The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Chris Hassan Page 1 of 2

A Thesis Critiquing… Thesis

As is a mandatory right-of-passage for all seniors, I completed my senior thesis for my Politics major last December. Since deliberating in February 2018, I had gone through several iterations of my thesis question, read at least several hundred pages of articles and books, and ended up with sixty-six pages of final draft material. Through endless hours of meticulous reading and dedicating (without exaggeration) every day and night of my Thanksgiving break to revisions, I bound my physical copy on December 6. Surrounded by my closest friends, I was trembling from breathing the deepest sigh of relief of my life; I had done it. My thesis journey was by no means exceptionally difficult, especially when compared to those students working on high honors and with original data. Nevertheless, from my first hour of initial research in Ladd to the very moment I printed the last page of my bibliography, I couldn’t help but wonder: was it all worth it? To write a thesis is, for us undergrads, a privilege in many ways. It is a perfect writing sample to send to future employers, allowing us to synthesize the courses of our majors, and forcing us to break apart what makes for a compelling argument. But as it is currently run, a thesis argument is catered to an academic audience. Thesis is by design meant to simulate an upper-level dissertation we might encounter in graduate school, be it for an MA or even a Ph.D. To be sure, academic writing is often insightful and very important to advancing our understanding on higher ideas, but it is anything but accessible. In this vein, senior thesis prioritizes neither a creative approach to writing nor one that is especially multifaceted. Our thesis question and the summary of our subsequent argument needs to be incredibly specific and constantly follow a precise academic writing style. You’re probably familiar with the common expression, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I don’t buy that. If my Politics major has taught me anything, it’s that good questions and arguments don’t have easy answers. More radically, one answer doesn’t need to be indisputable to be useful. Politics, the humanities at large, and even the hard sciences need to reconcile that the real world, the one outside of Bates, is full of the questions and puzzles that should be answered in ways that aren’t reduced to sixty pages. At the end of the day, these opinions are my experience and my experience alone. I knew long before senior year that I was not naturally adept at academic writing and was not much of a debater. I am still proud of the thesis I wrote. But as I said, I prefer my opinions to be general and constantly evolving, not fixed into a precise, packageable statement. In many ways, my critique of senior thesis is more a critique of academia itself, and the blame for that can’t possibly be put on any lone professor or university. However, I have come to the personal conclusion that thesis needs to be changed. That which would replace thesis, as it currently exists, is up for debate. The simplest solution would be to make it voluntary by removing it as a requirement for graduation. Perhaps capstone projects and interactive research within the local community or abroad could be given greater funding and institutional support. We could even remove the argumentative foundations of thesis and instead turn it into an exploratory exercise. I by no means have the answers to these questions. That’s the point. We don’t need to immediately and conclusively have an answer to solve and explore a problem. We are a tiny school and a close-knit community. We have the time, resources, and interpersonal rapport to come together and find new ways to foster intellectual rigor as we bid our seniors farewell.

Roses Need to Start Sprouting

This past Midterm cycle, Democrats made massive gains all across the country. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Sharice Davids; all Democrats, all women of color, with Omar being Muslim and Davids being queer, all notably further to the left than Democrats of years past. Even the unsuccessful senatorial race of Beto O’Rourke v. Ted Cruz in Texas was historic since O’Rourke managed to win 48.3% of the vote compared to Cruz’s 50.9%. For a Democrat to come that close in the staunchly red state of Texas was nothing short of historic.

And indeed, O’Rourke has not stopped getting press since his noble defeat. Tons of buzz has been going all around Democratic circles in recent weeks encouraging him to run for president in 2020. O’Rourke and Democrats like him are certainly reliably liberals and against the tide of Trumpism. Indeed, I can say for sure that O’Rourke has the kind of charisma that could catapult him into becoming the Democratic nominee. Although I am more want to see a Kamala Harris candidacy, he’d have my vote if that’s where we end up in 2020.

But I fear we are not going to end up there. I fear we might wind up with another Hillary Clinton candidacy, with a centrist like Joe Biden, or if hell freezes over, with a billionaire like Michael Bloomberg. The antidote to far-right nationalism is not centrism. It is not regressive compromise for the sake of “bipartisanship”, and it is not neoliberalism. To put our country on the right path, we need to combat Trumpism with actual leftists and progressives. We need candidates, presidential and congressional, who will abolish and prosecute I.C.E. We need candidates who will push towards expanding Medicare to the point of creating a single-payer system. We need candidates who will stop fanning the flames of war abroad and roll back drone strikes in Yemen. We need candidates who will understand that a New Green Deal is our only hope for even mitigating the impending climate disaster.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe a presidential candidate like that could realistically happen in my lifetime. The window of acceptable dialogue for the Right has only become more extreme while it has stayed static for the Left since Bill Clinton. It would take a total overhaul for a presidential candidate to speak like Ocasio-Cortez or Andrew Gillum. While our president and the Republicans step closer to white nationalism and crony capitalism every day, Democrats remain too afraid to tap into the politics of identity and real economic anxiety that affect our country.

That’s why our fight needs to be fought on multiple fronts. At the state level, we need to pay attention to our local elections and demand that our state senators and city council people listen to our voices. At the congressional level, we need far, far more Ilhan Omars and Sharice Davids than we have. With these in our arsenal, we can at least put pressure on a candidate like O’Rourke or Harris to be more bold in their campaign promises.

Ultimately, though, the federal government at any level won’t be enough. Voting will never be enough. Big institutions like government matter, but for better or worse they will always be too mired in bureaucracy and international issues to focus on day-to-day matters. The killings of POC by police, hate crimes, declining health standards, the collapse of local economies: all of these are real issues we must help one another with. We can’t depend on big government and national politics to fully amend these ills.

For the change we want, we need to rebuild solidarity within our communities. But although the Presidency and Congress are never going to fully end police brutality, opioid deaths, or turn our economy green, they are a good place to start the conversation.


White Colonial Amnesia

This administration, and the American people at large, have time and again shown that they hate immigrants of color.

Trump’s administration has boisterously supported banning refugees and asylum seekers from the Middle East and, more recently, Honduras and Central America. The president recently announced his plans to violate the 14th Amendment and cancel birthright citizenship for the children of non-citizens in the US. Earlier this year, we witnessed thousands of children locked in concentration camps after being separated from their parents by ICE, a process still happening as I write this article.

In response to this white nationalist agenda has come a strong, pro-immigrant reaction. Well-meaning white liberals across the country have rightfully denounced the fascist practices of immigration enforcement. They have tweeted and hashtagged that the United States is a nation founded, built, and sustained by immigrants, of whom we citizens are all descendants. A viral photo that circulated this 4th of July showed a white woman holding a sign that read “What’s your American heritage,” to which the only answerable options were Native Americans, slaves, refugees, and/or immigrants.

This idea is echoed by pieces of pop culture like the hit musical “Hamilton.” Its most famous line goes “immigrants, we get the job done” in an exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette, portrayed by two men of color. This narrative aims to paint the United States as a nation of immigrants, for immigrants, and by immigrants since its very beginnings in the 1700s. But these talking points omit an entirely different, much less picturesque group: colonizers.

There are still many white Americans whose ancestors came here during the 16th-17th centuries from England, France, and the Netherlands. These settlers, although often escaping adversity and poverty themselves, did not come here en masse as peaceful workers seeking to better this country. They settled and stole land previously inhabited by First Nations peoples, thousands of whom were killed by gunfire and invasive plagues. Many others were sold into slavery up and down the Atlantic.

These Europeans were extensions of a larger imperial project that continues to lead to the slaughter of indigenous communities to this day. From the perspective of First Nations people, these were not wayward immigrants pursuing the American dream. Men like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson were not “immigrants” or the “descendants” of immigrants, but colonizers on indigenous land.

I’m not saying every single European who came to colonial North America was a bloodthirsty conqueror. Furthermore, millions of white Americans do in fact have noble ancestry stories. Many of our ancestors came from Ireland, Poland, Germany, Italy, and beyond to escape poverty, religious persecution, and ethnic conflict to build a better life in the 19th century. Many Latinx communities were already living here, since much of the American West was Mexican and Spanish Territory during the same period.

Today, however, in our attempts to show solidarity with immigrants of color, we whitewash US history and do not deconstruct what being an “immigrant” really means. This idea that the Founding Fathers and the white Americans who came after them were all immigrants like today’s asylum seekers excludes the perspective and experiences of First Nations people.

This narrative about immigration absolves white liberals, myself included, of taking responsibility for the systemic benefits these conquistadores set up in their earliest stages. Worst of all, the viral picture previously mentioned tries to include First Nations people in the story of America’s heritage but excludes the colonial legacy that actively attempts to expunge them from this country.

We, white Americans, must do all we can to resist deportations, free all prisoners in immigration camps, and reunite children with their families. But we cannot turn immigration into a colorblind issue, as it is anything but. We cannot act like all our ancestors came to this land on equal moral footing.


Spotlights on First-Generation Bobcats: Part II

At the beginning of this semester, I spoke to several first-year students who are the first members of their immediate families to go to college. That article was the first in a series whereby we at The Bates Student will check-in with our trio at the beginning and end of each semester to see how they grow as students and as people. This is the second entry in that series.

Deandra “DJ” Hyman ’21 of Hartford, Connecticut looking to major in Asian Studies

What do you think of Bates so far?

So far, being on Bates Campus has been an eye opening experience. Thinking back on this last semester, I have encountered new experiences daily, whether academically or socially, and it has given me the chance to grow as a college student.

What groups have you become involved with?

I spend the majority of my time in Knit Wits but I am also a member of Caribbean Students Association (CSA).

What was the highlight of your semester?

It is hard to pinpoint a specific highlight. I often find small moments throughout my day that have added to the overall experiences of my semester. It can be the interesting conversations that I have in class or it can be learning a new phrase in my language classes.

What was something that challenged you significantly?

Something that challenged me significantly was finding a good method of time management and organization.

What are your goals for the winter semester?

My goal for the winter semester is to improve my study habits in my language classes.

Monica Luna ’21 of Avondale, Arizona/Adjuntas del Refugio, Mexico looking to major in Economics

What do you think of Bates so far?

I think Bates is a great school where you can be independent and find yourself. There are so many things that students can be a part of and explore but it relies on the person to open up and reach out. This year I believe I did that for myself and I am so thankful that I got to explore subjects inside and outside of my comfort zone.

What groups have you become involved with?

I am a part of the Student Affairs Committee and I work at the IT Help Desk.

What was the highlight of your semester?

The highlight of my semester had to be the moment I wrote a song with my friends Ian and Carlson. During our “Singer-Songwriter in History” class… I took over the lyrics while Ian and Carlson took over the music. It was a great moment for me because I felt like I was in my happy place. For me, I was writing poetry like I used to and it was so easy to do something I enjoyed.

What was something that challenged you significantly?

I took an Econ 101 course this semester and it was definitely challenging at first. I felt like I threw myself into something I had no knowledge of and my first exam really opened my eyes. I did not do great and that only made me feel so insecure about myself but after I talked to my friend Jennie, she encouraged me to keep going. I tried different methods of studying and I began to understand. I definitely do not feel 100 percent comfortable but I do know that it is possible for me to be great.

What are your goals for the winter semester?

My goals are to pursue Economics as my major. I am very excited and nervous because I want to explore before I declare, but I have amazing people in my life who will push me to take risks.


Medicaid Passes and Bates Responds

The past several months on campus have been abuzz with talk of local Maine elections and get-out-the-vote initiatives. On November 7, Bates students and Maine residents rushed to the polls to vote on the local mayoral election, an initiative to merge Lewiston and Auburn into one city, along with other statewide initiatives.

One of the most significant statewide ballot initiatives, which was ultimately passed, was Question 2, titled “Medicaid Expansion Initiative.” Since being approved by the electorate, this measure will “require the state to provide Medicaid through MaineCare for persons under the age of 65 and with incomes equal to or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line,” according to Ballotpedia.

The New York Times reports that this initiative will make over 70,000 Mainers eligible for Medicaid and will specifically help hospitals and patients in rural areas of the state. Maine is the first state where the expansion of Medicaid was decided by a referendum vote and not by legislators or governors. The success of the ballot question is particularly pertinent given the ongoing efforts of Republicans and the Trump Administration to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Sun Journal, the ballot question received a comfortable majority of nearly 60 percent, yet there is reason to believe its implementation may be stagnant. Governor Paul LePage, who spoke against the initiative from the beginning, immediately said he would not implement Medicaid expansion until it received full funding from the Legislature. This statement has prompted Democrats in the Legislature state that they will tirelessly fight any obstruction to implementing the referendum. Republicans in the Legislature, meanwhile, have stated that they will respect the decision of the voters but will neither increase taxes nor dip into Maine’s rainy day funds to pay for the initiative.

According to the Beacon, it was Governor LePage’s vetoes on past health care legislation that prompted Mainers for Health Care, the organization who spearheaded the “Yes on Question 2” campaign, to go out and collect signatures to put the question of Medicaid to a popular vote.

Here at Bates, many students and faculty alike have had mixed reactions to seeing this initiative passed. Megan Currie ’19, President of the Bates College Democrats, said it “was heartening to see Question 2 pass so convincingly on Election Day this year. Medicaid expansion is an important step forward, and it is particularly exciting to know that Bates students were able to have a voice in this decision.”

James Erwin ’18, president of the Bates College Republicans, was much more skeptical. According to Erwin ’18, “Medicaid expansion fifteen years ago resulted in a succession of budgetary crises, mounting hospital debts, and stop-gap measures such as selling the state liquor industry or consolidating Maine schools to find money to pay for it. The number of uninsured people in Maine barely declined at all… The State of Maine has been struggling economically and demographically for years; we simply do not have the money for this.”

Among Bates faculty, I spoke to Peggy Rotundo, Director of Strategic and Policy Initiatives at the Harward Center, who was ecstatic to see Question 2 passed. Rotundo shared with me a letter she penned to the Sun Journal on November 1 to express her support for the soon-to-be-passed ballot question. During her sixteen years serving in the Maine state Legislature, she heard stories about people without health care that haunt her to this day: “the working woman in her 50s that was diagnosed with cancer, but had no insurance; the student who lost her insurance and couldn’t continue with her college education without the drugs necessary to treat her mental illness… The list goes on and on.”

For now, we must wait to see how the politics play out. For those interested in local elections, Lewiston is having a runoff mayoral election on December 12 between candidates Ben Chin and Shane Bouchard. Early voting at Lewiston City Hall has already begun.

Students encourage their fellow students to vote. PHYLLIS GRABER JENSEN/BATES COLLEGE

Students encourage their fellow students to vote. PHYLLIS GRABER JENSEN/BATES COLLEGE

Pondering Free Speech at Bates

Across the country students, professors, pundits, and politicians are arguing what does and what does not to constitute free speech, as well as what official stances universities should take on the matter. Bates College, however, is not shying away from these tense yet important topics. On Wednesday November 1, Professor Margaret Imber led a “Free Speech Salon” with several professors, staff, and students in attendance.

According to Imber, “members of the faculty have formed a committee and are working on a statement of principles on free speech,” which they hope to propose by winter’s end. “Whatever formulation the Faculty ultimately approves will have an effect on campus. The Salons are opportunities for students and staff to provide insight on how formulations might affect them and to provide the faculty with the benefit of their thinking.”

Each table was given the exercise to act as Bates administrators and decide how they would react to a hypothetical free speech crisis on campus. Wednesday’s crisis was inspired by news stories about free speech controversies that Imber had tracked down.

My table consisted of Imber, Professor Myra Wright, Nick Morgoshia ’21, and two other patrons who asked to remain anonymous, whom we will call D and M. Our scenario consisted of events that took place after a homophobic incident between two students. OutFront plans a protest in front of Lane Hall, which leads to a white supremacist militia from Lewiston accompanied by a group of Bates students to counter-protest, which subsequently leads an Antifa group from Portland to arrive on campus to join OutFront. Our job was to decide if the off-campus groups should be allowed onto Bates property, if any protests should be allowed to happen at all, and what statement, if any, Clayton Spencer should make post hoc.

Imber caveated the talk by stating that “Bates has no policy on outside groups coming onto campus, but we are a private institution so we could simply kick them off.”

Much of the conversation was contingent on the violence the white supremacist militia and Antifa group would undoubtedly incite. For M, “the pivotal part remains outside groups coming onto campus. From a free speech point-of-view for groups on campus, it doesn’t really matter.”

D later added that Bates would have the responsibility to distinguish between the ideologies of the groups coming onto campus. For him, it “isn’t just a simple difference of opinion. These are the sort of views that are dangerous,” referring to the white supremacist views; “explicitly violent speech or not doesn’t matter, because the result is violence.” On this topic, it was mentioned how controversial speakers like Charles Murray have unintentionally incited violence at their speeches on campuses. Morgoshia then asked “should a guy like Murray be invited,” even though he would not be as explicitly violent as the white supremacists or Antifa. To this, Wright rhetorically asked “what reason do we have for inviting them [Murray et al]. Are we there to listen, to learn, to engage?”

In the end, our table decided that all violence was unacceptable, and thus on campus groups would be allowed to protest outside Lane Hall while the white supremacist militia and Antifa would be forbidden. We also concurred that President Spencer should release a statement condemning the violence of the off-campus groups and state that Bates abides by freedom of speech. There was, however, disagreement as to whether or not she should distinguish between the ideologies and specifically condemn the white supremacists.

At the neighboring table with the same hypothetical, Charlotte Karlsen ’20 told me her group was called upon answer some big questions: “Were we [Bates] inherently created to serve solely those inside our classrooms, or the greater world? What value should we place on emotional wellbeing? Should the school be playing the offensive or defensive with predicting what material/language might be upsetting to the student body?” Despite these difficult questions, Karlsen said it was clear to her that “the student body and administration at Bates are fiercely committed to one another. This is a discussion we must be having because it defines what that commitment looks like.”

More Free Speech Salons will be planned for the coming months, so be on the lookout for opportunities to make your voice heard about how we should hear voices.

Free Speech Salon

Batesies are stepping up and saying what free speech means to them. CHRISTOPHER HASSAN/THE BATES STUDENT

Ibram X. Kendi Explains How to Not Be a Racist

National conversations surrounding racism and racial divides are at their most potent in decades. On Monday, October 23, Bates College joined this conversation with Ibram X. Kendi, a Professor of International Relations and History at American University and author of the National Book-award winning opus, Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. The talk, titled “How to be an Antiracist,” was hosted by the Office of Equity and Diversity in Gomes Chapel with pews upon pews packed with Bates students, professors, and Lewiston residents alike.

Kendi was preceded by both Clayton Spencer and Professor Christopher Petrella, both of whom offered quick appraisals of the work and how it adds to the conversation on American white supremacy. Kendi, in his opening remarks, praised the city of Lewiston for the strides it has made towards integrating the migrant population. According to Kendi, “Lewiston is moving towards anti-racism; Maine and its governor, I’m not so sure,” to which the audience laughed candidly.

Armed with nothing but his sharp rhetoric and casual humor, Kendi’s lecture lasted roughly ninety minutes. At his speech’s commencement, Kendi admitted that writing Stamped changed his understanding of what it means to be racist and how ideas of white’s superiority became thought of as common sense. In his book, Kendi defines a racist idea as “any concept that states one racial group is superior to another.” For Kendi, the history of racial progress has been met with the counteractively dual progression of racism. In other words, racists have innovated their ideas on how to legitimize oppression as time has marched on. “I used to assume that racists were just ignorant,” explained Kendi, “but the reality has been that racist ideas about biology and culture were created by elites and intellectuals to justify already existing systems.”

Kendi made it clear that many of these elites were not ignorant, and some were not even necessarily bigoted: “They were, however, intent on defending existing policies and inequalities to maintain their self-interest.” He then elaborated on how conversations about race get muddled for so many people; they are viewed as dichotomies of “racist” versus “not racist,” where being labeled racist is seen as a fixed characteristic.

To be anti-racist is quite simply the process of a person not believing, and out rightly rejecting, racist ideas, in Kendi’s view. This was the part of his speech in which he made direct calls to the audience to reevaluate what they had been taught about racism and how they view race in their quotidian lives.

Kendi divided racist ideas into three schools of thought: biological, assimilationist, and behavioral. Kendi described the long and troubling history of elites who perpetuated the ideas that black people were inferior to whites by genetic nature (i.e. biologically). Other racists have said that black people are held back by their regressive culture (“they need to assimilate to white customs”), or they cite statistics that say black people commit more crime (“it’s a behavioral problem.”) Kendi sharply countered these narratives by describing the history of racist pseudoscience, the philosophical weakness of critiquing another culture without exiting your own point of view and learning its intricacies, and the inherently unequal way by which we define and punish criminality.

The final part of the night consisted of question and answer with Petrella dashing around Gomes with a microphone. Students and Lewiston residents alike were eager to raise their hands, with one attendee asking if racism, as an idea, was nature or nurture. To this, Kendi punctually responded that “no one has ever proven that people are racist by nature. They’ve never found the ‘racism gene.’” Another attendee asked what we, as Bates students, can do to be more anti-racist on campus. “Look for disparities in institutions and don’t immediately blame individual people,” he suggested, adding in a later question that “in our circumstances, we need to focus on the production of racist ideas.”

Ultimately, Kendi beseeched the audience to understand that “people aren’t the problem; discrimination is. That is the goal of anti-racism.” The end of his speech was met with a well-earned standing ovation.

Ibram X. Kendi delivers speech on how to be an anti-racist PHYLLIS GRABER JENSEN/BATES COLLEGE

Ibram X. Kendi delivers speech on how to be an anti-racist. PHYLLIS GRABER JENSEN/BATES COLLEGE

Battle of the Bridges

Lewiston and Auburn are famous as the great “twin cities” of Maine, often going under the name LA for shorthand. However, on the ballot this November. 7, there will be a referendum question on whether Lewiston and Auburn should legally merge to become one city under one government. The measure, if passed, would cause changes in the tax environment, municipal government, and (as some argue) the culture of these two cities. This proposal has unsurprisingly generated much controversy throughout the area, and on Tuesday, October 4, I had the chance to witness this controversy in action at a debate at the Gendron Franco Center on Cedar Street.

The cathedral was packed as Lewiston and Auburn residents flocked to see Kristy Phinney of the One LA campaign and Matthew Leonard of the Coalition to Oppose Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation (COLAC) debate each other on the merits of merging or staying separate.  If you would like more information on both campaigns, visit their websites at and

The debate was moderated by Matt Shaw of Uplift LA, an affiliate group of the Lewiston-Auburn Chamber of Commerce dedicated to community engagement and economic growth. Shaw told me the public debates on the merger that Uplift LA has been hosting for several weeks “are vital for community members to have their voices, values and opinions heard. If forums are not made available, it will negate the opportunities that the public should be given to have their concerns understood.”

In giving her opening remarks, Phinney described how One LA has “taken input from a diversity of work groups and compiled data into an 80 page report that convinced [her] that this merger is the right thing for our communities.” According to Phinney, this merger will “act as a catalyst to launch us into the future, to convince people to come and stay in our cities.” Her main arguments were that the combined economies and governments would add more value to residents’ tax dollars, attract a wider workforce, expand resources, and maintain local heritage while building new identities.

Leonard followed in his opening statement by expressing admiration for One LA’s hard work, but maintained that the merger is a “bad idea that’s been floating around for decades and has never proven to be worth the time.” Leonard’s main arguments centered around the cost the citizens of both cities would bare, most notably having to pay back pre-existing and future debt that would be generated by a merger. He also criticized certain statistics promoted by One LA, such as how they allegedly understate how much property taxes would be negatively impacted by a merger.

Shaw then proceeded to ask the two debaters a series of questions, such as how will the merger/no merger affects current and future businesses, along with how merging or not merging ameliorate poverty in our cities. Leonard suggested that LA needs to join Maine in being “Vacationland” by investing in a visitors/tourism bureau and that Lewiston-Auburn already work together constantly with joint economies and governmental bodies; meaning a merger would not really change much. Phinney stated that consolidated savings and stable tax rates were paramount to creating better education systems in the cities, leading to more efficient governing and a thriving economy of hardworking young people.

There were brief pauses throughout the debate when audience members could participate in SMS polls about the state of LA and what they thought about the merger debate. Questions included which city audience members resided in and if they thought that they have been given enough information on the referendum. The room was evenly divided between Lewiston and Auburn residents, the majority of whom felt that both campaigns have been very informative on their stances.

In the end, each debater ended on an optimistic note that called for unity. “You have all heard a lot of noise and there have been divisive feelings,” said Leonard, “and I hope we can all come together on November 8 after voting down this merger on November 7.” Phinney concluded by saying that, with a merger, “the opportunities are endless. I cannot think of any other pair of cities with the guts to do something like this. I truly believe in this community.”

Let us hope that, regardless of the referendum decision, LA will move into the prosperous future for which both sides are striving.

New Dean of Faculty on the Horizon

Bates College is nothing if not fastidious in our selection of faculty members. Our professors are constantly striving to make their endeavors with both students and the Bates administration run as smoothly as possible. To facilitate this, Bates maintains a Dean of Faculty, who doubles as the Vice President of Academic Affairs. Our current Dean is Prof. Kathryn Low, but she is currently an interim. Bates is on the search for a new, permanent Dean/Vice President.

Professor Low assumed the position after Matthew Auer, the Dean of Faculty from 2013-2017, left in June after being appointed to a deanship at the University of Georgia. A faculty and administration-lead committee has been tasked with hiring a replacement for Auer and Low after they were elected into the committee by their colleagues in the spring. The roster consists of President Clayton Spencer, Director of the Harward Center Darby Ray, and Ann Marie Russell, the Director of Institutional Research, Analysis, and Planning, who are accompanied by professors Alexandre Dauge-Roth, Jason Castro, Michael Sargent, Alison Melnick, Meredith Greer, Mara Tieken, Andrew Kennedy, and Jane Costlow.

I spoke with Costlow, the committee’s chair and designated spokesperson, on what the Bates faculty is looking for in the new Dean. She said that diligence and careful attention to detail are paramount to this job search, as “this position is probably one of the most important at the college.”

In this position, the Dean is in charge of recruiting new faculty and promotes discourse amongst professors across departments and the administration. The Dean is also in charge of the curricular pedagogies of Bates, including General Education requirements and the overall academic program. The Office of the Dean of Faculty supports and oversees several bodies at Bates, including the academic departments, the Harward Center, the Office of the Registrar, and many others.

Costlow described the job as “extraordinarily complicated. The Dean of Faculty needs to be collaborative but also a leader who helps the faculty however they can. For example, given limited resources, the Dean should have ideas on how the college could move ahead on all sorts of exciting academic fronts at Bates.”

The committee has been searching extensively both inside the Bates professional staff and across higher education institutions in the United States. They have put up an advertisement on Isaacson, Miller, a recruitment agency that works with universities of all tiers (private, community, public) to hire staff members. The position is open to individuals across disciplines and at various stages in their career. However, the candidate is required to have both a PhD and years of experience as a faculty member at a university and/or college.

Additionally, Costlow stated that an “absolutely essential part of our search is a candidate who is strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. They need to understand Bates’ identity as an institution committed to progress and academic rigor. The new Dean should also see where Bates is not living up to its mission and how to move forward in those realms.”

While the search has taken several months, Costlow said that the committee is hoping to fill the position as soon as possible. This search has also intentionally been very low profile, as it involves many moving parts amongst the professors and the Administration. Confidentiality is key to remaining impartial and precise. However, the committee’s search is on the agenda of the Bates College Student Government’s meeting on October 4, and they will be holding an open listening session in Commons 211 from 12:30 a.m. -1:00 p.m. on October 5. They want students to hear the faculty’s goals and be able voice their own concerns on matters such as General Education requirements and administration in bodies like the Academic Resource Commons.

The future is yet to be determined, but one can only wish the electoral committee the best of luck in finding someone who truly embodies what it means to be a Bobcat.

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


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