The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

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Get Connected With the Harward Center

The frigid temperatures did not stop students from attending the Harward Center open house this past Friday, January 11, to learn about the Center’s many opportunities. The purpose of the event was to connect or reconnect students with the off-campus community for the upcoming semester. Information about funded summer activities was also given.

The Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnerships strives to promote civic awareness and action in Lewiston-Auburn and the wider world. The director of the Harward Center, Darby Ray, remarked that the goal of the Center is to “help the Bates community to connect with the outside community.” Students can access community-engaged activities through various facets of Bates, including; academic courses, research, dorm life, athletic teams, and clubs. The Harward Center will make connections between volunteer programs and students’ interests, academic or otherwise. “We are kind of like a matchmaker,” added Ray.

Casey Kelley ’21 is a community outreach fellow. She notes, “It’s really important to be involved in the community where you live.” Kelley is the coordinator for Art Programming. These programs include weekly opportunities with the ArtVan and at Hillview Family Development to work with low income youth on art projects.

If your interests lie with assisting those with disabilities, then you may want to get involved in the Social Learning Center Friendship Program. Bates students get the chance to form a one-on-one connection with a member of the Social Learning Center. Coordinator Maddy Shmalo ’19 described the program as “A very rewarding experience.” The friendships acquired can be gratifying for all parties involved.

George Steckel ’19 has been involved with the Harward Center for all of his time here at Bates and characterizes the center as a family. Steckel is in charge of the Book Buddies program which entails reading to early-elementary aged children who might not have access to books outside of school.

To discover the wide assortment of ongoing and onetime community programs outside of this selection, you can go to the Harward Center website and visit the opportunities page. Contact the community outreach fellows for information if you would like to participate in any of these programs. Most of the locations of the programs can be reached using the Service Learning Shuttle for Community Engaged Learning (CEL) which leaves outside of Chase Hall.

Funded summer opportunities are also available through the Harward Center. The Center has generated a list of non-profit organizations in Lewiston and Auburn that Bates students can spend the summer working for. Students are also encouraged to bring their own ideas for community-engaged experiences that align with their interests. For 8 to 10 weeks or full-time work up, to $4,000 can be earned. For more information, students can visit the Harward Center and speak with Peggy Rotundo. The deadline for applications is March 18.

Students can get involved off-campus in numerous ways. To get on the Community Links email list if you are not already, send an email to Marty Deschaines. The Center encourages students to take community-engaged courses at Bates or participate in community-engaged research. Approximately 50 seniors every year complete their thesis or capstone project in relation to community-engagement.

Bates is fortunate to be situated in the diverse and vibrant Lewiston-Auburn community, and there are a multitude of ways to engage with the members and organizations of L-A. As George Steckel put it, “When you come to Bates, your home becomes Lewiston.”

“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.”

Foreign Language TA Spotlight: Andrea Elisabeth Kreditsch

The Bates Student runs a regular column which hopes to highlight the unique gifts to the Bates community brought forth by foreign language teaching assistants. This week, I spoke to Andrea Elisabeth Kreditsch, the 2018-19 German language teaching assistant, about her native country of Austria, adjusting to American culture, and Austrian food!

Bates Student (BS): Hello, Andrea! Where are you from?
Andrea Elisabeth Kreditsch (AES): I am from Austria, from Graz. Graz is in the southeast of Austria, about a two-hour drive south of Vienna, our capital. It is also the second biggest city of the country and it’s a student city, so it has its very distinct flair.

BS: Where did you attend university and what did you study?
AES: I attended Karl Franzens University (or University of Graz) in Graz, Austria. I studied English language, literature and culture as well as history and graduated with my Mag. phil. (like a MA) earlier this year.

BS: Why did you decide to pursue teaching German as a foreign language? What led you to this field of teaching?
AES: I am a trained foreign language teacher for English, and I knew that at some point in my life, I wanted to work and teach abroad. I decided in late 2017 that I would try and apply for a Fulbright grant in German language teaching, because I thought that this would be a great opportunity to not only experience living in a different country but also to teach my language and introduce students to my culture.

BS: When and how did you learn English?
AES: I learned English first from books and other materials that a family member living in Canada sent over to Austria before I started school. In school, I had 12 years of English, but I think I also learned a lot by reading and watching movies in English outside of class. I then went on to study English in university.

BS: What do you miss the most about your home country?
AES: What I miss most about my home country is the food, probably. Food is such an essential part of every culture, and you don’t realize how used you are to your own food until it becomes unavailable. I miss “real” (meaning dark rye) bread and pumpkin seed oil, and gingerbread and cookies, and Topfenstrudel and Marillenknödel. Thankfully, we have a cultural kitchen in Roger Williams that my fellow TAs and I have been using to make some of our favorite dishes from home for and with students, and I am looking forward to doing this again this semester!
And I miss the mountains. I am not much of a hiker (more of a skier), but I miss just looking out my window and seeing mountains.

BS: What has been your favorite part of living in the States? Least favorite part?
AES: My favorite part of living in the US is probably that I get to live in such a beautiful part of the country—I love the nature here, I love the outdoors, and I love winter, so Maine is the perfect state for me! My least favorite part of living here is that you need a car to get anywhere, at least here in Maine….

BS: How has your experience at Bates been?
AES: My experience has been great so far, I really love working at the German and Russian Department; it’s so much fun! I love teaching my language to students and giving them an insight into my culture. I also really like the tight-knit community at Bates; it is like a big family, and you are never just a number like at big universities (like my university at home—we had 30,000 students and big lectures with 400 students).

BS: Do you have any recommendations for students hoping to learn German?
AES: What I would recommend to students wanting to learn German is to make use of as much authentic material as they can: German movies and TV shows (even if they don’t understand anything yet, just hearing the language helps such a lot!), German books, German news, German websites/YouTube channels/blogs etc. and, of course: try to speak German whenever they can, whether it is with German speakers or with each other! I know it can be very intimidating to speak a new language, but it will all pay off in the end! And of course, if you are not a student of German yet, come and say hi to us at the German department and check out our language courses!

Winter Club Fair: It’s never too late!

It’s a new semester—which means more chances to get involved at Bates. On Wednesday, Jan. 9, over forty of Bates’ clubs and organizations gathered in Chase Hall to educate students about their plans for the winter and recruit more members. The Office of Campus Life sponsors this mid-year club fair as a low-stress alternative to the noisy crowds at the Gray Cage during the first week of fall semester.
“The fall club fair can be a little bit overwhelming. The Gray Cage can get really loud, and even though it’s very exciting, we wanted to do a mid-year one that was more relaxed and had a less intimidating atmosphere,” explained Jen Haugen, Coordinator of Campus Life Programming.
Club leaders and representatives set up tables in four different rooms throughout Chase Hall: Chase Lounge, Skelton Lounge, Memorial Commons, and Hirasawa Lounge. This set-up allowed students to stroll leisurely and easily seek out the groups they were interested in—each room was also paired with different pizza varieties.
With a better grasp of their time management skills, first-years can be more strategic and thoughtful about which clubs they choose to sign up for. “We realize that first-years now know their schedule and how much they can handle, so they won’t end up just putting their emails down for everything,” added Haugen.
Many of Bates’ clubs and organizations have exciting plans for the upcoming semester. For example, the Ballroom Club is looking forward to their performance at Gala in March. “I think we have a bigger group than we did last year, so we’re really excited about it,” said the club’s vice president, Joan Buse ’21.
The Ballroom Club practices several times a week and competes about four times a year. They focus primarily on rumba, cha-cha, swing, waltz, foxtrot, and tango. When asked why she joined, Jina McCullough ’20 explained: “I’ve been dancing for 19 years and finding a club that allows me to explore different kinds of dancing has been so fun. Everyone in the club is pretty close – even if they’re from different years – because we spend so much time together.” The Ballroom Club always welcomes new members, regardless of experience level.
Another club hoping to perform at Gala is the Circus Club. Ben Hoffinger ’22 joined Circus Club at the beginning of the year and speaks highly of his experience so far. “My favorite thing about the club is how willing all the experienced circus folks are to teach you brand new skills and elements of circus that you’re unfamiliar with. For instance, I learned how to walk on stilts just last semester,” he explained. Circus Club meets on Sundays and encourages everyone to come join the fun.

“If you’re interested in anything related to juggling, stilting, or unicycling and just want to give it a shot, come try it out with us even if you have zero circus experience.”
Other clubs have their eye on events coming up very soon. For example, Filmboard is screening the film Sorry to Bother You on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next week. Timothy Kaplowitz ’20 describes the film as both critically adored and potentially divisive. “I think it will lead to a lot of discussion and I’m really interested in seeing what the reception will be at Bates,” Kaplowitz adds. Everyone is invited to attend both the film as well as the discussion panel with Bates professors that will follow.
If you’re a movie buff or are interested in screening and discussing a specific movie, the Filmboard is the club for you! “At a typical film board meeting, we’ll be deciding on movies to bring in for screenings and planning events for the future. Mostly, we’re just hanging out and talking about movies,” explained the club’s president, David Unterberger ’19.
In addition, there are several new clubs that are looking forward to building their presence on campus. Astronomy Club is new to Bates this year and eager for more members. “Right now, we’re looking to get funding for a telescope for public events, so we’ve been doing a lot of planning for that as well as assigning positions and discussing future events,” explained the club’s president, Andy Kelly ’21. When asked who the ideal member for the club, the club’s vice president, Carolyn Snow ’21, replied, “Anyone with any interest in space should join. I haven’t actually taken an astronomy course here at Bates, but I just really like space.”
Clearly, there are many exciting opportunities for extracurricular life at Bates. Don’t miss out and take the time this semester to attend some events or meetings for clubs you’ve never heard of.

De-Stress December

The infamous finals time is here. With a never-ending stream of papers, exams, and projects consuming Bates students, stress can affect the body in unexpected ways. Everything from sleep patterns to blood sugar can be thrown out-of sorts when someone is experiencing stress. 

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Club Spotlight: Snaggletooth Literary Magazine

Before February of 20¬16, Bates College did not have an active literary magazine. Bates has every club imaginable, from the Fat Cats competitive eating club to Knit Wits, a club for lovers of knitting. But as Eden Rickolt ’20 and Anna Maheu ’21, the now co-editor-in-chiefs recognized that winter, even with the abundance of interest-based spaces at Bates, the college lacked a place for the publication of student creative writing and visual art. These two friends quickly launched themselves into the process of starting a club and a magazine with the hopes of ending short term with a published magazine. According to Maheu, “many people approached us and said that they’d also been thinking about starting one, but getting it off the ground had seemed too daunting.”

While the process of starting the magazine was daunting and involved drafting a club constitution, finding a faculty advisor and negotiating a club budget, by March of 2016 the club had a full staff, and by April of the same year, the magazine was declared an official Bates club. During the first semester of last year, the staff worked to figure out how to market the magazine, how to get submissions, and then how to hold writing workshops.

Rickolt shared her goals for the workshopping process: “Our workshops are a place for writers to develop their craft, meet others that are interested in writing, and hone their editing skills.” Snaggletooth was never intended to be solely about the product, the final magazine, but rather was intended to create a space where writers and artists could learn and grow through a community-based creative process.
At the end of short term, Snaggletooth published its first magazine, a collection of student creative writing and visual art, as well as a website with even more. At the start of this year, Eden and Anna expressed to the staff that one of their goals for this year was to create organized, community based workshops. With the hopes of extending the participants of the workshops out from just the staff, the workshop process became more regimented, and was done in front of the writer, the staff, and any community members interested in joining. Snaggletooth has two guidelines: a workshop guideline and a submission guideline. Artists and writers are able to submit their work at the workshop deadline long before it is due for submission to the magazine as a chance to help their work be proof read and critiqued. These critiques happen during the workshop, when the writer is anonymous but present and when the work is read by the staff as well as other Bates students. Having the writer helps keep the staff accountable to make honest, and constructive critique, but also helps the writer watch a reader react in real time. This is where Snaggletooth helps create both community as well as fostering an environment where students can be both writers, and editors.

The production and distribution of the magazine and creation of the website has been another way in which Snaggletooth hopes to reach a wide audience. Rickolt says, “I think the physical magazine and website connect this creative work (that is usually more private) with readers and viewers, as well as put separate works in conversation with each other.” While there is a huge amount of clubs at Bates, Snaggletooth has stood out as an organization which works to create, share, and open up discussion on student creativity.

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.”

B’tayavon!: Professor David Freidenreich highlights how food defines religious differences

Many of us were fortunate enough to have shared a meal with friends and family this past Thanksgiving. For most Americans, what defines the holiday is the preparation and ultimate consumption of food with family. In return, the holiday has defined what makes Americans American. Identity is powerful, and oftentimes people use food to distinguish their own identities and the identities of others, as is the case with Americans and Thanksgiving.

On November 13 in Pettengill Hall, Professor David Freidenreich discussed how food and religious identity are intertwined. In his talk, he sought to unwrap some of the ideas about what makes food Jewish and how Jewish food is used to distinguish it from other religions in his lecture titled, “Food and Jewishness: Jewish, Christian and Islamic Perspectives.” Freidenreich is the Pulver Family Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Colby College and the author of the book, “Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law.”
At the beginning of his talk, Freidenreich asked the audience to consider these questions, “What makes food Jewish in the first place? And why, given that definition of whatever Jewish food means, should you make a point of eating it, or perhaps of not eating it?”

Professor Freidenreich proceeded to answer his own queries by drawing from various authors in the field of religious academia: “They all agree that the difference between Jews and non-Jews matters. They also agree that food is an ideal medium to express and emphasize this distinction between Jews and non-Jews, even though the distinction itself really isn’t about food at all.”
Even though the real difference between the Jewish religion and other religions doesn’t pertain to food, restrictions surrounding food are used to set apart the Jewish from the non-Jewish. According to Freidenreich, Christians and Muslims also use ideas about Jewish food to set themselves apart from each other and from Jews.

Freidenreich used a hypothetical scenario, or what he called the start of a bad joke, to demonstrate the beliefs of various religions pertaining to food. The premise: a rabbi, a Catholic priest, a Sunni imam, and a Shia imam walk into a cafeteria. All adhere to the medieval food-related restrictions of their respective religions from the past. In this situation, the rabbi would order a salad and would worry whether the cook was Jewish. The rabbi would order the salad to avoid biblically prohibited foods such as shellfish and pork and to make sure that it wasn’t transformed by non-Jewish persons.

According to Freidenreich, the Catholic priest would refuse to eat any food if the cook was Jewish and would refuse to eat with the rabbi. Per Freidenreich, the archetypical Christian, while not facing religious dietary restrictions, would refuse to sit with the rabbi in order to avoid being led astray by his supposed false interpretations of the Bible.
The Shia imam, in his example, would order a salad and would sit at their own table. The Shia imam would renounce the food practices of Christians and Jews as a means of distancing their own religion from the others. This appeals to the stereotype of Shias refusing to eat food tainted by Christians and Jews because it would transmit impurity.

In Freidenreich’s demonstration, only the Sunni imam would be able to eat any of the food selections, and would be able to sit with the Rabbi. Sunnis would be tolerant of all of the food because they believe that legitimizing Christianity and Judaism makes the circle larger of those who believe in certain fundamental principles of Islam. This reinforces the idea that all Muslims have access to God.
The only common denominator between the religious leaders in this long, complicated, and somewhat inflammatory scenario is their concern for the Jewishness of their food. The multitude of rules and regulations concerning food distinguishes and separates the religions. As Freidenreich put it, “Rules about who you can’t eat with reinforce identity and social hierarchies in powerful ways,” and tell us that “the divide between us and them should not be bridged.” Even though the food regulations in the Torah are rather insignificant, they have far-reaching global impacts.

Over all, Freidenreich wanted the number one takeaway from his lecture to be that identity matters, and food can be used to distinguish identities.

History of Muslims Lecture: A Step in the Right Direction

Students would not make the trek to Muskie Archives on a rainy Thursday night for just anything. But on November 1, they did just that for a talk by Edward E. Curtis IV titled “The Long History of Muslims in the United States.”

Curtis was this year’s speaker for the Bertha May Bell Andrews Lecture, an annual talk sponsored by the Multifaith Chaplaincy that was first established in 1975 by Dr. Carl Andrews. His aim was to honor his mother, who not only created the first physical education program for women at Bates, but also had a deep conviction that education without morality was useless.

The lecture highlighted this conviction of involving morality in teaching, discussing the misconception that Muslim heritage can only be traced back to as recently as 1965, and the effect this has both on Muslim families and on the recent rise of Islamophobia. Curtis described this phenomenon through the language of misremembering; he said, “There has been a forgetting, a forgetting that is useful to those who say that Muslims are foreign to America.” His goal of the lecture was to correct this misconception and emphasize the various contributions of Muslims, who have been in this country from its very beginning.

Muslims have served in legislatures, saved corporations, played for sports teams, won a Nobel Prize, held the Olympic Torch, and built skyscrapers. Probably most commonly known to students would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a retired professional basketball player who still remains the all-time leader in points scored and career wins, and Muhammad Ali, a professional boxer and activist. As described by Curtis, “Muslims have changed the way America looks, the way it plays, the way it is heard.”

Perhaps less famous but just as important are Muslim politicians, who are becoming increasingly numerous in today’s political environment. Ninety Muslim candidates are running for federal, state, and local office in this year’s midterm elections, significantly more than in any other year.

Although Curtis focused primarily on the history of Muslims, when asked about how to have conversations about Islamophobia, he responded with the necessity of people respecting the dead. He called for Muslims to put their differences behind them and stop focusing on their disagreements over past activists, a lesson relevant to everyone regardless of religion. In approaching religious discussion, he also offered the advice for students to move past preaching – attempting to convince others that Muslims are peaceful and hate terrorists – and into deeper conversation.

Nahida Moradi ’22, a member of the Muslim Student Association and an attendant of the lecture, described the importance of students being educated about this history and having conversations about Islamophobia, explaining, “At a school like Bates, where religion is generally not very present in students’ lives, Islam is often seen as strange and maybe even threatening. You could see that level of threat by looking at the vandalism of the Muslim prayer room in Chase Hall. Inviting Dr. Curtis to talk about the History of Muslims in America is a step in the right direction for Bates to do its job right.”

Curtis’ lecture on the history of Muslims in the United States was especially relevant in today’s world of Islamophobia. His talk helped to identify the misconceptions in Muslim history and to offer guidance on how Bates students can approach difficult religious conversations.

 

Searching for a Home in Lewiston

Lewiston’s diverse population is what makes the city a vibrant and dynamic community. Many of these same Lewiston residents, though, struggle to find and maintain stable and safe housing.

On Nov. 1, as part of the Harward Center’s “Theory into Practice” series, the Bates community and public were addressed by three prominent women on the forefront of solving housing issues in Lewiston and beyond. The panel discussion was titled; “Housing Matters: Challenges to Housing Security for Low-Income Families,” and sought to unbox some of the problems and pose solutions for housing concerns in Maine communities.

The first remarks of the afternoon came from Bettyann Sheats. Sheats is serving her first term in the Maine House of Representatives and is currently seeking re-election. Sheats has brought her experience as a landlord and community member to the Maine State Legislature to advocate for safer and more affordable housing options.

During her remarks, Sheats stressed the need for reliable housing. She cited statistics claiming that the best predictor of childhood success in school is access to reliable housing, with the same concept applying to recently released prisoners. When individuals are in a stable living environment they can become more productive workers and active members of their communities.

A plethora of factors are required for people to keep steady housing. Often times, the problems people face with their housing stem from external factors. “It’s not about the tenants, and the landlords, and the housing; it’s about losing their housing because of economics, job insecurity, low wages, not enough affordable access to health care,” said Sheats. Fixing the toilets and touching up the paint on the walls isn’t what makes a good landlord, but rather being able to actively listen to the greater needs of your tenants. According to Sheats, in order to cultivate a working relationship between landlords and tenants, communication is a necessity.

As far as solutions go, Sheats says, “It’s not one issue that got people into a problem, it’s not one fix that is going to get them out.” For Sheats, throwing money at only one area like healthcare or education won’t do anything to solve housing predicaments. It’s going to take a system-wide reform before the community will see improvements. In her opinion, collaboration between community members and policy makers will be key to procuring safe, affordable housing alternatives for Maine residents.

Amy Smith discussed her experiences as a landlord and founder of Healthy Homeworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building healthy homes and relationships between low income tenants and landlords. Smith is committed to providing safe and healthy living conditions for her tenants, but notes that it isn’t always easy. “It is really hard to create and maintain safe and affordable housing,” says Smith, “The health and safety of thousands of Lewiston residents relies on the health and safety of very, very old housing stock.” The real estate in Lewiston is dated, and inadequate conditions can lead to serious health complications.

As well as talking about the challenges of being an effective landlord, Smith described some of the difficulties her tenants have faced with housing assistance. The Section 8 Housing Voucher is one of the best options low income families have for housing assistance, but it isn’t perfect. The waiting list is very long, and once someone reaches the point where they can pay their full rent the assistance is taken away. “After just a few months at that level, your voucher is done, and you’re left without a safety net,” says Smith. If a person loses their job, or something else goes wrong, they’re back at the end of the waiting list. Smith recommends policy reform for housing assistance.

Both Bettyann Sheats and Amy Smith are role-model landlords who strive to provide affordable and safe housing for their clients. As Patricia Ender – an Attorney for Pine Tree Legal, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to justice and fairness for low income Mainers – says, “Landlords provide an essential service, and good landlords are worth their weight in gold.” Following that statement, Ender shared some horror stories from cases she has had dealing with housing discrimination and sexual harassment. Ender said that housing insecurity creates a scenario where tenants are very vulnerable to sexual harassment from landlords, owners, and neighbors. Ender also described the prevalence of housing discrimination based on race.

Thankfully, there are many opportunities for Bates students to get involved in Lewiston housing concerns. All three speakers agree that it is important to embrace the Lewiston community. Students can attend community meetings dealing with housing issues. Students can also be on the lookout for internships at nonprofits that deal with affordable housing, and the Harward Center is always a good place to look if you want to get involved.

 

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