The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Christina Perrone Page 1 of 3

“Babylon” Gives Voice to Refugees’ Experiences

On Friday and Saturday, Jan. 11 and 12, Sandglass Theater from Putney, Vermont, came to Bates’ Gannet Theater to perform the company’s original play, “Babylon, Journeys of Refugees,” featuring recent Bates grad Keila K. Ching ’18 as an ensemble member.

The play started with a pop quiz, in which actors prompted questions and after a pause, would step forward if the answer applied to them. Some questions included: “Which of us have family in another country?” and “Which of us have been arrested?” to which one or a few actors stepped forward. For the final question “Who has been mistaken for another nationality?” all of the ensemble members stepped forward. It was later stated that this exercise was to differentiate who the actors were from the puppets they played.

From there, the stories of four refugees were told through multiple narrative forms, including song, music, sound effects, and crankies—or moving panoramas. Through the course of the play, the audience watched a mother escape from Afghanistan, a father and his daughter escape from Burundi, a boy from El Salvador escape from the gang violence around him, and a man with a master’s degree in computer science escape from Syria by boat. Present in each vignette, Gretel, the ghost from another war, slowly takes away prominent images from each story—from a sack of flour the woman from Afghanistan carried while escaping to a worn out pair of shoes the boy from El Salvador walked in on his way to the US border.

The story lines converge at the end of the play, when all the puppets are behind a chicken wire fence awaiting a decision on their appeals for refugee status in the US. While illustrating the experiences of refugees, the actors in the ensemble also asked questions about the US’s responsibility for accepting refugees, especially given the complication that the US is a major arms provider for war-torn countries like El Salvador. At the end of the play, the audience is left asking what happens to those refugees rejected from the US. Although Gretel the ghost is not given a story, we can assume she was rejected refugee status in the US after escaping Europe in World War II—signifying how history is known to repeat itself.

According the show’s playbill, Sandglass Theater decided to call the play “Babylon” after the ancient city of Babylon which is now in Iraq: “This fallen mythic civilization becomes, for us, a metaphor for the destruction and destabilization that is leading much of the world into a refugee crisis of mythic proportion.” It continues, stating that “In Babylon, the blending of actual testimony with unreal figures gives us a view into how we respond to the enormity of crisis.”

In response to a question during the Q&A session after the play about “Babylon’s” research and writing process, Shoshana Bass, one of the artistic co-directors and ensemble members of “Babylon,” shared the work that took place from the play’s conception to its final product. Through working closely with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (now called USCRI Vermont), Sandglass Theater had the chance to interview staff members of the program—all of whom are resettled refugees—as well as their clients. According to Bass, “[W]e came in there with questions and what we needed to hear was what came out—and it was never necessarily [answers to] the questions we came in with.”

“With one exception, none of these stories we tell are somebody’s full rope for rope story,” explained Bass. “They are kind of amassed from different things. Through the interviews, we then kind of pulled up images that held to us the essence of this story and this situation, for example a pair of shoes that have been walked in for so long that they’ve fallen apart.”

A sentiment that all of the ensemble members wrestled with was representing a story that does not belong to them. As Eric Bass, the co-founder and director of Sandglass Theater, put it, “The fundamental issue in creating this piece is how you give voice, a voice that needs to be heard, when you cannot embody that voice, because it’s not you. It’s not just not you [as in] a different person, it’s not you [as in] a different culture. It’s not us. And so, what the songs are intended to do is to present that voice in a way in which none of us—not the puppets or the puppeteers—pretend to be anybody else but themselves. So the puppets are sculptural representations and they remain puppets, and as such, while they embody a person on a journey, they’re also metaphors—they remain metaphors in a way that the human being can be, but not as easily, not as naturally as the puppet.”

The Art of Being Creative at Bates

On Wednesday Nov. 7, a few days before Thanksgiving break, the Multifaith Chaplaincy held its yearly banquet in Old Commons, open to students, faculty, and community members alike. This year, the event’s theme was “The Art of Being,” featuring talented Bates student speakers whose crafts have shaped their lives in meaningful ways. The event featured live music, pipe cleaners, and origami activities, and a delicious meal provided by Commons.
Brittany Longsdorf, a Multifaith Chaplain at Bates, opened the event discussing Fritz Eichenberg, a German-American illustrator whose art explored religion, social justice, and nonviolence. While pursuing her Doctorate of Ministry at BU, she would often look up at a poster on her door featuring Eichenberg’s quote: “It takes devotion to create and reverence to enjoy beauty.”

She continued, explaining, “His spiritual exploration and practices transformed the way he approached his art. His wood carving art was his spiritual practice and his spiritual practice was his art. Our crafts, whether they are painting, teaching, meditation, pottery, comedy, dancing create in us a devotion that reminds us of what is bigger than us. What is transcendent in our midst, what deserves our reverence and awe. Tonight seven courageous Bates students will be vulnerable and creative and open as they share stories of their crafts, and the way this practice creates a sense of devotion and purpose in their lives.”
One of the speakers was Mamta Saraogi ‘21 who compared her craft of writing to a way of being. “I do a lot of things. I eat, sleep, breathe, and I also burn the popcorn sometimes. But in the midst of doing all those things, there is sometimes a need for something else that can make an identity. Writing is one of those things. It’s a form of achieving an inner balance in a manner not unlike meditation.” For Saraogi, writing has allowed her to make sense out of chaos, bringing a meaning to seemingly irrational thoughts.

Emma Proietti ’21 found her craft in the circus at a young age. She began her speech with the memorable one-liner: “I ran away with the circus a few weeks before my thirteenth birthday,” although, as she later clarified, her parents were there to take her to circus lessons. There, she found her adopted circus family, who in her words, “have been some of the most supportive people in my life, both literally and figuratively.” Her craft has also brought a new outlook on how to balance life and work. One of the phrases that she picked up along the way is “If you feel like you are going to fall, you probably will.” After pausing while the audience laughed, she stated, “I wouldn’t necessarily want this on a motivational poster, but it is something that I have taken to heart after too many times pushing myself a little too far —suffering the consequences and ignoring what my body was telling me. Reaching your physical limit is not unlike reaching your mental limit. You need to recognize the signs that you need a break. Discovering how to push yourself in a controlled way can make you stronger.”

For some, a craft can be as simple as a daily routine. During his speech, Jack Shea ’19 reflected on the importance of creating a routine in both his school work and in the real world. “I’m pretty confident that not all too many of us look at our day-to-day routine as being something that has been honed and put into regular practice for the betterment of our well-being. I’m not inclined to look at my own schedule and see it as art, because that implies that it’s something labored over, original, intentional, and creative,” said Shea.

“Routines can be craft too,” Shea continued. “This came up in abundance for me this summer when I was with the least self-conscious people around us, children. I was given a teaching fellowship at a public charter school summer program in Brownsville, Brooklyn.” Through his experience teaching, Shea found that success in the classroom relies on the environment a teacher builds. “In a classroom environment, consistency is the key. It takes those shocks from everyday life and absorbs them, giving back both positive reinforcement for good character and a stable environment for developing questions.”

Over his years at Bates, Shea found that to be successful, you have to be your own teacher. As Shea put it, “Have an environment which reacts to you in ways that feed your energy on good days and bounce you back on the bad. Make sure that what you do on autopilot, is put yourself in places that help you by consistently giving you what you need, and point you towards your own success.”

One of the final speakers at the event was Alexandria Onuoha ’21, a woman who struggled with her faith before exploring it through the medium of dance. “I got my start in dance at church and it brought so much joy in my life because not only was I using my body as a vessel of the Lord, but I was communicating a language through my body to other souls that needed just a glimpse of what freedom and happiness could be for them.” Through dance, Onuoha has provided a space for healing, holding dance workshops at a domestic violence shelter back in her hometown.
At college, dance also allows her to open a space for those seeking self-expression: “At Bates, through dance, I am creating a space where women of color are finally being highlighted and their stories are being heard, and black bodies are being celebrated.” Onuoha put it best, as she concluded, saying, “Simply, my art is finding my voice through other people’s voices.”

Phillips Fellowship Students Reflect on Experiences

On Tuesday, Oct. 30, students and staff gathered to listen to Johanna Hayes ’19 and Shangwei Deng ’19 discuss their experiences working on projects funded by the Phillips Student Fellowship over the summer.

Each summer, Bates awards students around $6,000 dollars to explore something they are passionate about. The requirement is that the project the student undertakes must be outside their cultural comfort zone. Students in the past have conducted projects ranging from research or career exploration to arts or community-engagement.

This summer, Deng participated in a full-immersion program in Latin while living in Falconieri Villa, about a half-an-hour away from Rome, Italy. Deng is currently a Classical and Medieval Studies and Politics double major at Bates. His talk “Making Latin Modern?” dealt with how the Latin language heavily informed one of his favorite modern works, “The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot, which is ripe with references to antiquity.

When Deng first arrived in Italy, he could not speak a word of Latin. “On the first day, I was not able to speak the language with any other people. People were from France, some were from Egypt, there were people from Spain, Germany and also many Americans.” As he humored, “All I could reply was ‘Ita, ita, ita.’” Ita is a word for ‘yes’ in Latin.

However, he began to pick up the language by listening to others, “I was able to make sounds, I’d pick up here and there over a conversation between fluent people. I could sort of tell if a word meant ‘to speak’ or ‘to hear’ and I’d be able to compile a sentence using these words, telling them “sententia mea” or my opinion.”

Those in the program started by asking everyday questions such as “How are you?” “Did you know” and “Can you pass me the cheese?”

“And gradually,” recounted Deng, “during the second and third week, I unburdened myself with the inquiry of ‘what is the distance?’ and ‘what is the experience of time?’ and gradually and gradually, I played along and became more and more a part of the community: singing, going out for excursions that are still in Latin, and it’s a fascinating experience.” In a sense, he experienced what it would be like if Latin were still a modern language.

However, the question for him still stood what the ramifications of resurrecting a dead language are: “When I was writing the proposal, I knew what challenge I may have. Latin itself is not really easily connected to our present culture…and there will always be a realistic struggle between me plunging into an ideal world and airlifting Latin into a contemporary one. And I was also very aware of a slippage of a dead language into a contemporary one…there were so many things that I could not name.”

After Deng’s presentation, Hayes, a Dance major and Anthropology minor discussed her project titled “Studying Self-Identity and Culture in Dance Environments.” In her two-and-a-half months spent in Europe, Hayes travelled to Germany, Spain and Austria and took four different dance and moving programs.

One question she found herself asking was “How do different dance practices’s values shape an individual and their relationship with others?”

Per Hayes, “This was the biggest question of this project, just because I grew up in a ballet background and I was taught to stand up straight and suck my stomach in and a boy would lift me up and that’s how I built a relationship with my own body and understanding how I could touch people, not touch people—that built my world, and the moment I got out of that ballet context to a modern context, I was like ‘Oh wait! There are other ways of moving! I don’t have to pull my stomach in any more. Wow, does that feels great!’”

Hayes spent the first month in the small town of Stolzenhagen, Germany, living in an artist commune surrounded by an idyllic landscape where the Freedom to Move Caucus was held. In the program, dancers dealt with issues like consent, identity, and how embodied experiences differ between people. For Hayes, “It was so tangible, even in movement, to feel those differences and to feel our own stories come out and social things come into play and it kind of blew my world apart and it left me with a lot of questions about dance and the dance space, and the way that it’s structured and the way it definitely excludes people.”

Hayes then headed to Spain to participate in two dance programs, one in Zaragoza and one in de Pedra. “After coming out of the Freedom to Move Caucus, I still had all of these questions of privilege in my mind and was kind of wondering why am I here lying on the floor listening to my collarbone while there are some real things going on. And that was a huge barrier for me, something that I’m still trying to address,” Hayes said.

While she loved the movement and dance styles in Spain, she did not enjoy how it was taught. When speaking about her time in de Pedra, Hayes said, “You would just be so exhausted and so torn apart and you would just get up and go to the next class. And you’d get torn apart, and you’d be told to go more and faster and harder and you’d die, and you’d go to the next one.”

One dance element Hayes seeks to bring to the U.S. is how emotion can inform postmodern dance. “And so going forward as a dance artist, hopefully, I hope that I can take what I experienced in Spain and apply the other teaching ways of consent or social issues and self-guided practice into some of those movement styles that I learned in Spain. Out of this project I just feel like I have so many tools, like I can pull from so many different situations, and that’s a gift. It just made me really believe in dance and think there’s so many ways to do it, and that makes me super excited about it.”

For those interested in applying, the deadline for the Phillips Student Fellowship is February 1, 2019. Students interested are strongly encouraged to begin working now with an advisor, as the trip requires a lot of planning and forethought.

Bates Joins in on Rebuilding Lewiston

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, volunteers from Bates College and Rebuilding Together L/A gathered together at 7 in the morning to drink coffee and eat donuts to fuel for the long day ahead of them. Rebuilding Together L/A is a non-profit that repairs homes of the needy and elderly in the Lewiston/Auburn community at no expense to the homeowners.

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Bates Observes Trans Visibility Day

On Thursday, March 23rd, Bates celebrated Trans Identity Day by hosting a space to discuss and learn about experiences of people in the trans community and some issues they face in regards to representation and identity. Before discussion, everyone agreed to being recorded and featured in this article.

After watching a video, students and faculty joined in a round table discussion, answering questions regarding the video and its content. The first question asked to participants was, “What is your experience with HIV/AIDS been and what social or cultural elements have had an impact on this experience from your life?”

For Raye Chappell ‘18, HIV/AIDS was very real growing up, “We talked about it a lot just because a lot of people had it. But there’s a lot of stigma attached, especially to some notable figures–like Magic Johnson, Eazy-E…I think we know it’s serious, but we think it’s always someone else, we don’t think that it’s our problem. We need to talk about this too…It’s a community and public health topic: it’s not something to be pushed to the side, you know you wouldn’t joke about cancer.”
For many, past discussions about HIV/AIDS never left the Health Classroom. Cameron Huftalen ‘19 reflected, “There’s just a disconnect and I think that it’s harmful, because it takes away any type of personal face or connection to it: so you start thinking of it as this far-off concept. You don’t get the sense that it actually affects people. You’re like, ‘This is some awful disease and we talk about it in health class once.’” They added, “You only hear about it in the context of people suffering, really you don’t get to hear, in your health class or your isolated communities about people who are living with this and doing work with it and being successful.”

Dylan Carson ‘18, a SPARQ Peer Mentor highlighted how people have recently turned to normalizing HIV/AIDS: “I feel like the last few years have had this shift from all this attention for how it was treatable or how people can live for years and stay healthy and have sexual activity and lead regular lives with it, so it also decreases the urgency of it when people are still getting infected by it and not everyone may necessarily have access to PrEP or adequate healthcare to stay healthy.”
One goal of the group conversation was to dismantle typical narratives that we hear regarding the trans community and trans individuals. For Angela Eustache ‘20, “Something that I struggle with, that I see happening in the black community, are the hate crimes against people who identify as gay or LGBTQ. It’s very normalized, and to be someone of color, and to witness some of things that go on in the black community, it’s very disheartening and trying to address it with your peers who might think it’s a joke or it’s not that big of a deal.”

For Danny Carmona ‘18, a SPARQ Peer Mentor, one issue they face at Bates is the expectation placed on people who identify as trans to advocate for all trans individuals: “A lot of times that [expectation to be a representative for an entire identity] further puts on a burden onto those people who hold these identities because it’s like, not only do they have to deal with figuring out themselves, but they also have to appease other people and deal with the notions of people thinking that their identities aren’t valid because you have to dress a certain way, or like you have to uphold someone else’s standards— which is something I think we don’t talk a lot about, and a lot of the blame for their subjugation goes onto them rather than society as a whole.”

Near the end, people discussed how to keep the balance between discussing issues that severely impact trans women while also not erasing other identities. According to Lexi Mucci, the Assistant Director of the Office of Intercultural Education, many outside things influence the erasure of the trans community, “The binary notions of what transness needs to look like and the representation across the media of what the problems are within the trans community, who is deemed as trans enough, and what that looks like— I think all of that plays into the erasure of the trans community and the hyper visibility of the struggles and who those struggles impact, and those are the only people included in this community.”

Bates Launches Digital Computational Studies

On Wednesday March 21, 2018, Professor Matthew C. Jadud delivered his inaugural lecture, “It Begins with a Step” to celebrate the generous donation and contribution the Colony family has given towards founding the Bates Digital Computational Studies Program (DCS). Jadud has been inaugurated as the Colony Family Associate Professor of Digital and Computational Studies and currently serves as the chair of the department.

“The story of the Colony family and DCS at Bates is a story about the transformative power of philanthropy” began Clayton Spencer in welcoming the attendees, “the magic that happens when a visionary, and incredibly generous family of donors decide to get behind a project that is crucial to the future of a college, in this case our wonderful college.”

The Colony family has been no stranger to Bates over the last two decades. Ann and George Colony have three sons, two of whom have graduated Bates, William ‘12 and Charles ‘17. They also have a niece Zola Porter Brown ‘93 and nephew Joel W. Colony ‘06 who attended Bates as well. George Colony is the founder and CEO of Forrester, one of the most influential business and advisory firms in the world.

“The first thing you should know is that George Colony was not a passive investor in DCS,” said Spencer. Early on in her tenure at Bates, she paid a visit to Forrester to talk to Colony.

“So early in the conversation I managed to blurt out that Bates does not teach computer science,” continued Spencer. “Now it was my impression at the time that this came as news to George, who seemed to be quickly rethinking whether his son Charlie had made a good decision.” Colony then turned to Spencer and asked some questions about Bates’ plans for DCS. As Spencer recalled, “The most vivid of which were these, ‘Are you thinking of making a straight computer science program? Or are you going to take on the question of how Digital and Computational methods are infusing with a wide variety of fields?’”

Years after Spencer’s initial meeting with George Colony, Bates has lead an initiative to create a DCS program focused on inclusivity and the liberal arts values.

During his speech, Jadud listed some of the exciting accomplishments students have done for the DCS classes offered.“The students have been engaging with virtual reality, creation of interfaces for dance and music, the students have stepped up to engage in summer research…and we’ve been working at the Bates Morse Mountain Conservation area engaging with various environmental questions in terms of sensing and drone imaging. So it’s just been an incredible group of students to dive in with.”

Before Bates, Jadud taught several interdisciplinary courses including “Storytelling through Computer Animation,” “Building Better Apps,” “Entrepreneurship and Hardware Design.” At Bates, he currently teaches “Design of Computational Systems” and “Nature of Data, Data of Nature.” During his time here he has also worked in collaboration with the Dance Department.
“I had the great pleasure of working with Bill Matthews and Rachel Boggia and what we had the opportunity to do through the inspiration of Shony [Shoshana] Currier—the new director of the Bates Dance Festival—she asked us if there a way to bring artists whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with, who do some really incredible work around integrating data and code and technology into performance and the creation of digital music? Can we bring that to our students?’ And we said, ‘Sounds crazy. Let’s do it!’”

His students came together to meet the challenge and were successful in doing the hardware and the programming necessary for making sensor on the bodies of dancers that transmitted the data to musical composition systems, which created digital music as the dancer danced.

However, Jadud has bigger plans when it comes to integrating DCS into the broader liberal arts context. During the “What If?” portion of his talk, he asked several questions that indicated his future intentions for the program. He first asked, “What if we don’t have a major? What if we have a minor in DCS?” Indeed, Jadud hopes that in keeping DCS a minor, students will have the tools to engage with technology in other fields.

“What if Art and English say ‘It would be really cool to work with DCS and develop a major in the Digital Humanities.’ We can draw from courses we already offer, and we can think about new courses that we can develop in collaboration with DCS to anchor that and give a name to computation embedded in the humanities,” said Jadud.

Clement Blows Whistle on Climate Policy

On Wednesday, March 14, Joel Clement, the Former Top Climate Official at the Department of Interior came back to his home state of Maine to deliver a speech on the Trump Administration’s War on Climate Policy. In recent news, Clement has become somewhat of a celebrity whistleblower after writing an explosive op-ed in The Washington Post titled “I’m a scientist. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration” this past July. More recently, The Washington Post has also published his fiery resignation letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, criticizing him for failing to address the threat of climate change.

When Clement first came to the podium, he commemorated Stephen Hawking who died the morning of his speech, adding “how clever [it was] of him to die on Pi Day and also Albert Einstein’s birthday.” He continued, “So in his honor, I’m going to state a scientific consensus on climate change. Rapid climate change is real, it’s dangerous, and we’re causing it.”

His speech centered on Maine State’s motto: dirigo, meaning “I lead” in Latin. “I always thought it was just referring to Mainers, you know. We lead, we’re leaders. There’s a farmer and a sailor on the emblem and they’re leaders. It totally escaped me that the north star was at the top of the emblem. Polaris, the symbol of guidance and direction is sitting there.”

In his work, Clement advocates for Alaska Natives who are facing the threat of being erased from the face of the earth due to extreme weather and ice-cap melting. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, “The warm temperature anomalies…I don’t know at what point anomaly stops becoming anomaly, because this year we far exceeded those warm temperatures. In fact, I think the closest recording station to the Arctic is in Northern Greenland. And in February they detected temperatures over 40 degrees.” Unfortunately, Maine is next on the list after Arctic people for facing devastating consequences of global warming.

“I’m going to talk a little bit about my experience as whistle blower to give you a sense of what we’re up against both in Maine and Alaska with these climate impacts and can give you a little bit of a taste of what they’re up to in this administration,” said Clement.

He first began by describing the responsibilities involved for his job at the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C., “Every aspect of every mission is affected by climate impacts, whether it’s managing our legendary national parks, protecting biodiversity, providing world class science that the US. Geological Survey provides… And so I was very public about this. I spoke very publicly and very frequently about the importance of addressing these impacts. I wasn’t talking about CO2 and methane. I was talking about how do we handle the impacts that we know are already coming.”

According to Clement, their goal was to eliminate all programs from the previous administration, “Anything with an Obama stamp on it had to go, good or bad, effective or ineffective. Marginalize all the scientists and experts, get them out of the way, and shrink and hobble government to allow industry fuller access.”

One of the punches from the administration was aimed at the Senior Executive Service at the Department of the Interior where Clement worked at the time. As an expert in climate change, Clement belonged to the SCS, which is the executive core of career professionals who were meant to be deployed wherever an agency needs high level but nonpolitical talent. “No agency in any administration has ever come in and move dozens in one night, as this group did…and to accomplish that they moved people into positions that were completely unrelated to their backgrounds or expertise. They moved them across the country, there was no prior consolation, they were given no choice in the matter.”

Clement then admitted, “At any rate, I guess it was obvious that I was on their list, I believe, because of my work on behalf of Alaska natives facing these climate change effects. They seemed particularly eager for me to quit and I stayed at it because I was the climate change guy. They moved me to the office that collects and disperses royalty incomes from the oil and gas companies.”

Clements was then promptly moved to an auditing office. Although he enjoyed the people working there, he felt that it was “a huge waste of my expertise and background and my salary.” To him, it was very poor governance, but more importantly, it ended his work supporting the Alaska Natives. In fact, to this day, there is no one in D.C. coordinating federal response to this disaster in Alaska.

For the second half of his speech, he focused on how can we can put science back in the forefront of public policy, and “make it the north star of public policy.” He proposed that we should have five goals: Democracy, transparency, fair budgeting, rule of law, and science advocacy.

Affection is Our Best Protection

On Friday, March 2, 2018, 65 people gathered into a small room in upstairs Commons to listen to a talk with a rather provocative title. Timothy Lyle, an Assistant English Professor at Iona College, and Bates College’s own Stephen Engel, an Associate Politics Professor, gave the talk as part of the “Angels in America” Bates series. The two have been in collaboration for two years, conducting archival research in the New York Public Library and the LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village. If all goes to plan, their article will be published this month in the Chicago-Kent Law Review.

“Our paper’s title is called ‘F*cking with Dignity,’ and we thought we should start by explaining the title,” humored Engel. Their full title, “F*cking with Dignity: Public Sex, Queer Intimate Kinship, and how the AIDS Epidemic Bathhouse Closures Constituted a Dignity Taking” can be interpreted three ways. The first being that f*ck is a synonym for play, “and we’re playing with the idea of dignity as a theoretical concept since our objective is to destabilize normative notions of dignity,” said Engel. The second interpretation of the title‚ “messing with,” conveys how the New York City municipal authorities dealt with the HIV/AIDs crisis in the 1980’s.

“And third, we’re discussing queer sex; I mean, we should be pretty blatant about that,” said Engel. This third notion contends how queer individuals can have sex with dignity, despite efforts lead by political authorities to dehumanize and infantilize them. “Our paper explores dynamics of what legal scholars increasingly refer to as something called a ‘dignity taking,’ and we’re looking at one episode of HIV/AIDS history, when, in the name of public health, municipal authorities in New York City pursued the closure of gay bathhouses in ’85.”

During the AIDS epidemic, these bathhouses were primary targets for closure. Fearing government intervention, the community formed organizations such as The Gay Men’s Health Crisis which produced educational materials that recommended safer sex practices within the gay bathhouses. Engel described some of the posters featuring messages such as “Sex is wonderful…but don’t let it kill you” and “Affection is our best protection.”

In addition to the efforts lead by organizations like Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the Coalition for Sexual Responsibility (CSR) organized a schedule of three inspections to be carried out by volunteers throughout 1985. Said Lyle, “Now, these volunteers would enter into these bathhouses armed with clipboards, check lists, and go looking for these 19 recommendations.” Despite the community’s best efforts, elected officials continued to infantilize and dehumanize gay men. In 1985, the state continued to close these long-run establishments of community building and kinship.

“If the bathhouse closures continue to be a dignity taking,” began Engel, “then we must ask if dignity restoration is possible and what it might entail. Dignity as a legal concept has been the foundation of much U.S. pro-gay rights jurisprudence. While the supreme court’s decisions… could be understood as dignity restorative, these rulings, Timothy and I contend, ultimately fail to compensate dignity takings embodied in the bathhouse closures.”

Another example of recent dignity taking can be seen in the government’s recent measures for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, a type of prevention known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). In 2012, the FDA approved Truvada, a once-a-day anti-HIV medicine as PrEP. While Truvada has proven powerful in curbing HIV infection, this approach to health regulated by the state are clear efforts to monitor and make decisions for gay men. To get a prescription, individuals must consult their physician—a complicated process as those conversations are typically surrounded by stigma. However, these are the fortunate ones. Many doctors refuse to prescribe PrEP, since they understand it as a party drug that encourages “reckless and hedonistic abandon” as Lyle put it.

Said Lyle, “Now in an ironic, disturbing turn of events, the institution that had long ignored the HIV crisis, that had dragged their feet or erected bureaucratic red tape that prevented access to resources and research, and that eventually profited from expensive treatments in HIV-infected bodies, become the same institutions that seemingly come to the rescue with PrEP.”

He continued saying, “So thus, gay men must participate in a system entangled with surveillance, policing, and big pharma profits in order to appeal to the state—one that failed them miserably during the bathhouse debate years—for protection and a sexual life less haunted by HIV.” The two argue that the ideal way to administer PrEP and restore dignity to the gay community would be to invest in community-based anonymous testing sites, seen historically in the bathhouses.

Bates Greenhouse Opens its Doors for Sustainable Earth Week

As part of Sustainable Earth Week at Bates the EcoReps in conjunction with the Eco Justice house organized a tour of the elusive greenhouse on the top floor of Carnegie. Once you arrive at the top floor, you need to climb an additional flight of stairs to arrive at a white, steel door– the only thing that separates you from the fabled greenhouse of Bates legend. The greenhouse is looked after by Mary Hughes, the plant coordinator for Bates College.

Upon opening the door, students on the tour stood in awe of the general “green” exuding from the door’s entrance. “As you can see, we have a beautiful view. It’s very nice and quiet up here, especially in the winter time,” commented Hughes as students looked out the windows to see the skyline made of roofs and trees. Fashioned like a botanical garden, the greenhouse is filled to the brim with cacti, succulents, and other exotic “humidity-loving” plants.

Hughes began the tour by pointing out Professor Andrew Mountcastle’s beehive in the corner of the room. “Over in this corner we have Andrew Mountcastle, he does flight projection and he’s working with wasps and bees, so that’s his little contraption over there” she said, pointing to a door that warned “Do Not Open… Seriously.” Although Mountcastle’s experiment is self-contained, the greenhouse is often visited by outside life, such as bees, wasps, ants, and other critters such as aphids. To this, Hughes shrugged, “It’s just how it is.” She went on to say, “We do only treat organically, that’s basically with dish soap and organic soap, we do get aphids and we get the mealy bugs—it’s just part of life in organics.”

“It’s hard to believe that this is kind of like a lab,” stated Hughes midway through the tour, “but one of the things we do is plant diversity, and the students will come here and pick a plant to study it and learn to the identification and all that. A lot of different types of plants are here, these are more of our humidity loving plants which are in the back here…”

She next went over to point out one of her personal favorite plants. “This hoya plant was given to me and I wish it was in bloom because it’s just amazing. It’s the most bizarre flower that I’ve seen. It’s a vine plant, and it just grows and grows, but it’s purple and it’s just very unique…” Often throughout the tour, a certain flower or plant would catch Hughes’ eyes, such as the orange clusia (“It’s just—It’s just gorgeous…But, you know, I’m partial”).

After the official tour, Hughes was excited to field any and all questions thrown at her by those on the tour. One student asked why there were dark spots on a fern. Without missing a beat, Hughes replied, “They’re not bugs, they’re spores. So in the wild, or in the forest, they’ll get old and then they got hard and fall off, and they’ll either propagate on the ground or the wind will take them, that’s why you find ferns everywhere!” she laughed. “And we’ll find ferns in all these different pots,” she gestures around the greenhouse “You know, it just transports so easily.”

“We have banana trees, and we have a pitcher plant! Are you familiar with carnivorous plants? Pitcher plants are carnivorous…This is one of my worker’s, and it was looking a lot better than this,” she laughed a bit nervously, “It’s very, very sensitive, it has to have purified water, and our water appears acidic, as you know if you drink the tap water…So we’re trying to get this back to looking good.” She went on to describe where these pitcher plants can be found, in places like rainforests and South Carolina, but also, according to Hughes, “You will find it in the woods in Maine in the bogs, because it stays warmer with the peat moss [decomposing] and all that.”
Before too long, the tour was over and the students filed out the door after taking a satisfactory amount of photo-ops with the plants. As students descended the steps back to Carnegie, Hughes joked, “Now you have to be biology majors!”

Dear Sustainable Abigail

Dear Sustainable Abigail,

I’m a huge yogurt person! Unfortunately, I always feel bad eating yogurt in Commons because we just have the individual yogurt cups (unless it’s a Sunday hooray for Greek Yogurt!), and it seems like a lot of packaging. I remember hearing once that Bates had some sort of deal with the Stonyfield Yogurt Company that allowed them to help with our sustainability. I can’t quite recall the details on that, but if that was the case at some point, is it still? Also, what exactly did it entail? Thanks so much!

-Don’t Want to Give Up Yogurt


Dear Don’t Want to Give Up Yogurt,

I too am an avid yogurt eater, and do understand where you are coming from with the concern about packaging. If every Bates student eats one yogurt everyday for a week that is around 14,000 wasted yogurt cups. In one month that becomes about 56,000, and in one academic year we’re looking at about 448,000 yogurt containers (give or take, this is a rough estimate).

In any case, that is a LOT of little wasted plastic containers. Fortunately, you are correct: Bates does have a great relationship with Stonyfield Farm and they actually collect and recycle all of these 448,000 yogurt cups! So every time you are eating a yogurt, don’t worry too much because Commons and Stonyfield are looking out for each of our individual impacts. Nonetheless, your question inspired me to do a little research regarding the sustainability of our yogurt. It turns out we are pretty lucky at Bates to support Stonyfield! Stonyfield is one hundred percent organic and to the best of their abilities aid and invest in family-farmer-supplied organic milk by not only exclusively purchasing milk from family farms, but also investing when they can in strategies to aid family farmers as well as in organic education and research. However, of course, there are a lot more factors that go into being sustainable.

One such that is great to have on your radar is the carbon footprint of the food products that you consume, or what is called the “CO2e” score of the product. This score is the “carbon dioxide equivalent” score, which references the amount of greenhouse gases emitted throughout the entire life cycle for a product. So for example, thinking about yogurt, the CO2e score of yogurt with fruit is about 306. Now, let’s compare that to an alternative breakfast food: a Tuesday or Thursday omelet with meat and cheese in it has a CO2e score of 1573! In other words, in terms of carbon footprint, there are many worse things than yogurt. Thinking about the carbon footprint of the different foods you eat is a great way to get serious about being sustainable in even more nuanced ways. Thanks so much for writing, and thanks for caring about the way your food has a big impact!

-Sustainable Abigail

Who is Sustainable Abigail? She is a sustainability advocate at your service! If you’re worried about recycling, have ideas about addressing food waste, or concerns about your role promoting sustainability on campus, Abigail is a great resource to turn to. Whatever your sustainable inquiries may be, Abigail is ready to address them all! Simply write to her by either filling out the Google form found in Bates Today or by writing your concern on a piece of paper and placing it into her question envelope in Commons. Any question is valid and appreciated and will stay anonymous, so don’t hesitate to ask!



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