world, a world sewn together by lyrical themes that run through the album, such as seeing the ocean, light, autumn, and being known by another.

Distinctive, instrumental flourishes such as the sampled Shaker hymn and sleigh-bells on the opener, “Sumer,” and the Christmas-y strings on “Thatch Snow” crafts a pop album that pulls together familiar, nostalgic sounds to make a collection of songs that simultaneously feel like both everything and nothing you’ve heard before. Just about every song does something different from the last, making each one, at the very least, easily memorable. The jittery, electronic, R&B song “Hold You (feat. Angel Deradoorian)” is like a sister-song to Frank Ocean’s “Close To You,” and the excellent use of sitar in “Wood” will bring The Beatles to mind (though it should be mentioned that Rostam has said that the title of the song is a nod Bollywood).

Rostam came out as gay in 2010, and while he claims that not being “out” during his time with Vampire Weekend never stifled his ability to write lyrics, the breezy joy in his voice when he sings on “Bike Dream,” “Two boys, one to kiss your neck/And one to bring you breakfast,” is palpable. But to pigeonhole the perspective of Half-Light would be an active move of contrarianism against the theme of the album, identity, a fact that Rostam revealed in a recent interview with The New Yorker. Many songs are about how we see ourselves via other people, like how light appears when it refracts through the surface of water. Half-Light resembles that refraction in that you’ll be enamored with its presence for as long as it lasts. Listen if you’d like!


Commonality Through Unity

From Friday, September 22 to Sunday 24, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) held its 40th Common Grounds Fair in Unity, Maine. The MOFGA was formed in 1971 and is the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country.

Hundreds of people complete the pilgrimage to the Common Grounds fair each year to show support for small businesses that commit to sustainable, organic products. All products have to be produced and made in Maine, with the one exception being coffee, since it cannot be grown in this climate. Recently MOFGA began to accept coffee only if it was roasted in Maine.

Perhaps one of the most popular stands belonged to the Beehive Collective, an artist community that designs giant, intensely researched posters to advocate for various causes. The latest project of the Collective was the third installation in its anti-globalization trilogy. The campaign focuses on Mesoamerica’s rich history of resistance against the mega-development infrastructure of the Plan Mesoamerica project.

Jesse Saffeir ’20 worked with the Beehive Collective over the summer in Machias, Maine: “I made a digital archive of all their research and sketches for their latest graphic project. So the project took ten years to make and they compiled six binders of research and 500 sketches to go into it. I had to organize it all and take pictures of it,” she laughed.

In addition to the stands, the Common Grounds Fair offered talks and demonstrations on a sundry of topics, including Agricultural Demonstrations, Compost and Recycling, and Folk Art. One Country Kitchen Demonstration ended up going on a long, rather passionate tangent about medical marijuana uses.

The crafts area mainly consisted of three tents filled to the brim with crafts and folk art. One of the local businesses named Siena’s Maine Design Skowhegan Handwovens sold crocheted hippopotamuses. Susan Blaisdell has been running her business for five years.

“Heirloom crochet that just can be loved for years and years,” began Blaisdell, “It’s also ‘eco;’ I’m trying to focus on sustainable wool from Maine and just lovable works of art basically.” Blaisdell sells her products on Etsy and even teaches crochet tutorials on Youtube.

One of her most popular products was the “Happy Hippopotamuses,” designed by Heidi Bears. Her pattern can be found on Ravelry. “I crochet them with a worsted weight — all wool and yarn — and this yarn,” she points to the plump hippo, “comes from Bartlett yarns, so it’s right here in Maine,” said Blaisdell.

Another popular destination was Mooarhill Farm & Greenhouses, a business ran by Michele and John Pino. Large bushels of sweet annie and dried bouquets of flowers sold at Mooarhill farm were a staple good for seasoned fair goers.

“I like to have reminders of the garden through the long winter months,” said Michele Pino. “And those flowers that are there,” she pointed at the huge truck of flowers,  “the sweet annie, the celosia, and the amaranth— which is what quinoa comes from— will dry really beautifully. They darken up a little bit, but you can hang them upside down and dry them and make a swag or do whatever you want and you can have them in your house all winter. And then come spring when you can get fresh flowers again, you can just discard them. Actually the sweet annie will smell until next year’s fair.”

Mooarhill farm has earned its reputation over the years. According to Pino, “I’ve been doing this fair ever since it was in Litchfield was when it first started. The MOFGA used to have to rent fairgrounds before they owned this property. So originally, back in the 70’s it was in Litchfield, and then they outgrew Litchfield pretty quickly and they went to the Windsor fairgrounds for years and then they purchased this land…” she thought for a second, “maybe it was the early 90’s when they bought this piece of land and started developing it. I’ve come to the fair all those years, very long time.”

It is quite suitable that the fair took place in Unity, Maine. The atmosphere was safe, friendly, and full of good-will. Vendors were experts in their fields and eagerly shared their passion for their craft to fair goers. Many Batesies, after going to the fair for the first time this year, decided that they would like to take on a future in farming, and even sell their own craft at the beautiful Common Grounds Fair in the upcoming years.

The Honey Paw: A Must Eat Spot

Owned by Big Tree Hospitality, the company that also owns Eventide Oyster Co. and Hugo’s Restaurant, The Honey Paw (Portland, ME) presents a fresh spread of Asian-fusion food that is a perfect way to treat yourself on your next trip to Portland.

The easy thing to write is that The Honey Paw’s food is amazingly delicious, but that doesn’t capture the experience of this restaurant. It’s true, the food is delicious (and the drinks are good for those of us in the 21 and over club), but The Honey Paw is able to capture a wide array of Asian flavors in a smooth meal that is guaranteed to please. Whether you’re looking for rich, decadent lobster-based broth with rice noodles, or light and tangy blue-fin tuna poke, The Honey Paw has you covered.

In addition to the lobster noodle dish and poke, we had grilled shiitake mushroom skewers and lobster wontons both of which were decadent yet light and refreshing. We also ordered the pork and crab mee goreng, a wok fried noodle dish that was decadent and rich, but overly heavy. Between all of our dishes, the vegetables, such as the shiitake mushrooms, seafood, meat and sauces all worked together to create a beautifully formed meal.

Besides that fact that every dish we ordered had us humming with approval, what truly awed me about this experience was that all of the dishes molded together in a beautifully orchestrated dance. These chefs understand Asian flavors in such a way that they are able to present an entire menu that flows and ebbs effortlessly, which is quite an impressive feat for a restaurant with a changing menu. The experience felt like a quasi “create-your-own-adventure,” but there weren’t any wrong choices. In addition to great food, The Honey Paw’s waitstaff was also outstanding. Friendly, outgoing, engaged, and thoughtful, our servers made our experience that much more enjoyable.

On paper, The Honey Paw’s flavors and service appear to be part of a fine dining experience, but what really makes this restaurant such a great destination is that it isn’t fine dining. The atmosphere is casual and easygoing. Both inside the restaurant and in the surrounding area people are buzzing and having a good time. The Honey Paw shares a city block with Eventide Oyster Co. and Hugo’s Restaurant, both of which are also popular Portland picks. This formula creates an exciting atmosphere where it is easy to wind-down, relax, and enjoy. More and more, restaurants are straying away from the stuffy layout of traditional fine dining and rather, working to cultivate environments where the vibe is chill but the food is on fire.

While at first glance this destination is a bit out of the price range of the standard college student (bring your parents!), The Honey Paw’s dining format makes it more affordable for a broad customer base. Like many Asian restaurants, servers at The Honey Paw suggest ordering a few plates and sharing them all with the table. This gives diners an opportunity to dive into multiple dishes and taste a greater range of flavors. While any one dish at The Honey Paw would be delicious on its own, sharing an array of dishes brings different flavors and textures to everybody’s plate.

Whether you’re out with friends or family, The Honey Paw delivers a unique, easygoing experience that is perfect for any weekend night.

Climate Change … Isn’t That a Hoax?

As we as a nation continue to be devastated by hurricanes and other natural disasters it is hard to understand how climate change is still not a universally accepted theory.

While hearing stories of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma ravaging Texas and Florida, and other tropical storms wreaking havoc in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, I am consistently taken aback when I remember that the leader of our nation — and essentially the free world — believes climate change is a hoax. Not only has he blamed the global temperature rising on China but he has also taken steps to undo legislation and dismantle efforts at reversing this phenomenon.

But in the wake of this most recent onslaught of severe weather, I am left wondering: when will climate change move from being a topic up for political debate to something people begin to confront as a reality, and actively work to fight?

According to Wayne Drash’s September 19, 2017 CNN article, there is a consensus among environmental scientists that although Harvey and Irma were not caused by climate change itself, they were greatly intensified by it. Factors like rising sea levels and warmer ocean temperatures allowed both storms to inflict more damage than hurricanes of their size and nature in the past. Hurricanes thrive in warm water and often intensify over patches of hot water.

In fact, as a result of a three-degree temperature increase in the global oceans, Harvey and Irma were able to gain significant traction, and become even more dangerous. As a result of rising sea levels, many areas of the United States and around the world have become more susceptible to harmful flooding. These two factors leave the U.S. in a vulnerable position. And, to top it all off, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leader claimed it would be “insensitive to talk about climate change” in the wake of these storms, and President Trump used hyperbole to mask the severity of the storms and the urgency needed for climate action.

In the wake of these environmental tragedies, it is important we support our fellow Americans. Relief for survivors and victims of these storms should not be used as a leveraging point in DACA negotiations nor in any other negotiation that may take place in the near future. We must continue to work together in supporting those affected by severe weather, while also working to limit the frequency and severity of these storms in the future.

While our current government officials seem to be actively working against progressive climate policy and action, it may feel useless or ineffective to rally together for structural change or commit to individually lowering your carbon footprint, but now more than ever is when this type of engagement is needed. Trump may have pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord and set an international precedent on how the U.S. will act in regards to the environment, but other nations have re-committed, and are carrying the metaphorical weight of the world toward a better global climate.

There are several things we as Bates students can do to reduce our school’s environmental impact as well as our own. First, ride a bike or scooter or use those fine legs of yours to get around campus. If you need to drive, make sure to carpool and turn your engine off when you are not driving, limiting idling and the release of pollutants. Turn the light off in your room or the bathroom when its not in use. And, most importantly, recycle or return any paper, plastic, or cans you consume late on Saturday morning!

Field hockey team confident after tough losses at beginning of season

The field hockey team has started off their season with a 3-4 record, 1-3 in the NESCAC. Although the record may not reflect it, they have played every game competitively, losing two games in overtime, to Hamilton and Bowdoin. These were two of their first three games, which also included a loss to Montclair State. Despite starting the season with three losses, they then turned it around and rattled off three wins, beating Maine-Farmington, Thomas, and Wesleyan.

This past weekend included the win over Wesleyan with a score of 4-2 on Saturday. On the win, Caroline O’Reilly ’18 says, “I’m feeling optimistic. We are only going to get stronger as the season continues.”

Bates went into the half tied at one after a goal by Ally Leahy ’20. In the second half, the Bobcats scored again to go up 2-1, with the goal coming from Taylor Lough ’19. Victoria McGee ’20 scored next to make the score 3-1. After a Wesleyan goal brought the Cardinals back to within one, Lough would score another goal later in the game to seal the victory 4-2. Sydney Beres ’18 says, “We are such a strong team this year.”

On Sunday, the Bobcats dropped a game to Williams by a score of 3-2. Williams is ranked Number 12 nationally, but the Bobcats played well despite losing by a goal. The two goals were scored by Lough and Grace Fitzgerald ’20. Lough opened up the scoring for Bates in the 20th minute, tying the game at one apiece, but the team was then held scoreless until the goal by Fitzgerald on a penalty near the end of the game. In between the two Bates goals, Williams scored two more, one in the first half and one in the second, to get to three goals. Bates was outshot 20-9 overall. On the loss, O’Reilly says, “We’re taking a lot of lessons from each game and hopefully everything will come together.”

Despite the loss, the team is optimistic about the rest of the season. The losses have all been by only one goal, so the Bobcats are clearly competitive within the NESCAC. In addition, all the losses have been to ranked teams, none outside of fifteenth in the nation. Because of this, the Bobcats are not out of the running for the rest of the season, but will be a strong team with the potential to turn those close games into wins as the season continues on. Beres says, “We have eight games left in the regular season and we are ready to take on the NESCAC and out-of-conference games.” This confidence should help the team moving forward.

When asked about the team as a whole, Beres says, “The first-years have made a big impact on the field so far. In addition, the returners are continuing to bring an intensity to our practices and games that is helping us day in and day out.” Despite the 3-4 record, the team is not counting themselves out. Between both the returners and the first-years, the team is ready to be a competitive factor in the NESCAC.

Up next is a game against Trinity at home this Saturday, September 30th. On this contest, Beres says, “We are focused on our goals and ready to take on Trinity next weekend.” The game will be at 11:00 a.m._DSC7131

Report Shows Disappointing Voter Turnout Statistics for Bates

From its very founding by abolitionists to its history as one of the first coeducational undergraduate institutions in the nation, Bates has prided itself on its reputation as a college brimming with active political awareness. However, according to a study conducted at Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, only 43.5% of eligible Bates students voted in the 2016 election. While this number increased by 1.9% from 2012, Bates fell below the national voting average of 50.4% for all institutions. Interestingly, Bates boasted a high registration rate of 71% – but those numbers weren’t reflected in the polls. The data also elucidated that 41.9% of eligible female students at Bates voted as opposed to 38.7% eligible male students. Field of study was also a significant variable in the report as well – the majors that attracted the most voters were History and Biological and Biomedical studies, and the majors that attracted the least were Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Visual and Performing Arts.

Among those disappointed by this report were the staff at the Harward Center for Community Partnerships. I spoke to Peggy Rotundo, the director of Strategic and Policy Initiatives, and Brenna Callahan, a recent Bates graduate and a Civic Leadership Fellow for the Center. The Center was tremendously disappointed by the statistic, especially given the impressive registration rate Bates was able to achieve this past year. In fact, the college won the 2016 “Voter Reg Rumble” – a statewide contest where institutions at different levels compete to get the most students registered to vote – hosted by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. “But then we got these numbers,” remarks Callahan, “and saw that only 43% of our students voted. So it was interesting to see such energy around registration – but then only about 60% of those [students who were already registered] actually voted.” Still, they refuse to relinquish their efforts to increase political engagement and numbers at Bates – in fact, the Center is galvanized. “We’ve always worked hard to do nonpartisan voter registration,” says Rotundo, “and the fact that we had such a low percentage of our student body voting in the 2016 election made us even more motivated to get students registered to vote.” Along with direct voter registration, the Center is working on long range efforts to improve political literacy around the school, such as on-campus policy debates and initiatives to educate the student body on ballot questions and local candidates. For National Voter Registration Day this September 26, the center will be teaming up with student groups all week to register students. Students will be able to come to Commons starting Monday, September 25 all the way through Friday, September 29 and will be provided with instructions on how to fill out the short voter registration card. Students may register to vote in Maine or in their home states, and must provide the last four digits of their Social Security number if they do not have a Maine driver’s license or state I.D. The process generally takes a few minutes.

The Bates College Democrats are a group similarly distressed by the numbers articulated in the study. While the club itself has a partisan lean, the club’s president, Megan Currie, stressed that party alliance was immaterial in the context of maximizing voter turnout. “Obviously, I’m the president of the Democrats, so I tend to vote a certain way,” started Currie, “but I don’t care which party [students] register with when they vote. I just want them to vote, and to show up on election day.” The group is particularly energized to improve student voter turnout for the November 7 municipal election, where Lewiston residents will have the chance to vote for a new mayor. Max Gardner, a member of the Bates Democrats’ board, noted that “as citizens, voting is our most effective tool to express our feelings towards government and elected officials.” Gardner expressed hope that Bates students would channel frustrations over the incumbent mayor’s administration into action, stating that “it seems like there is discontent among many Bates students with some of the policies of our current mayor, Robert MacDonald, so I hope that these students take advantage of this incredibly consequential tool and vote this year.”

As national voter registration and a crucial local election looms in the very near future, Bates students have only one basic responsibility: to show up.


Let Catalans Decide

Surely we’ve all heard of Barcelona, Spain, a city world-famous for its beauty, history, and soccer team. But did you know that Barcelona is within a region in Spain’s northeast called Catalonia, an autonomous community with its own parliament, history, culture, politics, and language distinct from that of Spain? Because of this, many Catalans are not satisfied with their current autonomy within Spain and want total independence.

In the 2015 Catalan regional election, the population decisively elected a pro-independence government who promised a referendum on the issue. This referendum was scheduled to take place on October 1st of this year, but Spain’s government is outright hostile to the idea of Catalan independence. On September 8th, Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended the October 1st referendum due to an appeal by Spain’s government. Later in the month on September 20th, Spain’s Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) raided the offices of the Catalan government, arrested a dozen officials, and seized information pertaining to the referendum and ballot papers.

So why should a Bates student care about these events that are taking place 3,500 miles away from campus? For one, it should disturb everyone that a so-called “western democracy” is denying the rights of an entire group to self-determination. We saw in 2015 how the Scottish referendum took place peacefully without issue. Both sides had ample opportunity to present their cases to the Scottish people, and Scotland rejected independence in the end.

This raises the question: What is the Spanish government so afraid of? Why does it care about the possibility of Catalan independence so much that it acts against the basic rights of the Catalan people? The reality is quite simple. Catalonia, as a region, is crucial for Spain’s economy. Barcelona is Spain’s second biggest city and one of its most crucial financial centers. Catalonia contributes about 20 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP). An independent Catalonia would not be in the interest of Spanish business interests.

Faced with Catalonia’s wish for independence and Spain’s deteriorating economic situation, Spain’s pro-austerity government has two options at hand: one, let Catalonia secede peacefully and impose further austerity on the Spanish people to compensate for GDP losses, or two, interfere with the Catalan people’s right to self-determination and avoid risking losses in popularity among the general population.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his “People’s” Party cannot serve two masters at once. His neoliberal government has carried out a program of austerity that seeks to reign in the current economic crisis by cutting social services when youth unemployment is still nowhere near pre-2008 levels — 38.6 percent to be exact.

It should become clear that there is a loser in the relationship between Catalonia and Spain, and it’s the Catalan people. Their labor provides the nation with 20 percent of its total GDP, yet all they get in return is repression from the Rajoy government. What respect does the Spanish Government have for Catalans if they use them to keep Spain’s economy afloat but will only agree to view them as a dependency?

But we still must remember that independence won’t necessarily be an end-all-be-all for the Catalan people. They are still under a pro-austerity leader themselves, Carles Puigdemont, and his agenda must be fought if the people are to liberate themselves from the grip of austerity. But even though the battle against austerity would continue in an independent Catalonia, Catalonia throwing off their chains would be a strong signal to the international community that national oppression must be opposed and right to self determination of all peoples must be respected.

The Catalan people have the right to voice their anger at the Spanish government at the polls on October 1st. They have the right to say that they have had enough of the repression of their rights. They have the right to say that they want to determine their future for themselves.

We went behind the doors of President Spencer’s study and chatted with her about the vibe she hopes will be present on campus this year.  Covering topics from Bates’ response to the proposed repeal of DACA, the class of 2021, the importance of the liberal arts education, and more this article sheds some light on what our president sees for college’s immediate ten month future.  The article has been edited for grammar.


The Bates Student (TBS): What is the tone that you hope this year will embody? You mention most of this in your Remarks at Convocation, but if there is anything else that you would like to add.

Clayton Spencer (CS): I would love this year to celebrate the strengths of Bates where we have been building year-to-year with our three best admission years ever, our highest Fulbright year ever, our best athletic season last year, winning the Women’s North American National Debate Championship. We have a lot to be proud of and I want us to embrace that and I would love the world to know more about what Bates students are capable of, and the wonderful outcomes we have. I’d also love to get to a place that I think we are working very hard on, on genuine communication and a mutuality on the student social scene, and making sure that we find the right balance of robust, vibrant social life for students, yet safety and the right balance between off-campus and on-campus options and social venues. I feel like we haven’t gotten the balance right yet, and we’re getting a ton of really great ideas and feedback and interactions with students, so I think we’re going to be moving in the right direction there. We’re also about to get a new Head of Security, which I think can be a great part of resetting that. So I’d like this to be a joyous, optimistic year. I think there are tough issues nationally on all sorts of questions: free speech, equity and inclusion that affect campus climate, and I’d like us to manage those with the kind of creative, communal approach that Bates excels in.


TBS: What are you most looking forward to about the present first-year class, the class of 2021?

CS: The thing that I am most looking forward to is getting to know the students, and that’s in each class because you guys are smart, you’re funny, you’re idealistic, you are witty, you have taste in music that are so far beyond me, so it’s just for me, really fun and joyous to actually deal with the students we are here to educate. You are the reason we are all here. I’m not the reason we’re here, nobody else is, you all are the reason we’re all here. So the more I get to know students, the more I am infused on a daily basis with the mission of what we are doing, and the more fun it is.


TBS: In your statement on DACA you state, “Bates remains committed to admitting students without regard to their immigration status and to ensuring the safety and support of all students while on campus.” Can you elaborate on how revoking DACA would be contrary to Bates’ essential nature?

CS: I think revoking DACA would be contrary to America’s essential nature, which is that talented, young people, wherever they come from, ought to have the ability to realize their hopes and dreams. And Bates certainly was founded with that core principle in mind. In fact, we were a hundred years ahead of many of our peers in embracing students from all walks of life, et cetera. The 800,000 DACA participants, some of which are students and some of which are working, young adults, are talented, hard-working people who are part of the future of America. So I think it goes against everything of defining American ideals, and certainly everything that defines Bates.


TBS: In your convocation remarks you state, “Never has the humanistic project of the liberal arts been more important. Never has this form of education been more needed–or more challenged.” What is Bates doing to combat these challenges?

CS: I think what we’re doing is trying to teach our students to approach intellectual work, their own development, and the notion of social contribution with rigor and integrity. So when we talk about intellectual work, it’s learning to work hard on problems, to reason from evidence, to realize that in a democracy, you need to persuade people of a point-of-view, you need to be open to divergent points-of-view. Free speech is fundamental, so is respect for others. So in every dimension of how students are developing, which is intellectually, also as a whole person, and hopefully as leaders and contributors to a larger social good–that’s everything that Bates is about, both in the liberal arts as the academic core, and our community engaged work in the notion of Purposeful Work, which is aligning what you do with what your deepest interests are. And in preparing you guys to be creative, adaptable agents in the world ahead of you.


TBS: A small follow-up question, why is the liberal arts education so vital right now? Has there been a change, a pivot point that you’ve seen in the past couple of months, couple years?

CS: I would say that given the many forms of communication–social media, segmented access to news and information–the notion of having a common set of facts, the ability to interpret however one wishes from a common set of facts is really at risk. So I think the liberal arts–the integrative thinking, the commitment to truth, the notion that facts matter–these what we all know that in the last several years, these very basic notions that many of us probably took for granted, both as Americans and as educators, have come under attack. A lot of that has to do with the manner and means of communication, some of it is more cynical and political in nature.


TBS: Our final question, what is something you hope to change about yourself this year in relation to Bates, or yourself in general?

CS: I’d like to get my tennis game back, that’s thing one. And change myself in relation to Bates, I would love to spend more time on campus with students. Last year we launched our fundraising campaign–largest fundraising campaign in Bates history–$300 million goal. We’ve already raised $168 million before we’ve even launched, so we’re in great shape. But to do that I was off campus more than I would like and I really would like to be on campus participating more than I was able to last year.


TBS: I actually just have a small question, I was just percolating in my head. You as a highly, highly educated person, very impressive list of schools that you’ve attended, just population-wise, what do you see the value of a small, 1,800-person community as?

CS: Okay, so let me first just note that I grew up on the campus of a liberal arts college, Davidson College in North Carolina. And I went to Williams College, so another small NESCAC. So my first, and most deeply ingrained model of education is the residential liberal arts college. What I think it has to offer is education at a deeply human scale. I think that allows us, more than any other model, to take on the project of educating the whole person, and I think it’s an inspiring and highly effective model.  

Halley Posner '18 of Southport, Conn., (white shirt) and Jeanne Hua '18 of Honolulu (black shirt) editors from The Bates Student, interview President Clayton Spencer in her second-floor Lane Hall office.

Halley Posner ’18 of Southport, Conn., (white shirt) and Jeanne Hua ’18 of Honolulu (black shirt) editors from The Bates Student, interview President Clayton Spencer in her second-floor Lane Hall office. PHYLLIS GRABER JENSEN/BATES COLLEGE

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