A series of interviews, including student government members as well as Bates administrative staff, have shed new light on an apparent gulf between the desired social experience of students and the social climate that Bates administration wishes to cultivate.
Interviews conducted in January and February with several members of Bates student government, indicate an administrative effort to reassert control over the Bates social scene by pushing weekend life back on campus—those interviewed argue that this effort is at the expense of Bates students.
“The off-campus scene has been completely destroyed by the city of Lewiston and Bates administration,” opined Tom, one student government member. Tom attributed this effort to end off-campus activity to an administrative fear of poor image and press.
To back up his claims, Tom pointed to what he believes was the administration’s failure to represent students over the summer, when the Lewiston City Council enacted several new ordinances aimed at cracking down on the off-campus scene. These new regulations include: a new overnight parking ban on the side streets surrounding campus, a series of ordinances (such as the Lewiston “Nuisance Party Ordinance”) that allow more immediate police responses to parties, and an enaction of fines for each underage person present at such an event.
Tom’s views were echoed by Derrick, another student government member, who asserted that an administrative disconnect from student interests was to blame for a “regressing” social scene. In regard to the new policies implemented over the summer, he stated that “the policies are a poor reflection on Clayton Spencer’s ability to assert her authority as a leader within the Lewiston/Auburn community. It should be unacceptable to have police on campus,” he continued, referring to the marked police presence near campus during the first couple weekends of the fall semester. Derrick argued that the off-campus life was a significant aspect of the Bates experience, something that the administration has pushed to the curb in its efforts to improve the school’s image.
An interview on February 5 with Associate Dean Carl Steidel provided insight into the administration’s viewpoint. Steidel shot down claims that Bates administrative personnel had aided the crack-down on off-campus life. Instead, he claimed that an indignant community had pushed the City Council into enacting ordinances, without input from administration.
“We’re limited in terms of what we can do. They weren’t asking for our approval,” Steidel explained. He also denied that the changing social climate was an effort to clean up the school’s image.
“The image of Bates is not what I’m primarily concerned about, it’s the day-to-day lives of students,” he continued. However, he also acknowledged that a concern for the school’s reputation in the eyes of Lewiston factored into the school’s interactions with the City Council over the summer, when the new policies were enacted. “We interact with them as an institution. We have to think about the intermediate and long-term interests of the college. It’s not a good look for us to tell them what to do.”