Bates: Cease Tracking and Critiquing Student Speech Online

Over the past several weeks, I have seen allegations in the press and on social media that Bates is surveilling students’ pro-union tweets and articles as well as privately pressuring them to change language that was critical of the administration’s anti-union campaign.

I’m a proud Bates alum, but to see my alma mater spend undoubtedly vast sums of money, time and effort on union busting and surveilling students is remarkably disappointing. 

In the fall of 2019, American labor hero and founder of United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta was invited to come speak to the incoming class at convocation. I remember her speaking of the uncontrollable income inequality that faces our country alongside homelessness, universal healthcare and empowering people to fight for economic justice. I found her to be an inspiration and was awestruck by her incredible conviction. Recently, the Sun Journal reported that she has fully thrown her support behind the unionization effort at Bates and has expressed her great disappointment in the institution. 

This is my call for Bates to put their words into action. Bates says they are committed to economic and social justice, but have slammed down the hammer on their employees and students for speaking out. Not only that, but they have resorted to institutional surveillance, which is sadly not an uncommon occurrence in anti-unionization efforts. 

I encourage students to pull back the curtain, ask the hard questions and dig deeper. Do not let pressure and criticism, special meetings and the like discourage you from uncovering the truth. People’s livelihoods are at stake. Be an advocate for your colleagues who work on your campus. 

I love Bates, but I insist that alums and students hold those with their hands on the steering wheel of the institution accountable. I turned to The Student so students know that they are not alone. Hold fast and speak your truth.

I also call on Bates administration to immediately cease tracking and critiquing student speech online. This not only sets a bad precedent, but also scares and enrages prospective students, current staff and faculty. Not to mention, you’re looking at social media accounts of students while running a massive fundraising campaign focused in part on increasing socioeconomic diversity at Bates. You can still do the right thing.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Huerta’s speech: “If we do not engage, if we do not participate, if we do not go out there and become the missionaries of truth, then nothing will change. So I’m going to ask all of these students here to, please, get engaged.”

Ryan Lizanecz is a member of the class of 2020.